On investing in Africa and “uneven development”

I recently watched a video where a financial expert offered advice for diasporan Africans seeking to invest in Africa. She highlighted two areas of particular concern to the state and commercial interests: agribusiness and real estate. The agribusiness discussion touched on some things by which I was both surprised and unsurprised. One surprising element is the growing global demand for Ghanaian pineapples. According to my wife, they are quite good. It would appear that many folks in Eurasia agree.

With regards to real estate there’s great interest for housing developments for the cosmopolite elite. Apparently, though there is a great need for housing for the poor and laboring masses, it simply isn’t as lucrative to house them as the petty bourgeoisie. No surprises there. This is the same model that prevails in the hyper-developed west.

Ghana reflects something a bit different from what Walter Rodney postulated (underdevelopment), which I call “uneven development”. This is the pattern that enables the educated elite to enjoy all of the conveniences and privileges that the 21st century offers, while others live a century or more removed from such opulence. You can see this first hand when you go to Accra, two centuries side-by-side. Its very interesting.

Of course my reason in posting this is not simply to critique the inevitable social malformations that capitalism produces, but to highlight the emergent economic forms of the global south where increasingly the diaspora is returning home, armed with cultural and commercial capital, and building edifices to the vapid western model of development.

Yes we should invest in African economies (both on the continent and in the diaspora), but I fear that if we do so absent a vision of economic development that produces Anderson Thompson’s African Principles, that is “the greatest good for the greatest number”, then we are simply playing a game of hegemonic musical chairs–where we take the place of the west as the lords of Black misery. We have to be better than that.

On repatriation

Some brief reflections on┬áthe article Nigeria: The “repats” who have returned.

This is a promising development. It is also somewhat unsurprising. While the Black elite has fared marginally well in the West, the suffering of the masses reflects the tenuous nature of our collective welfare. In short, our mid-20th Century forbears were buoyed by dreams of hopes that have been largely unrealizable for their descendants. What opportunities we find have and will continue to contract.

Should we look abroad for opportunity? Certainly, but we should be cautious about the dangers of feeding the unsustainable and rapacious system of global capitalism on the continent. Yes we need economic development, but we need a paradigm of economic development that reconciles human need with the capacity of the planet.

Moreover, we should be mindful that there are over 100 million people of African descent in the Western hemisphere. If our concept of economic opportunity and development consists of the globally mobile, Black cosmopolite elite absconding to Nigeria, Ghana, or elsewhere while our people still suffer under the terror that has so defined our American (North and South) experience, then our vision is deficient. The question that I have asked myself, which I have not yet been able to answer is, how do the economic development initiatives of repatriates in Africa favorably impact our communities in the diaspora? Again, to leave is not enough. Turning away from a problem does not resolve it. We need comprehensive solutions, which will be, as they always are, necessarily multifaceted.