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Building African Cadres of Excellence: A study of the neo-colonial coordinator class


Times have changed. The colonial project in Africa is no longer carried out with a gun and a boot and a baton.  Structural adjustment programmes inform the neo-colonial agenda; and that agenda requires that a new coordinator class among the natives be trained in a slightly different way to the coordinator class of the old days.

In this last instalment of the essay on the coordinator class, I want to explore the ways in which global capital creates the coordinator class among the natives in Africa, as part of its mission to perpetuate and sustain neo-colonial conditions. As I have pointed out in the previous articles, capitalists create the coordinator class among the natives simply because they are interested in producing a subservient native class that supports and takes care of the interests of the neo-colonialists and the empire.

In the previous essays, I also argued that the main characteristic of the coordinator class in Africa is that: this class has antagonistic relations with both the neo-colonialists and the masses of the people. Education is the most potent weapon that capitalists use to create this schizophrenic existence of the coordinator class.

In Africa, good education is not a human right, but something that lucky people win and then defend perpetually because underlying institutions of society are at odds with it. Federici (2000) writes that there are only 80 academic institutions in existence in Africa; barely twice the number of the universities in New York State. This means that Africa has the lowest higher education enrolment in the world. Caffentzis (2000) adds that there are less than 500 000 higher education students in all of Africa – a continent with a population of more than 600 million. 

Enter the IMF, the World Bank and the UN.

Seeing an opportunity to exploit the situation to their advantage, these institutions have come up with what they refer to as the African Capacity Building Initiative (ACBI) to remedy the education crisis in Africa. Established in 1991, the ACBI’s basic purpose is to build a ‘critical mass of professional African policy analysts and economic managers who will be able to better manage the development process’, according to the World Bank ACBI document.  The document points out that the principal objectives of ACBI are to place investment in human capital and institutions high on the agenda of African government, international financial institutions and donors.

The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) was established to coordinate ACBI actions and to manage the Initiative’s Fund.  Among other things, the ACBF plans to intervene through improving selected national institutions – i.e. already existing departments of economics or public administration in universities or colleges, or research and management institutes; and building or strengthening a small number of regional institutions for policy analysis and development management.

According to the ACBI document, these regional centres are principally training institutions in policy analysis and development management skills, and sources of policy analysis and advice. These institutions are supposed to offer "new or refresher training courses on issues critical to development management – for example, the exchange rate, agricultural pricing, industry tariffs, privatisation, social sector financing, and decision-making processes in general."

One such centre is the Macroeconomic Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa (MEFMI). The MEFMI is a think-tank concentrating on macroeconomics management, microfinance and resources or sovereign debt management. It is based in Zimbabwe, and it is funded by the ACBF. Thanks to this institution, the heads of reserve banks in Uganda and Zambia are now MEFMI-trained fellows (Price, 2006). The MEFMI has a ‘Fellows Development Programme’ which aims to develop ‘promising young professionals’ to develop into credible experts in macroeconomic and financial management. According to the MEFMI website (http://www.mefmi.org/), candidates who are accepted into the programme go through a rigorous training before being accredited as fully-fledged MEFMI Fellows

The West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFE) (http://www.waifem.org/) is another institution that is part of the ‘capacity building initiative’ in Africa. The Institute focuses on debt management as its core area. According to the institute website, the debt management programme is designed to help strengthen the capacity of several West African countries to develop, present and negotiate a case for debt relief through the HIPC CBP Initiative.  HIPC CBP stands for ‘The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Strategy and Analysis Capacity Building Programme’ (see: http://www.hipc-cbp.org/index.php). The main objective of the HIPC CBP is to enable "HIPC Governments to develop the full independent capacity to design and execute their own national debt strategies, and to maintain a high level of overall debt management, during and after the HIPC Initiative." 

Under the HIPC CBP programme, each HIPC has to apply for the CBP initiative and engage in ‘tripartite analysis with the Bretton Woods Institution on the sustainability of its external debt’ (Martin, Perales & Johnson, 2001). To qualify for debt relief, HIPC have to demonstrate to the Bretton Woods Institution that it has a coherent debt strategy to reduce debt to all creditors with equal burden sharing, and a high level of debt management, according to Martin et al. 

Another international financial institution that funds the ACBF is the IMF. In 2002, the IMF and the ACBF signed a memorandum of understanding. According to that memorandum, the IMF and the ACBF work closely primarily on capacity building-related training activities and strengthening knowledge networking in Africa in the areas of the Fund’s core competencies. Consequently, the IMF has its own training schools in Africa. To be precise, the IMF has established three regional technical assistance centres in Africa; namely: the East AFRITAC, the West AFRITAC and the Central AFRITAC.

Economics Departments and the ACBF

One of the main aims of the ACBF is to help ‘develop first-rate university programmes’ in Africa. Among other things, it does this by providing funds to the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC).  The AERC is also funded by the World Bank, the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundation, the USAID and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.

According to the AERC website (http://www.aercafrica.org/home/index.asp ), the Consortium has a training programme that is designed to increase the pool of economic researchers in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting postgraduate studies in economics and by enhancing the capacities of departments of economics in local public universities.

For example, AERC supports the Collaborative master’s Programme in Economics (CMAP) for Anglophone Africa. The AERC website states that CMAP builds the capacity of mid-level economic managers and policy analysts and produces first class students interested in careers in academia. Twenty-one universities in 16 countries participate in the programme. 

In 2002, the AERC launched a Collaborative PhD Programme in Economics. The PhD Programme has its own Academic Board, which is based at four host universities – namely;  University of Cape Town, University of Dar es Salaam, University of Ibadan and University of Yaounde II. According to the website, four other participating institutions, i.e. the Universities of Cocody, Nairobi, Benin and the University of Witwatersrand, will also admit and award degrees in the programme. Each region has a host university that offers the core courses and a degree awarding university. The programme supports 21 students from sub-Sahara Africa every year

The AERC website points out that the Academic Boards for CMAP and CPP consists of members drawn from participating universities, and are largely responsible for the academic substance of the two programmes.  AERC facilitates curriculum development and joint enforcement of standards, and it also builds the capacity of participating economics departments and supports library facilities. 

Another way that the ACBF achieves its objectives is by funding certain university economics department directly. The Moi University economics department is one such department. The department has even introduced a new course on banking and finance. The new Masters degree in Banking and Finance with a focus in Microfinance is funded by the ACBF.

The ACBF has programmes in over 30 African countries. The Foundation has worked with the Rwanda School of Finance and Banking (Price, 2006). Recently, the ACBF made a grant of US$800 000 to Africa University, a private university based in Zimbabwe.

Conclusion

Federici (2000) argues that the pervasive academic financial drought in Africa allow institutions such as the ACBI to take over the infrastructural facilities of African universities, by organising courses which they fund and devise, while the normal curriculum courses are condemned to slow asphyxiation. This is true, and this is the strategy that global capital uses to create a post-colonial coordinator class in Africa.

Recruits to the ACBI funded education programmes must be prepared to carry out assigned functions, pay attention to designated responsibilities and ignore distractions, to paraphrase Albert (2006). The product will be highly educated people who do their assigned work without questioning its goals (Schmidt, 2001). In short, professionals who are uncritical and are ideologically obedient.

The graduates of the ACBF funded programmes are the kind of people that the IMF, the World Bank, the Bretton Woods Institution and the UN are going to assign to monitor the economic policies that African countries adopt. In addition, these graduates exist to advocate and to maintain the neo-liberal ideology that these global financial institutions believe should guide the African economic policies.

The goals of the ACBF funded education programmes are not to produce independent, critical thinkers. Rather, the goal is to produce obedient and ideological disciplined thinkers. In his book ‘Disciplined Minds’, Schmidt (2001) argues that real critical thinking means questioning social, political and moral assumptions; applying and refining a personally created developed worldview; "and calling for action that advances a personally created agenda. An approach that backs away from any of these three components lacks the critical spirit (p. 41)."

To graduate from these programmes, students learn early on that one is not supposed to challenge the global social structure that the programmes advocate and the IMF economic policies that these courses are based on. Students concentrate on how best to carry out their assignments, and it is only here that they use their creativity and then only within the limits of the neo-liberal paradigm, to paraphrase Schmidt.

This analysis is consisted with Chomsky’s argument that schools are, by and large, designed to support the interests of the dominant segment of society, those people who have wealth and power – in short the capitalists. As I have argued in my previous essays, a member of the coordinator class usually has educational credentials and daily economic circumstances that continually reinforce his or her status, prestige and power. Put another way, members of the coordinator class tend to be people who we normally refer to as ‘professionals’. Universities are, by and large, designed to produce people who subscribe to the values of this class; people, who basically can fit in with this class without problems. This is because the goal of educational training is not only to teach people skills and facts, but to change people’s ideological values in accordance with the system.

So, the rationale behind the African Capacity Building Foundation is to change people’s ideological values in accordance with the global financial system, while, simultaneously, producing a highly competent coordinator class that pushes the neo-liberal agenda with remarkable efficiency. 

 

References:

Africa university homepage : http://www.africau.edu/

African Economic Research Consortium homepage: http://www.aercafrica.org/home/index.asp 

Albert, M (2006). Realising hope: Life beyond capitalism. Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

Albert, M. & Hahnel, R. (1978). UnOrthodox Marxism: An essay on capitalism, socialism and revolution. Boston, South End Press.

Caffentzis, G. (2000). The World Bank and education n Africa. In S. Federici, G. Caffentzis & O. Alidou (Eds), A thousand flowers: Social struggles against structural adjustment in African Universities (p. 3 – 18). New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc.

Federici, S. (2000). The Recolonisation of African Education. In In S. Federici, G. Caffentzis & O. Alidou (Eds), A thousand flowers: Social struggles against structural adjustment in African Universities (p. 19 – 23). New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc.

Federici, S. (2000). The economic roots of the repression of academic freedom in Africa. In In S. Federici, G. Caffentzis & O. Alidou (Eds), A thousand flowers: Social struggles against structural adjustment in African Universities (p. 61 – 68). New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc.

IMF. (2002). IMF and the African Capacity Building Foundation sign a memorandum of understanding, [Press Release]. Retrieved on June 11, 2008, from: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2002/pr0246.htm

Macroeconomic Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa homepage:  http://www.mefmi.org/

Martin, M., Perales, J. C. A.  & Johnson, A. (2001). Heavily Indebted Poor Countries debt strategy and analysis capacity-building programmes. Retrieved on June, 10, 2008, from:  http://www.dri.org.uk/pdfs/EngPub1_HIPC_CBP.pdf

Moi University, Kenya School of Monetary Studies & African Capacity Building Foundation. (2008). The new Masters degree in Banking and Finance with a focus in Microfinance, (newspaper advert). Retrieved on June, 10, 2008, from:  http://www.amfikenya.com/pubs/Final_Students_Admission_Advertisment.pdf

Price, S. (2006). Laying the foundation for Africa’s future. Retrieved on June, 10, 2008, from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5391/is_200602/ai_n21408874

Schmidt, J. (2001). Disciplined minds: A critical look at salaried and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield  Publishers, Inc.

The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Strategy and Analysis Capacity Building Programme homepage: http://www.hipc-cbp.org/index.php

The West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management homepage: http://www.waifem.org/

The World Bank. (1991). The African Capacity Building Initiative: Toward improved policy analysis and development management. Washington D.C.: The International Bank for Reconstrcution and Development.

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