Emerging powers in Africa Watch

(Iran’s economic ties with Africa: Responding to Western media analysis) – Published on Pambazuka.org, by S.H. Razavipour, 2010-03-18.

In the past decade, Africa has become a cauldron of competing interests between new and old actors. Whereas in the 19th century it was just a handful of countries that benefited and profited from Africa’s riches – namely from its extractive resources, cheap labour and not to mention slavery – now it seems that the tide has shifted with ‘new kids on the block’ … //

… Some of these new actors will find better ways to cooperate with the older ones to behave like a cartel to increase their benefits. They will tow the line with the big brothers so that they are also given a seat at the table to claim their slice of the cake.

Others like China because of their political conflicts and competitions with America and other capitalist countries will prefer to find their own business interests in Africa and follow a ‘go it alone’ strategy, although this is not to suggest that Beijing as well is not part of the global capitalist cartel.

The issue at hand is whether the new comers to the global capitalist cartel will be treated with equal rights and access, or whether they will be used as a means to an end because of their financial muscle to bail out the old Northern capitalist cartel that has suffered as a result of the financial crisis. Better yet, are these new actors willing to transform the structures of international capital accumulation by joining the capitalist roundtable, or is it more of the same?

One thing is certain though, and that is breaking into the global capitalist cartel is very much an exclusive club.

Perhaps that is why we still face the juxtaposition of some mainstream Western media and think tanks cautioning against new comers like China as a ‘threat’ to Africa while we are also told that China is an ‘opportunity’ for Africa.

Yet such warnings are more accusatory when it comes to actors like Iran’s competing engagements in Africa.


On 4 February 2010 The Economist published an article entitled ‘A search for allies in a hostile world’. The general tone of the article was aimed at examining how Iran’s ‘proclaimed ambitions in Africa’ were particularly worrying for Israel’s attempt to keep the few friends it has on the Africa continent.

While The Economist has been noted for raising sparring debates about the pending implications the new emerging actors from the South will have for Western engagements in Africa,[1] this report on Iran’s posing a strategic threat to Israel’s ‘diplomacy and goodwill policy’ in Africa seems to be a little mischievous and cheeky to say the least … //

Therefore, it tends to be incredulous when the article mentions that Iran is helping Africans to produce their own cars and tractors and gives them cheaper technological science and technical services, as if this is not possible from a country like Iran or that there is something sinister behind these engagements.

What about the fact that those who are supporting Israel by the means of political and economic incentives also have their own hidden agendas?

To this end I would like to emphasise that Iran has the right like any other sovereign state to develop their relations with the developing South like others do. The willingness to assist countries of the Third World to develop their economies and advance their development must seen outside the realm that the ‘world is flat’ or that it can belong to only a sacrosanct few. (full long text).

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