The mainstream mediaâ€™s response to the announcement that the G8 had agreed to cancel $40 billion dollars in debt for eighteen countries in third world, mainly African, was of sheer awe at the magnanimous generosity of the leaders of the worldâ€™s richest nations, who had found it in their loving, Christian hearts to offer a favor to the childish and confused citizens of Africa. The most powerful men in the world had selflessly offered a gift, we are told, by relieving $40 billion of the third-worldâ€™s debt, which now stands at several trillionâ€”the majority of which is defined as â€˜odious debt,â€™ that is, debt derived from loans taken out by antidemocratic regimes, which subsequent democratic regimes are forced to pay off. Africa, we are led to believe, is still very much the Dark Continent, inhabited by subhuman creatures that are incapable of lifting themselves out of their primitive, tribal societies. The continent has so many problems, we are told, that any attempt to solve them is futile; it is a continent where ethnic warfare exists perpetually and can never end, a continent wrecked by horrible incurable diseases. In short, the media suggests that there is no hope for ever ending the horrible suffering felt across the continent, regardless of what our benevolent leaders do.
Africaâ€™s problems are indeed immense. The HIV/AIDS pandemic can be described as nothing short of a holocaust, with 25 million Africans presently HIV positive, and, if more is not done to combat the disease, 90 million potential victims who could contract AIDS in twenty years time. Tragic conflicts are indeed widespread, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a protracted battle between rebel and governmental forces has left an estimated 3 million dead, and in Sudan, where 200,000 have died as a result of a civil war. Poverty is widespread, and democracy all but nonexistent.
None of these problems are insurmountable, however. The UN has reported that an international campaign against HIV combined with up to $105 billion dollars in investment in Africa to build infrastructure could save 16 million contractors from dying from the disease and another 43 million from becoming infected with the disease at all. It would doubtlessly also be helpful if Christian fundamentalists would stop committing the atrocity of attempting to prevent the dispersion of condoms and accurate information on sex and the HIV virus in Africa. The various civil wars can also be ended, as UN and African Union peacekeepers have shown to be mostly successful in the areas to which they have been deployed and received adequate financial backing to accomplish their task.
The root cause of all of these horrible problems, however, is devastating poverty. Because Africa was so desperately impoverished following a history which saw Europeans rape and plunder the entire continent, African governments have been forced to rely on humanitarian and development aid from the west and global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for funds to keep their citizens alive. As a prerequisite to receiving this life-saving aid, however, African countries were forced to pledge their support for economic austerity measures, liberalization of their economies, and privatization of their most basic and vital social servicesâ€”measures which in turn ensure that these countries can never develop economically. It is a vicious cycle, specifically designed to ensure that Africa remains a Dark Continent plagued with civil wars, famine, and disease, so that the west can continue to quietly plunder billions of dollars from Africa in minerals, oil, and interest on debt
It is not as if first-world western leaders are only indifferent about Africaâ€™s development. The global economy has developed in such a way as to have three tiers of hierarchy, a post-industrial first-world core around which all economic activity orbits, an industrial second-world whose participation in the world economy is less prominent, but whose quality of life is high enough to provide consumers for first-world products, and a completely marginalized third-world, which must be kept virtually paralyzed and powerless so as to ensure that the first-world can plunder its resources and exploit its workers at near-starvation level wages. Africa remains underdeveloped because the global economy is designed to prevent any and all development.
The G8 debt cancellation should be understood within this context, and it should be quite obvious that if the worldâ€™s richest countries stood to gain nothing from â€˜aidâ€™ to Africa, not a single cent would be handed over to the most destitute people in the world. The G8 made the terms of their generous â€˜cancellationâ€™ explicit: only countries that have completed six to ten years of economic restructuring in the form of trade liberalization and privatization qualify for debt â€˜cancellation.â€™ The G8â€™s generosity is in reality merely a bribe, a reward for those countries that have agreed to accept neoliberal economic policies which will cripple any and all development, and an incentive for other countries that have not yet fully complied with neoliberalism to do so.