By David Mafabi
The COVID-19 pandemic hangs like a guillotine over us. The pandemic has shaken humankind to the core – with the tens of thousands of deaths so far. Its trail of death and grief covers the entire planet, and has spared no nation – big or small, rich or poor.
The country specific picture obviously, is varied. From China (where it all started) to the United States (currently housing the largest number of infections) – through Italy, Spain and France which have been registering heart rending daily death figures over the last few weeks. At home in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has calmly, firmly, steadily and decisively – guided the Government and wananchi – in a comprehensive and robust response to the grave threat to life, posed by the pandemic.
I have no doubt in my mind – the grim picture notwithstanding – that the Ugandan and other peoples of the world, shall triumph over the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever the sacrifices, however painful, the human spirit and effort shall overcome.
What is in my mind as I type though, are not the pain and fears of today. It is thoughts about the post-COVID-19 future, about related forecasts by various experts. There are several emerging postulations. A popular one is that the pandemic may tip the balance of world political and economic power, in favor of China. I shall not go into this.
Where there seems to be no argument is the view that the pandemic will impact negatively on the global economy. Already, in the first quarter of the year, we have lost about US$ 3.5 trillion in global GDP – out of global GDP of about US$ 90 trillion. World capital markets have lost about US$ 7 trillion over the same period. Etc.
We shall not go into current and projected dislocation of communities, losses in jobs, losses in the production of oil and other commodities, etc – with the attendant ramifications. What is clear is that if the world is not on top of the pandemic in the next 3 months or so, the world will slide into a depression that makes the Great Depression of 1929 to 1932 look like a picnic. The 2008 financial crisis around derivatives would be an insignificant dot in comparison.
Our purpose today, is not to attempt to discuss the specifics of the manifestation or impact of the crisis on Uganda and our economy. That, would be a futile attempt go beyond the confines of a short article such as this.
Our purpose is today lies squarely in the realm of ideological and philosophical orientation. Our purpose is to underline that the leopard does not change its spots. COVID-19 may be the great equalizer in spewing death right and left, but shall leave the emergent peoples of the world moored in the same debilitating reality we have been in for the last 600 years.
After the pandemic, there shall still be two major external poles dominating our world. At one pole shall still stand advanced Capitalism with its several nodal points – which shall have taken a severe beating, but shall remain standing. At the other pole shall stand the Chinese giant – running his “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, with apparently ever growing efficiency.
As for us, the emergent peoples of the world, the end of the pandemic shall not, in itself and by itself, remove us from the periphery of global capitalist development. It shall not free us from our enclave economies.
COVID-19 shall not change the inherent logic of Capitalism and Capitalist development. COVID-19 shall not scuttle the profit motive – suddenly mutating into altruism and love. The cut-throat and bitter struggle for cheap raw materials, cheap labour, markets and spheres of influence shall NOT suddenly metamorphose into shared responsibility and mutual interest – between the forces that have dominated the 600 year the world division of work and market on the one hand, and the African people, on the other. Capitalism is Capitalism.
If there is anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out in bold relief, it is that “Contemporary Globalization”, the ICT Revolution (the 4th Industrial Revolution), etc – are not in themselves and by themselves, the panacea or magical elixir that lifts us out of a deep-set and structural poverty.
The current world division of work and market therefore (and which COVID-19 shall leave intact), is certainly not about “villagization of the world” (a la Prof. Ali Mazrui). It is rather about the “continuing pillagization” of the world (Prof. Chachage Chachage). The world “remains a global jungle” (Prof. Mwesigwa Baregu).
In all this, we do not campaign for the adventurous and futile path of autarky – a closed economy. While we may have fundamental issues with various pseudo-liberalist and “post-modernist” views that deny our people alternatives in overcoming our debilitating reality – we recognize the necessity for the operation of capitalist levers in the economy. While we reject pseudo-liberalist confusion, we cannot run away from responsible liberalization of the economy.
We, advocate in fact, for the development of national economy – with attendant national entrepreneurial classes, national middle and skilled working classes. We advocate instead, for the dismantling (underpinned by the collective strength of the African people) of enclave, peripheral, hostage and stunted Capitalism which produces and reproduces our inherently unequal place in a 600 year world division of work and market.
This, is the process of building, consolidating and securing a new economy – anchored in an internal and integrated African market for industry, agriculture and services. We are going to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. As we fight, we shall not be distracted from building a critical awareness of the issues, and deepening our ideological clarity about what needs to be done. The struggle for fundamental socio-economic transformation and securing Africa’s strategic existence and future, shall continue until final victory.
Senior Presidential Advisor/Special Duties