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  • Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation
  • Francis Owusu
Bond, Patrick . 2006. Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu–Natal Press. 172 pp. $25.00 (paper).

A surprising development in the debate over the cause and the solution of Africa's underdevelopment since the late 1970s has been the convergence of the views of African leaders and the international community. African leaders have abandoned their dependency interpretation of the African dilemma—an interpretation that blamed the historical injustices suffered by the continent and the continued dependence on external forces as the cause of the crisis (OAU 1981)—and accepted the neoliberal diagnosis, which suggests that increased integration of the continent into the global economy provides a way out of the crisis (NEPAD 2001). Patrick Bond's book is an update of the dependency explanations of Africa's underdevelopment. It focuses on the looting of Africa in the era of neoliberalism and the willingness of African elites and leaders to embrace such ideas. Quoting extensively from Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and other critical writers, Bond argues persuasively that "Looting is a system driven from capitalist institutions in Washington, London and other Northern centres, and accommodated by junior partners across the third world, including African capitals, especially Pretoria" (p. xiii). Bond expertly takes the discussion beyond the typical north–south dynamics by highlighting South African's role as the Northern imperialist countries' junior ally, willing to play the role of a subimperialist for them.

Bond, beginning his analysis with a critique of the report of Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, charges that the commission not only neglected the historical legacy of looting of the continent, but succeeded in coopting key African elites into producing a "modified neo-liberal–free[-]market project" (p. 1). He discusses two processes that have eased the looting of Africa: the south–north resource flow, which has created a "global apartheid"; and the role of powerful local elites who act as agents of foreign interests in creating adverse internal class formation, poverty, and inequality. He argues that "African rulers keep their people poor because they are tied into a system of global power, accumulation and class struggle" (p. 3, emphasis in original).

Bond may lose some average readers in chapter two, where he develops the theoretical framework. His argument is that crisis in capitalism, especially one created by excess production, can lead to the intensification of "uneven and combined development." Citing evidence of the volatility and self-destructiveness of capitalism from the contemporary era, he dismisses policies such as structural-adjustment programs, the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), [End Page 88] the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Commission for Africa report, and other global antipoverty campaigns supported by international development agencies (including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, world leaders like Tony Blair, African leaders, and other well-meaning nongovernmental organizations) as being based on a faulty assumption: that Africa needs more integration into the global economy.

The mechanisms for the looting of Africa are discussed in chapters three and four. Chapter three focuses on the role of financial flows, including aid, debt, and capital flight. Bond argues that the fallacy of foreign aid as a solution to Africa's development challenge becomes obvious when we examine "phantom aid" (aid diverted from poor nations for other purposes within the aid system) and the other problems related to foreign aid. Similarly, the roles of debt relief that arose out of HIPC and PRSPs are overrated because most canceled loans were not being paid, the neoliberal conditions that come with them, and the inability of civil society participation to reform the process. According to Bond, the region has suffered from capital flight, and portfolio capital has so far been limited to the South African stock exchange and few capital markets in the region. Chapter four focuses on looting via trade and investment, with the author arguing that trade liberalization has negative impact on African economies because their dependence on primary products exports, falling terms of trade, dramatic reductions in protective tariffs that devastated the continent's manufacturing sector, and the massive agriculture...