Year XLII, 2000, Number 1, Page 56

 

 

EUROPE AND THE NEW LOME CONVENTION
 
 
1. The Stakes: the Overcoming of the Disparity between North and South.
 
The end of September 1998 saw the start of negotiations between the European Union and seventy countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) which should lead, by the end of the year 2000, to a renewal of the Lomé Convention on new bases such as, for example, the creation of free trade areas between the European Union and regional aggregations of ACP nations.[1] It is a development that will mean the gradual overcoming of the current system of preferences, in other words, the system that allows products originating from ACP countries free access to the European market, while at the same time protecting them against European competition on their own markets. The EU proposals thus represent a sharp change of direction in relation to the past, and they are profoundly influenced both by the new world political balances that emerged in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and by the wave of support for free trade that gained momentum with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union.
Indeed, the end of the Cold War altered radically the power relations that prevailed at the time of the birth of the Lomé Convention (and earlier still, of the two Yaoundé Conventions). From the mid-1940s to the start of the 1990s, Europe’s concern was to keep Africa within the sphere of influence of the West, and while the task of bringing the African continent into line with the Western alignment was entrusted to France’s military presence in Africa,[2] the support of the rest of Europe for this policy was guaranteed through the granting of financial aid (via the European Development Fund) and, above all, through bilateral national contributions. While granting aid, Europe was, in this period, substantially indifferent to the scant respect that was shown in these countries for human rights and for democratic principles and to the coups d’état which, with the start of the decolonisation process, led to the establishment of military dictatorships in many African countries. The main concern was to prevent Soviet influence from spreading to Africa. Mitterrand’s speech at La Baule, which marked the end of this period, was delivered in 1990, and the ACP-EU Joint Assembly was not to adopt its first pro-human rights stances until the start of the 1990s.
The end of the Cold War resulted in a series of changes. The United States, itself becoming progressively weaker, is now the only superpower left on the world stage, and there has been a radical modification of the general economic picture: the emergence of new areas of development, in Asia and Latin America, has meant an increase in the number of countries contributing to the evolution of the world market Then there was the advent of the WTO whose objective is to eliminate all obstacles to world trade (both tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers to trade) and which has begun to object to the rules that govern the current Lomé Convention, maintaining that they are incompatible with those of the Uruguay Round, and demanding that the preferential treatment currently reserved for ACP nations be extended to all developing countries. For its part, the disintegration of the Soviet Union opened up the way for new applications for EU membership, first from the countries of central Europe, and then from the Baltic states, and when these countries ultimately obtain effective membership, an increased proportion of the Community budget will have to be set aside for them, and for Russia itself, a country currently on the brink of an economic-financial crisis of enormous proportions. Finally, the European Union has been forced to recognise the partial failure of the sole policy of public aid which has until now been implemented in favour of the ACP countries, a policy which public opinion is tending increasingly to reject, especially when the distribution of funds is carried out indiscriminately.[3] The European Union’s available resources are thus being put under considerable pressure, highlighting a major budgetary constraint.
It is these considerations that have spawned the EU proposals which aim, through the progressive opening up of the African market to European and world competition, to provide incentives for the inflow of private capital. Indeed, following the positive contribution made private capital to the economic success recorded by the countries of Asia and Latin America — a practical demonstration of the fact that public funding alone is not enough to guarantee the development of the economies of the countries which are beneficiaries of it — the increased involvement of private capital is positively viewed in a number of quarters.[4] It is a view which fails, however, to attach sufficient importance to the political conditions that allow private capital to fulfil a constructive function. In fact, the economic success of the countries of Latin America, like the Asian countries which in the space of a generation have managed to move clear of the poverty threshold, is due to their political stability. The stability of these areas is guaranteed by the presence of America which has, in its turn, favoured the inflow of private capital from Europe and Japan, as well as from the United States itself. Without the contribution of this external factor, it is unlikely that significant amounts of private capital would have been attracted and unlikely too, therefore, that domestic policies alone, however far-sighted, or public funding, however generous, would have been sufficient to sustain the economic development of these countries.
In the case of Africa, the weakness of the European proposals lies in the fact that if (given the state of perennial military conflict that characterises the African continent) they are to have a structural effect, then they need to be sustained by a European foreign policy — a European foreign policy that currently does not exist and to which only a European government could give voice. As far as the domestic policy of the countries of Africa is concerned, the intention is certainly not to maintain that, as is still the case in many Asian countries, internal stability must be guaranteed by an authoritarian regime; indeed, if this were the mainspring of development, Africa would, as pointed out by The Economist, already be a world economic giant. Instead, it is essential that political stability, both external and internal, is achieved (meaning an end, in the first instance, to military conflicts between states, and in the second, to the constant civil wars) and that the governments and parliaments of the African states be founded on popular consensus and remain in power for a guaranteed minimum term.
Before analysing the proposals for reform of the Lomé Convention — even a cursory examination of which is enough to show that the European Union lacks the power to realise the objectives it has set itself — it is opportune to recall what stands to be gained from these negotiations between Europe and the ACP countries. It is important to remember that the problems to be tackled actually extend far beyond the mere renewal of a convention that is about to expire, that the stakes concern the bridging of the traditional gap between the industrialised northern part of the world and the developing southern hemisphere.
Indeed, in recent decades enormous progress has been made in the sphere of development, so much so that it has led to the claim that, “in the last ten years alone, at least three billion people, in the midst of a thousand contradictions, have set out on the road towards wellbeing and security. From Latin America to Africa, entire populations have drawn closer to the market economy and encountered new opportunities. Life expectancies have been increased; requests for assistance, training and income have been forthcoming; unions have been emerging and political representation has, slowly, been taking on its irreducible plurality.”[5]
While these changes are hard to contest, constituting evidence that the possibility of participating in world politics has now been extended to new populations, it must be recognised that Africa is, as shown by UN surveys, the only continent in which development cannot yet be said to have assumed a structural dimension.[6] Obviously, this does not mean that those regions of the world where development has become a reality (regions such as Asia and Latin America) do not still present areas of poverty — such an idea is quickly dispelled by thoughts of Colombia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and parts of India itself, or China. What it does mean, however, is that these areas of underdevelopment will ultimately be carried along on a wave of growth by the vast areas of new development that are being established in these world regions. Africa, on the other hand, is the only continent in which (with the partial exception of South Africa and a few other areas) there are no signs that the emergency of underdevelopment is set to be overcome.
Having said that, it would be wrong to view Africa as a continent ravaged by endemic armed conflicts, both internal and external. In truth, the objectives of regional integration which the Union intends to pursue through renewal of the Convention are not fanciful, but founded instead on a very real receptiveness within Africa that has been seen in repeated attempts to bring about economic and monetary integration, attempts whose failure to bear fruit can be attributed to the absence of the support that would be generated by a strong political will outside the continent. For example, at the last summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), held as recently as September 1999 in Sirte, Libya, the African leaders returned to the content of the Treaty of Abuja of 1991, which made provision for the creation of a single African market, a parliament, a central bank, an African monetary fund and a federal court.[7] The leaders gathered at Sirte agreed to postpone, until the OAU summit due to be held in Lomé in 2000, any decision regarding the establishment of a schedule for the implementation of the programme agreed at Abuja.
However, whether Lomé will see the umpteenth postponement of the programme, or whether Africa will decide to proceed resolutely, albeit in gradual stages, towards the political integration of the continent, will depend above all on the policy Europe will feel able to adopt towards it. If, when this time comes, Europe still does not have its own foreign and security policy, and still has not developed broad measures that can be applied to Africa, then it is likely that the Lomé summit will culminate in yet another postponement or, at most, in the reaching of decisions of minimal import. What Europe needs to do, therefore, is seek to implement, this time from a European and democratic standpoint, the same political direction that France attempted to follow just prior to the start of the process of decolonisation, an attempt that was unsuccessful both because it constituted a national policy which failed to overcome relations of a colonial nature, and because it was conditioned by the policy to restrict Soviet influence in Africa. In many ways, it is a question of making up, through a European initiative, for what is, in relation to the objectives that the France of the late 1950s intended to pursue, a historical delay. The aim of this note, therefore, is not to present a historical reconstruction of the various attempts at regional unification, but rather to help to awaken Europe’s political forces to the fact that neither an evolution of relations between Europe and Africa, nor a European effort aimed at resolving, within the space of a generation, the problem of underdevelopment in Africa, are unrealistic prospects.
 
2. Globalisation of the Economy and the Underdevelopment of Africa.
 
As mentioned earlier, the process of global unification of the market is involving all the continents of the world, except Africa. Furthermore, in the African continent, public capital accounts for a higher proportion of the total capital inflow than anywhere else, which indicates a high level of dependence on public aid.[8] This is contrary to the trend in other world areas in which there has been an increase in private capital inflows.[9] Closer examination of the reasons for Africa’s failure to become drawn into the developing world economy reveals that the peculiarity of this continent extends to its position on the world market, the internal integration of the African market, and the unattractiveness of this market to private investors. According to GATT figures, the African nations’ total exports for 1991 amounted to 99 billion dollars, the same level as ten years previously. The share of world trade accounted for by African exports dropped from 5 per cent in 1981 to 2.8 per cent in 1991, the African economy, therefore, despite the fact that many African countries export a large share of their GDP, has been progressively losing shares of the market at world level and is, today, more closed in relation to the rest of the world. But the African countries are also closed in relation to one another, as evidenced by a series of figures that allow comparison of the scale of intra-regional trade in the principal world areas. For example, still according to GATT, while intra-European trade accounted for 72 per cent of total European exports in 1991, and intra-Asian trade for 46 per cent of total exports recorded by Asian countries, and while the corresponding percentages recorded in north and south America were 33 per cent and 16 per cent respectively, only 6.6 per cent of the total African countries were generated by intra-African trade.[10]
More important, however, are the results of a UN survey of direct foreign investments by transnational corporations (TNC) which show that the African market is no longer sufficiently attractive to foreign investors. In the period 1981-85, Latin America attracted direct foreign investments from TNC totalling 6 billion dollars, and in 1992 this figure rose to 16 billion; in the corresponding years, direct foreign investments in South East Asia (not including Japan) rose from 5 billion dollars per year to 21 billion dollars. In Africa, on the other hand, the 1992 total of 2 billion dollars showed that investments, concentrated in only a few countries, were still at the average annual level recorded in the first half of the 1980s.[11] While it is true that the action of the multinationals rise to problems of democratic control at world level, it is also true that these concerns are instruments of economic development and of market unification, and with this in mind, these data relating to intra-African trade and private investments give rise to particular concern. Indeed, according to the UN, the so-called TNC generate more than 70 per cent of world trade; in particular, it is estimated that exchanges between companies belonging to the same multinational group account for 25 per cent of world trade.[12]
The conclusion that must clearly be drawn from this is that the African continent is, in so far as it is unable to attract investments from TNC, destined to remain excluded from the globalisation of the markets, a process that is leading to an increasingly international division of labour, and to the birth of a world economy. But it needs to be noted that the reasons for the limited flow of private capital into Africa are not economic, but political. According to a study carried out by the World Bank, the profitability of direct investments in Africa is on average, twice that of those made in other developing areas of the world: this difference, then, only throws into greater relief, and can even help to quantify, the extreme selectivity shown by investors, a selectivity that is attributable to the heightened political risk in Africa which they must take into account and which influences and limits the flow of private capital into the continent.[13]
With the end of Lomé IV (early 2000) rapidly approaching, the directions favoured by the European Union with a view to a renewal of the Convention are changing. The mandate to commence negotiations, received by the European Commission at the end of 1998, bears witness to Europe’s intention to insert the African economy into the world economy. However, without the support of a strong political will, which only a European government can guarantee, the European policy runs the risk of turning into an economic disaster for Africa.[14] The proposals that best illustrate this point include: that of linking the new Convention to the provision of support for processes of regional unification; a gradual liberalisation of trade exchanges between Africa and Europe, and thus the progressive abolition of the system of preferences that has, until now, benefited African companies; the development of private enterprise, an aid policy no longer based on the funding of individual projects, but rather on the funding of the national budget of the African states that are to be the beneficiaries of aid, leaving it to the states in question to implement their own development plan, with annual checks to be carried out by Europe in order to guarantee that effective use is made of the aid provided. The other objective that the European Union has set itself is political — to channel more resources into conflict prevention, strengthening above all the capacity to act of African organisations, like the OAU, and sub-regional organisations.[15]
 
3. A “Delors Plan” and a European Policy for African Political Unity.
 
In the area of development support policies, the potential of Europe as a whole is undoubtedly decisive. Europe is the leading supporter of developing countries, contributing over 50 per cent of all the funds made available by the industrialised world. This figure has, however, only potential value, in that it includes bilateral national contributions.[16] Indeed, on its own, the European Development Fund (EDF) accounts for only a fifth of all development aid and it is, furthermore, still a fund for which no provision is made in the EU budget. (In other words, it is dependent upon national contributions and thus conditioned by the political will of national governments). Finally, with regard to the policy of aid for Africa, it must be pointed out that, of the total aid granted to third world countries, the percentage covered by European funds has, in the past few years, fallen from 65 per cent to 42 per cent in 1990 and to 33.5 per cent in 1995.[17]
Therefore, the question must be asked whether, in this new world setting, today’s Europe, lacking a government and without its own foreign and security policy, can sustain this new orientation in favour of African development. It is, after all, an orientation which fails to take into account the existence of constraints, both political and budgetary, which, unless they can be overcome, will render it extremely difficult for Europe to prove equal to the challenge that the economic development of Africa represents; and yet, perhaps it is the opposite (that is, failure to act) that could represent the real risk: if the African continent were left to drift, this would inevitably have negative effects on the European economy, for example, a drop in European exports, an increase in the rate of immigration from Africa, etc.[18]
As far as the budgetary constraints are concerned, the scale of the challenges which Europe faces is such that it is hard to imagine that sufficient public funds can be gathered to cope with the rebuilding of the Balkans, as well as with the provision of support for Russia, the Mediterranean, and sub-Saharan Africa, not to mention all the other areas of the world in which Europe is involved. From this derives the European Commission’s awareness of the need, mentioned earlier, to mobilise private capital and, in more general terms, to prompt the intervention of market forces. This awareness must not, however, overshadow the fact that, in order to sustain its foreign and cooperation policy, Europe must, necessarily, be equipped with the power of direct taxation. Or the fact that, however solid the economic foundations on which this policy is built, it runs the risk of proving ineffective if the European Union fails, first of all, to give public opinion a concrete demonstration of its intention to pursue a European policy in favour of Africa — by doing away with the policy of national contributions. For as long as the Union continues to manage just one-fifth of development aid, and the EDF continues to be funded by national contributions, the individual African countries will continue to compete with one another in their efforts to cultivate relations with individual European countries, rather than with the European Union, and they will go on failing to follow up the undertakings have made over the years to work out programmes for the creation of customs and economic-monetary unions. On the other hand, until such time as national funding is channelled into the Community budget, Europe is destined to remain unable to voice an effective and credible aid policy in Africa’s favour.
The political constraints, meanwhile, are due to the absence of a European foreign and security policy which, in turn, renders the establishment of a vigorous European policy towards Africa impossible. Until this obstacle is removed, it is hard to imagine the hypothetical European policy, outlined in the proposals for Lomé V, having any chance of success. On the other hand, the problem of a foreign policy for Africa is one which Europe can no longer avoid. Upon the creation of the euro, Europe, like it or not, became linked to the two CFA franc zones, which group the states of western and central sub-Saharan Africa, and towards which a European support policy is needed, drawing if necessary upon foreign-exchange reserves exceeding those needed to sustain the progress of the euro on the international exchange market.
The aggregations with which Europe might, hypothetically, establish relations could be the economic unions set up from the mid-1990s onwards, in other words, CEDEAO (the Communauté Economique des Etats de l’Afrique Occidentale) and CEMAC (the Communauté Economico-monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale). These communities are not made up solely of the CFA franc zones, but are broader. Indeed, reference to these broader aggregations would ensure the inclusion of Nigeria, in the case of western Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in central/equatorial Africa. Not only would the exclusion of these two countries, whose populations equal those of the corresponding CFA franc zones, fail to provide a means of overcoming the armed conflicts in which they are involved, it could also become a pretext for future and more violent clashes. The same applies to eastern and southern Africa, where COMESA (the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa) and SADC (the Southern African Development Community) are the potential interlocutors. This does not mean that, as is the case in Europe, those countries which wished to progress more quickly than others along the path towards unification should not be allowed to do so, such as, for example, countries in the CFA franc zones, or those belonging to the East African Community: the important thing is that the process moves, ultimately, towards the broadest unification possible.
If the creation of free trade areas between regional aggregations and the European Union can be seen as an important turning point in relations with the countries of Africa, it is important to realise that the success of this new direction (measured in the capacity of these countries to attract private investments, and thus capital inflow into the continent) depends, as mentioned earlier, on whether or not its political stability can be guaranteed. The importance that is attributed to the role of private capital gives rise to some thorny problems in that, as shown by the example of South East Asia and Latin America, regulation of its intervention cannot be left only to the forces of the market; indeed, while private capital has certainly played a decisive role in the development of these areas, it was also responsible for aggravating the economic and financial crisis which rocked these areas from mid-1997 onwards. What is needed in order to prevent a similar situation occurring in Africa is the presence of a European government equipped not only with a European foreign and security policy, but also with an economic policy towards Africa that will serve as a clear signal of Europe’s willingness to support the development and, in the future, the political unification of the continent: this signal can be nothing other than the launch of a “Delors Plan” for Africa, in other words, a broad programme targeting the continent, accompanied by a clear link between the two CFA franc zones and the euro, and the prospect of an enlargement of the euro’s zone of influence to the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East.
It is only within the framework created by these choices that the policies in support of the processes of regional unification already under way can be put into practice. If a plan of this kind were to accompany the new Lomé Convention, it would guarantee, alongside the flow of public aid, the necessary inflow of private capital, and the correct use of the same. From this latter perspective, an important role could be played by the Joint Parliamentary Assembly: it could become the guarantor of the stability of the African continent, of the launch of the processes of democratisation and of the correct use of the funds employed. With the European Union equipped with effective powers, the role of the Joint Assembly (which is currently only consultative) could indeed evolve: the Assembly could become the seat for the discussion and agreement of policies relating to economic development and cooperation on matters of security. An Assembly might be created in which the Unions of States would be represented. This Assembly would become a sort of chamber of the regional federations in which, in addition to the European Union, the African regional unions would also be present. It would also be possible, in an institutional framework of this kind, to insert a policy of collaboration with the Mediterranean countries of northern Africa — countries which have, until now, been more interested in joining the European Union than in adhering to the Lomé Convention. This divergence of interests between the north African countries and those of the sub-Saharan part of the continent could be overcome were the EU’s proposals, which aim to favour the processes of integration, also to make provision for the inclusion of the Mediterranean countries in a renewed Joint Assembly which would have political functions.
Finally, it is necessary to remember that in order to ensure the political stability of the African continent, it is not sufficient to place conditions on the provision of economic aid at the start of the processes of regional unification, as the United States did with the Marshall Plan after the end of the Second World War. In Africa, active intervention is needed to bring to an end the civil wars that are in progress. In fact, the preparatory document drawn up by the European Commission indicates the need for Europe to “develop a European policy of conflict prevention and resolution”.[19] However, the revision of the Maastricht Treaty, approved in Amsterdam in June 1997, has still not led to the development of a European foreign and security policy, in other words, to the creation of the instruments which are essential if a policy of conflict prevention in Africa is to be rendered credible.[20]
This need to create the essential instruments was also stressed by the European Council at Helsinki (this time in relation to the instruments Europe must have in order to carry out its responsibilities at world level) when the decision was taken to create a common European army. However, the essential problem remains unsolved, in other words, the lack of an effective and democratically controlled European government — an indispensable condition if Europe is to contribute effectively to the elimination of armed conflicts in the African continent and to the start of a process of democratisation of the African states, an approach which would constitute the basis for the launch and consolidation of their economy and would lend substance to the projects for regional unification.
 
Domenico Moro


[1] Commission Européenne, Livre Vert sur les relations entre l’Union Européenne et les pays ACP à l’aube du 21ème siècle (Défi et options pour un nouveau partenariat), Direction Générale du Développement, Brussels, November 1996.
[2] In the course of 1997, France instead announced a considerable reduction in its military presence in Africa (cfr. Le Monde, 30th July 1997).
[3] Total imports from the EU, by the ACP countries together, fell from 6.7 per cent in 1976 to 2.8 per cent in 1994. Commission Européenne, op. cit., p. XV.
[4] United Nations, World Investment Report 1993 (Transnational Corporations and Integrated International Production), New York, United Nations Publication, 1993.
[5] M. D’Alema, Conclusioni di Massimo D’Alema (Festa Nazionale de l’Unità), Bologna, September 1998 (www.democraticidisinistra.it/festnaz/bologna.htm).
[6] According to the United Nations’ annual report on human development, which groups states into three categories (high human development, medium human development and low human development) on the basis of indices which take into account income per head, the hope of life, investments into social security and education, etc., of 50 states included among those showing low human development, a full 45 are African states. See, United Nations Organisation, 7th Human Development Report, Turin, Rosenberg & Sellier, 1997.
[7] Le Monde, 11 September 1999 (“Pour 2001, l’OUA envisage une ‘Union africaine’”).
[8] A. Bhattacharya, P.J. Montiel, S. Sharma, “How Can Sud-Saharan Africa Attract More Private Capital Inflows?”, in Finance & Development, no. 2, June 1997.
[9] Banca dei Regolamenti Internazionali, Evoluzione dell’attività bancaria e del mercato finanziario internazionale, Basel, 1994, and A.D. Quauara, Mondialisation et développement en Afrique, speech given at the seminar on “L’Afrique, la mondialisation et le développement: risques et enjeux”, Paris, October 1998.
[10] GATT, International Trade 91-92, Geneva, 1993.
[11] United Nations, World Investment Report 1993 (Transnational Corporations and Integrated International Production), cit. As from the start of the ’90s, there was a good increase in direct foreign investments, even though they remained in absolute terms very low in relation to other areas of developing countries (A. Bhattacharya, P.J. Montiel, S. Sharma, op. cit.).
[12] UNDP, op. cit., p. 97.
[13] A. Bhattacharya, P.J. Montiel, S. Sharma, op. cit.
[14] Commission Européenne, Orientations en vue de la négotiation de nouveaux accords de coopération avec les pays d’Afrique, des Caraibes et du Pacifique, Communication to the European Council and European Parliament, COM(97)537 final, 29 October, 1997 e J.d.D. Pinheiro, Présentation du mandat de négotiation de l’Union européenne pour la future Convention UE/ACP, Comité des Ambassadeurs ACP, Brussels, July 1998.
[15] Commission Européenne, Livre Vert, cit., p. 10.
[16] Commission Européenne - Directorat Général pour le développement, Understanding European Community Aid, September 1997,
(europa.eu.int/comm/dg08/publicat/odi/fr/Osummary.htm).
[17] A.-M. Mouradian, “Menaces sur le Convention de Lomé (L’Union européenne divisée sur ses rapports avec le Sud)”, in Le Monde Diplomatique, June 1998, p. 7.
[18] A.-M. Mouradian, op. cit.
[19] Commission Européenne, Livre Vert, cit., p. 45.
[20] To appreciate just how impotent the current European Union is, simply read the text of the speech given by European commissioner J. de Pinheiro at the International Peace Academy (Six Principles for Conflict Prevention in Africa, New York, June 1997), whose proposals are, given the gravity of Africa’s problems, totally inadequate.
(europa.eu.,int./comm:dg08/speeches:970624.htm).

 

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