'Influences in Africa (Organisations) - Part One'

By Bill Turnbull W.F.

This is the first part of an article about movements and organisations which have had an influence in Africa over the last decades. In Part One we have a sketch of how the Organisation of African Unity and the Commonwealth were founded and developed, and a glimpse of Multinational Corporations. An example of how a Multinational can get involved in an African country is seen in the next article 'Nigeria - the Ogoni Dilemma'.

The last fifty years, since the end of the Second World War, has seen a dramatic change in Africa. The upheaval caused by such a prolonged world wide conflict affected every nation and, with the rise of 'nationalism' in colonies, helped to bring an end to the European empires of the previous centuries.

Independence

The only countries in Africa not to be colonised were Ethiopia and Liberia - Ethiopia was always independent with a monarchy until 1974 and in 1847 Liberia was established as a place for freed American slaves. In gener al all other African countries have become independent, the majority since 1960, and the whole continent has had to face up to surviving in a new world. The situation remained much the same until the demise of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, when the Super Powers began to lose interest in Africa, and the ending of Apartheid in South Africa.

The first country to gain independence was Egypt, in 1922, and the first from Sub-Saharan Africa was Ghana, in 1957. There was a smooth transition of power in most former French and British colonies where expatriates had worked alongside Africans in the government administration and business. Problems arose where there was a more permanent European presence, often going back generations. In countries, such as Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the process was drawn out and often bloody. For example Mozambique was at war for over thirty years - first with the Portuguese for independence and then in the civil war which ended i n October, 1992 - in an effort to gain freedom from its colonisers and the destabilisation of the former regime in South African.

Present day Zimbabwe, as Rhodesia, also had a difficult transition, though not as violent and prolonged, beginning with the unilaterally declaration of independence (UDI) on 11th. November, 1965, and only becoming truly independent in April, 1980.

Pan-Africanism

Well before most African countries gained independence, in fact from the turn of the century, there was a Pan-African movement developing throughout Africa. Many of the African leaders who began to emerge did not look only to their own country but also towards a 'United States of Africa'. These leaders were from both English Speaking and French Speaking Africa and included such people as Felix Houphouet-Boigny (Ivory Coast, 1905-93), Modibo Keita (Mali, 1930-77), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya, 1894-1978), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana, 1909-72), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania, born 1922), Leopold Senghor (Senegal, born 1906) and Sekou Toure (Guinea, 1922-84).

The first Pan-African Congress was held in London, 1900, another in Paris, 1919, with a third in Manchester in 1945. Many believe that it was the 1945 meeting which acted as a stimulus towards independence. The conference was attended by African-Americans, Caribbean representatives and Africans - among the latter were Joe Appiah (Ghana), Obafemi Awolowo (Nigeria), Hastings Banda (Malawi), Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Ja Ja Wachuku (Nigeria) who were all to take an active part in the futur e of Africa.

The Organisation of African Unity

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) grew out of Pan-Africanism and its foundations were laid at the first conference of Independent African States in Accra, Ghana, in April, 1958. The matters discussed in Accra were developed and refined to become the 'Casablanca Charter' of January, 1961. Representatives from Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Algeria were present. At this time various other groups of African states were attempting to unite a nd overcome political, linguistic and economic differences. The 'Casablanca Charter' was supported by the 'Pan-African Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa'.

In May, 1961, President William Tubman, of Liberia, met with nineteen other states (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Dahomey, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Tunisia and Upper Volta) who were opposed to the 'Casablanca Charter'. They became known as the 'Monrovia Group'. This group met again in Lagos in January, 1962, where they adopted a draft charter for an 'Organisation of Inter-African and Malagasy States'. Twelve French-speaking states, some of which were part of the 'Monrovia Group', also formed the 'African and Malagasy Union' (UAM). and this became known as the Brazzaville Group.

The strands of Pan-Africanism were being gradually drawn together and eventually Emperor Haile Selassie, of Ethiopia, began initiatives to resolve the differences between the major players. This led to the meeting of Foreign Ministers to prepare the meeting of Heads of State which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between 23rd. and 26th. May, 1963. It was here that the OAU itself really came into being and on 25th. May, the Heads of State from thirty two independent countries signed the Charter establishing the fledgling organisation. The OAU Charter incorporates ideas gleaned from the various meetings but follows closely what was agreed in Lagos. With the birth of the OAU the Casablanca, Monrovia and Brazzaville Groups disappeared.

The OAU Charter (Article II, Purposes) defines their aims as follows:

1. The Organisation shall have the following purposes:
a. to promote the unity and solidarity of the African States,
b. to co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa;
c. to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and independence;
d. to eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; and
e. to promote international co-operation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. To these ends, the Member States shall co-ordinate and harmonise their general policies, especially in the following fields:
a. political and diplomatic co-operation
b. economic co-operation, including transport and communications;
c. educational and cultural co-operation;
d. health, sanitation, and nutritional co-operation;
e. scientific and technical co-operation; and
f. co-operation for defence and security.

At some time all African countries have been part of the OAU and at present the only one not represented is Morocco, one of the founding members, which left after a dispute concerning the Western Sahara in November, 1985. After the multi-racial elections in South Africa it too eventually became a member on 24th. May, 1994.

As with all organisations the OAU was founded and has had to be built upon compromise. In its thirty pl us years of existence it has probably not lived up to the expectations of all its members. Some wished for it to be a strong continental government, others that it would be an association of states, and it has probably fallen somewhere in between. The world of the 1960's was a lot simpler than that of today and in a new sense of unity great things seemed possible. Most of the problems which faced countries the world over appeared to be more local and the global perspective and interaction was not so obvious . Within this optimism the OAU was envisaged as an instrument of change and development, and to a certain degree it has succeeded.

Despite the differences between the various countries within the OAU, and the political squabbles which have arisen, the organisation has brought unity to the continent. It has helped countries gain independence peacefully; has drawn up agreements and conventions on human rights, the environment, trade and economics; has resolved territorial disputes and civil wars; and has be en an active peace keeping force, such as Ecomog in Liberia; and has fought against the old regime in South Africa.

There is no doubt that the OAU, as with most large organisations and governments throughout the world, lacks the mechanism to involve the ordinary African people in its work. It also lacks the financial resources necessary to implement all which it agrees upon and sometimes it has been overtaken by external circumstances before putting plans fully into action. An example of this is 'The Lagos Plan of Action' - agreed in April, 1980 - which was intended to improve the economic situation of African countries.

African countries, and other former colonies around the world, were set up as units to supply raw materials to Europe and North America. Upon independence the borders were very rarely altered and attempts to create federations of countries collapsed. As a result the colonial economic status quo has remained very much the same up until the present day. Often the more refined a raw material is when it is exported the higher the import tariff which is levied on it when it reaches Europe or North America.

'The Lagos Plan' was an attempt to move away from the exporting of mainly agricultural produce, as commodity prices had peaked in 1977 and were gradually falling. It also aimed at finding more local raw materials and encouraging trade between OAU member states. There was no way that exports could off-set the price of imports and the rise in oil prices, when OPEC restricted production in 1974, was a disastrous blow.

At this time developing countries were offered loans - of OPEC money which was held in Northern banks - which they gratefully agreed to. Unfortunately before 'The Lagos Plan'could be fully implemented the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) asked for repayment of the debts, usually in the form of income gained from exports. As a result much of the 'Plan' to form an African Economic Community had to be abandoned because of the imposition of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) by the World Bank and IMF in order to repay these debts.

Once again in 'The Abuja Treaty', of June, 1991, the OAU adopted a 51-nation treaty to establish the African Economic Community. Whether this will be successful remains to be seen but it will certainly be a struggle for the African continent, which all together commands only 1% of the world's trade. African countries have to stand against industrialised countries which set the trade rules. While subsidising their own economic activitie s, such as free health care, education and welfare, through the IMF they insist that the people of Africa, on a subsistence economy, have to pay for their own social services.

The Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth was inaugurated by the Imperial Conference in 1926 and its founding document is the 'Statute of Westminster' which was drawn up by the Imperial Conference of 1930 and ratified in 1931. In this the then Dominions of Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and So uth Africa were described as 'autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. '

Thus the Commonwealth's original membership was based upon countries being part of the British Empire and owing allegiance to the Crown. This kept the principles of 1926 and has allowed the organisat ion to become an informal association of independent states without a charter or formal constitution as such. The different activities are mainly co-ordinated from the Commonwealth Secretariat in London which was founded in 1965 and is funded by all the member governments. The Secretariat promotes consultation and cooperation between members and keeps them informed of matters of interest. The Commonwealth Foundation came into being in 1966 and is autonomous from the Commonwealth. It promotes and funds various educational, development, welfare and cultural activities.

The nature of the organisation changed in 1949 when India gained independence as a republic but still wished to remain within the Commonwealth. This gave the opportunity for other countries which also wanted to become republics to follow suite. There was no longer the requirement that members hold allegiance to the British monarch but that they recognise the monarch as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth. The only countries which did not elect to join were Aden, British Somaliland, Burma, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, South Cameroons, Sudan and Transjordan. The result was a mix of republics, local monarchies and Queen's realms. It was at this time that the 'British' was dropped from the title and the organisation simply became known as 'The Commonwealth of Nations'.

The 'Heads of Commonwealth Government Meeting' (CHOGM) takes place every two years and there is an annual meeting of finance and other ministers. The loose affiliation of the various states makes consultation and co-operation possible continually. Much of the action taken which is based upon this but the decisions arrived at are not binding on one another. A country may also leave at any time as did South Africa - which originally joined in 1931, left in May, 1961 and rejoined in June, 1994 - Ireland (1949), and Pakistan (1972) - Pakistan rejoined in 1989. Fiji's membership lapsed in 1987. The members have no legal or formal obligation to one another; they are held together by shared tradit ions, institutions, and experiences as well as by economic interests.

There are various ways in which the Commonwealth countries help, and have helped, each other. For example when a country was moving towards independence training was given to people and an internal territorial government was created i.e. a lawmaking body, an executive body, and an independent judiciary. When self-government was achieved, the new legislature could apply to the British Parliament for complete independence and it then deci ded whether to remain in the Commonwealth or not.

There has always been a great deal of trade between Commonwealth countries. There have been economic ties within the Commonwealth, both private and governmental. Formerly Commonwealth goods received preferential tariff treatment when imported into Britain. Unfortunately when Britain joined the European Community in 1973, the preferential tariffs ceased.

Many Commonwealth countries have the Privy Council as their highest court of appeal. They include: Antig ua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brunei, Dominica, the Gambia, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, New Zealand, St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago and Tuvalu.

There is no doubt that the Commonwealth has been a factor in preserving world peace. It has also helped to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries. Educational co-operation among the member nations has bee promoted, so much so that in the early 1990's about two thirds of the foreign students in Britain's universities were from the Commonwealth. There is a continual link in educational and technical aid to the developing countries and also inter-governmental links. There are about three hundred Commonwealth non-governmental organisations involving various interest groups and in sport there are the Commonwealth Games are held every four years.

The last countries to join the Commonwealth were Cameroon and Mozambique. Cameroon had been trying to join since 1989 but was not accepted mainly due to its human rights record. After holding multi-party elections in 1992 and showing progress Cameroon finally joined in November 1995. Mozambique is the only non-British former colony to join the Commonwealth. It applied to join in July, 1995 and this was approved at the meeting held in November, 1995, thus becoming the 53rd. member. Mozambique's reasons for joining were that it has been attending the Commonwealth Heads of State Conferences since 1985; all its neighbouring count ries are members and there has been a Commonwealth aid programme with Mozambique since independence to compensate it for past attacks from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa.

At present the countries which form the Commonwealth represent one third of the world's population and one third of Commonwealth countries are African. Some complain about how ineffective it is but, all the same, the Commonwealth can show its teeth such as when Nigeria was suspended because of its human rights record which was broug ht to a head with the execution of Ogoni leaders in November, 1995.

Here the Commonwealth brought into play what had been agreed in the 'Harare Declaration' of 1991. At the CHOGM the dual principles of democracy and sustainable development were taken as the foundation for a new Commonwealth. All members wished to refute one party rule and military rule and so it was possible to condemn Nigeria's behaviour. There still remain two other Commonwealth countries, The Gambia and Sierra Leone, with military gover nments. When it is considered that Nigeria has the largest population of all African countries, and is the richest in Sub-Saharan Africa, its suspension was no mean feat. No doubt the countries were bolstered by the presence of South Africa in the Commonwealth, but their representatives failed to take the lead expected until after the executions. Hindsight is quite a teacher but whether a stronger approach from Nelson Mandela would have saved the lives of the Ogoni leaders is doubtful.

From the Nigeria incident the Commonwealth has developed a strategy for dealing with stubborn states, from an early warning system, to imposing sanctions and eventual expulsion. This was not in place before and gives another edge to the 'Harare Declaration'. There will now be a group which will access infringements on the Declaration and recommend suitable action to be taken on offenders. The unfortunate events in Nigeria could indeed be a turning point to bring into being a new Commonwealth.

Multinational Corporations

Multinationals have thrived in the past thirty years because of global privatisation, de-regulation, GATT dismantled protections - look only to our own utilities such as water and electricity and the way that American and French companies are moving in and how British Gas has expanded throughout the world. We have swung around to a global economy which is over-dependent on credit - a good example of this may be seen in the prolonged budget debate in the USA which began in 1995 and continued into early 1996. In the world market it is estimated that for every US$1 used in the 'productive economy', between US$20 to US$50 circulates in the world of 'pure finance'. When things go well, the world's economy ticks over nicely, but when things don't the consequences can be unimaginable - an example of a disaster which can happen is the collapse of Barings Bank last year.

In many respects the Multinationals are out of control - mainly due to the power of electronic instantaneous trading involving billions of dollars on any of the world's financial markets. The Multinationals are able to manipulate prices to their benefit from the local village market where raw materials are found to all the major Trading Floors of the world. Their process of development is irreversible and very much intertwined with the global economy. Multinationals spread into new interests often leading to the demise of smaller companies as they are taken over or just simply put out of business. With the development of service industries as opposed to traditional industries, the former now accounts for two-thirds of the world's gross national product, Corporations in this sector have power over all others. For example of the world's two hundred largest Corporations 60% of them have their headquarters in the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The twelve largest electronic companies divide up four-fifths of the world market for microprocessors. Multinational Corporations often have more power and influence than some Western gove rnments - in both their home countries and developing countries. They often have more finance at their disposal than a developing country's government and usually have had an interest in these countries dating from before independence. There are many reasons why Multinationals are attracted to developing countries but basically they are because of access to raw materials, cheap labour, cheap environmental and safety costs.

Some Multinationals admit they do not use the same 'Western ethical standards' they have for developed countries when dealing with developing counties . Some even work on the premise that in poorer countries the people cannot expect the same standards. If they want to have a job and a wage, then they may have to put up with pollution! With such reasoning it is no surprise to see that very little of the local resources are used for local development in poorer countries. Not much of the financial gain is put back into building schools, health facilities and basic services such as water and sanitation - most is taken out of the country or spread amongst a ruling elite.

Because of their size and diversity, these Corporations can cope with dictatorships and questionable human rights by saying that they do not get involved in local politics. They do need some order and infrastructure to gain the best advantage of the situation. Some countries, such as Nigeria, may be near the limit of sustaining large investments (see 'Nigeria - the Ogoni dilemma'). All the same, when there is a need for certain raw materia ls in Europe and North America, there are companies which are capable of getting them at any cost.

______________________ To be continued


Dates of independence and membership of various organisations

 

Country

Date of

Independence

Date of membership of the

UN

Commonwealth

OAU

Algeria

3 July 1962

8 Oct. 1962

-

25 May 1963

Angola

11 Nov. 1975

1 Dec. 1976

-

11 Feb. 1975

Benin

1 Aug. 1990

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Botswana

30 Sept. 1966

17 Oct. 1966

30 Sept. 1966

Oct. 1966

Burkina Faso

5 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Burundi

1 July 1962

18 Sept. 1962

-

25 May 1963

Cameroon

1 Jan. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

1 Nov. 1995

25 May 1963

Cape Verde

5 July 1975

16 Sept. 1975

-

18 July 1975

Cent. African Rep.

13 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Chad

11 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Comoros

6 July 1975

12 Nov. 1975

-

18 July 1975

Congo

15 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Djibouti

26 June 1977

20 Sept. 1977

-

May 1977

Egypt

22 Feb. 1922

24 Oct. 1945

-

25 May 1963

Equatorial Guinea

12 Oct. 1968

12 Nov. 1968

-

12 Oct. 1968

Eritrea

24 May 1993

28 May. 1993

-

24 May 1993

Ethiopia

Never colonised

13 Nov. 1945

-

25 May 1963

Gabon

17 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Gambia, The

18 Feb. 1965

21 Sept. 1965

18 Feb. 1965

Oct. 1965

Ghana

6 March 1957

8 March 1957

6 March 1957

25 May 1963

Guinea

2 Oct. 1958

12 Dec. 1958

-

25 May 1963

Guinea-Bissau

23 Sept. 1973

17 Sept. 1974

-

Nov. 1973

Ivory Coast

7 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Kenya

12 Dec. 1963

16 Dec. 1963

12 Dec. 1963

13 Dec. 1963

Lesotho

4 Oct. 1966

17 Oct. 1966

4 Oct. 1966

31 Oct. 1966

Liberia

26 July 1847

2 Nov. 1945

-

25 May 1963

Libya

24 Dec. 1951

14 Dec. 1955

-

25 May 1963

Madagascar

26 June 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Malawi

6 July 1964

1 Dec. 1964

6 July 1964

Feb. 1965

Mali

22 Sept. 1960

28 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Mauritania

28 Nov. 1960

27 Oct. 1961

-

25 May 1963

Mauritius

12 March 1968

24 Apr. 1968

12 March 1968

Aug. 1968

Mayotte (Comoros)

- Territorial Collectivity of France -

Morocco

2 March 1956

12 Nov. 1956

-

left Nov. 1985

Mozambique

25 June 1975

16 Sept. 1975

13 Nov. 1995

18 July 1975

Namibia

21 March 1990

23 Apr. 1990

21 March 1990

1990

Niger

3 Aug. 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Nigeria

1 Oct. 1960

7 Oct. 1960

1 Oct. 1960

25 May 1963

Reunion

- Overseas Department of France -

Rwanda

1 July 1962

18 Sept. 1962

-

25 May 1963

Sao Tome/Principe

12 July 1975

16 Sept. 1975

-

18 July 1975

Senegal

20 Aug. 1960

28 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Seychelles

29 June 1976

21 Sept. 1976

29 June 1976

1976

Sierra Leone

27 April 1961

27 Sept. 1961

27 April 1961

25 May 1963

Somalia

1 July 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

South Africa

11 Dec. 1931

7 Nov. 1945

* 1 June 1994

24 May 1994

Sudan

1 Jan. 1956

12 Nov. 1956

-

25 May 1963

Swaziland

6 Sept. 1968

24 Sept. 1968

6 Sept. 1968

24 Sept. 1968

Tanzania

9 Dec. 1961

14 Dec. 1961

** 9 Dec. 1961

25 May 1963

Togo

27 April 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Tunisia

20 March 1956

12 Nov. 1956

-

25 May 1963

Uganda

9 Oct. 1962

25 Oct. 1962

9 Oct. 1962

25 May 1963

Western Sahara

- disputed territory awaiting UN referendum -

Feb. 1982

Zaire

30 June 1960

20 Sept. 1960

-

25 May 1963

Zambia

24 Oct. 1964

1 Dec. 1964

24 Oct. 1964

16 Dec.1964

Zimbabwe

18 April 1980

25 Aug. 1980

18 April 1980

1980

Thanks to the Commonwealth Institute, London, for their help in compiling the dates of Commonwealth membership in the above table.

Exact date of O.A.U. membership not known

* South Africa became part of the Commonwealth on 11 December, 1931, but left on 31 May, 1961, and re-joined on 1 June, 1994

** Tanganyika became a member of the Commonwealth on independence and Zanzibar joined on 10 December, 1963. The two countries united to become Tanzania on 26 April, 1964.

Link to The African Organisations Map


THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN "WHITE FATHERS - WHITE SISTERS" (UK),
ISSUE 327, OF APRIL-MAY, 1996.
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