Africa: Crony Capitalism and Economic Development, the new hiding place for African dictators
by Teshome Debalke
The West may have won the Cold War but, lost the battle for democracy and the free market on its own making; competing with authoritarian regime of China on economic development and praising small time tyrants as champions of development says it all.
African tyrants embezzled billions of dollars in the last century out of their poor countries.
These days, dictators are wising up; they no longer engage in outright theft as they use to do but, give it a cover to legitimize the same thing in different package.
The savvy and brutal African tyrants are smart enough to adapt to the changing world to remain in power and maintain their corruption going. Since tyrants’ biggest fear is democratic movements that will instantly end their criminality, they no longer have option to use the old ways of embezzling the people through suitcase capitalism. Therefore, they become ‘Developmental Regimes’ that build roads and dams with their in partnership with totalitarian regimes and foreign aid agencies. The difference this time is they don’t carry suitcase full of cash, instead they hire their cronies to launder them money posed as private or non-for-profit entity.
In the last century Tyrants of Africa caused so much havoc and distraction on their peoples until they run out of excuses when the Cold War ended. The War on Terror gave them breathing room to continue their draconian rule and corruption. A decade later; after they milked the war on terror for whatever it worth by terrorizing their population into silence, they came up with yet another hideout, ‘Economic Development’. The new buzz word is simply another diversion; thanks to their Western enablers that run out of excuses themselves for continuing to finance their favorite tyrants. At the meantime, their Easter enablers led by China couldn’t wait to jump on development wagon; partnering with the dictators. This time, it isn’t about defending their defunct ideology in the name of the Masses but, plundering Africa in name of Development.
As misery needs companion, the authoritarian regime in China is in love with its counterparts in Africa with the new slogan of ‘Development without Freedom’. Who wants freedom before bread and butter became the new ideology of Authoritarian Capitalism tyrants came up with to have their cake and eat it too.
The Danger of China syndrome
African dictators are savvy enough to have it both ways; fooling the self righteous Western enablers facilitating to hand them Aid money and make them feel good and partnering with their Eastern counterparts to give them cover for their atrocity and corruption the old fashion way in return to plunder of Africa.
Unlike the Cold war that forced tyrants to choice between the ideological divide to receive the latest killing machines or foreign aid to sustain their rule, Authoritarian Capitalism is allowing them to have them both. The China syndrome is taking a hold of African dictators; facilitating their brutality and corruption.
By rescuing African dictators from the inevitable demise, China emerged as the leader of new Authoritarian Capitalism; taping the resources of Africa for pennies on the dollar. If that isn’t cronyism at the world scale we don’t know what it could be.
The new Authoritarian Capitalism resembles close to Colonialism without military occupation and physical subjugation. In that, the hideous experience of subjugation is outsourced to the dictators themselves. Are Africa retuning back to colonialism of the Chinese version with her dictators serving as native Askari, Chasseurs d’ Afrique, Foreign Legion…of their new masters?
To illustrate how Authoritarian Capitalism play in modern Africa, the Ethiopian regime led by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) that benefit from both side of the ideological divide comes in handy.
No African dictator managed the Cold War as a communist ethnic insurgent then and as crony capitalist now better than the late Prime Minster of Ethiopia, Melse Zenawi. By playing both sides of the ideological divide he successfully orchestrated the biggest heist since the cold war officially ended. In fact, he fooled his Western enablers that won the Cold War hands down by switching side overnight until he establish his ethnic Authoritarian regime financed by their money. Then, he turned around to go back to his Communist mentors and join the new ideology of Authoritarian Capitalism of the Chinese style or to put it in his own word ‘Developmental State’.
Credit is due for the Dictator of the Century for pulling the stint like no tyrant did before. Alike an average tyrant, his understanding of Colonialism, his life as hard-line Communist, and his detest for Capitalism, and his close association with Middle Easter tyrants that made religion and natural resources a meal ticket for their own version of dictatorial rule came in handy for him to pull the biggest heist in the history of tyranny.
His background as hardliner ideologue, as Western aid money launderer and as a son of the Italian Colonialist’s Askari also shaped his outlook toward his people’s poverty as an opportunity and the country’s resources as a means to finance his rule-consistent with his deeds. It earned him praises and admiration from his Western preys, his Eastern mentors, as well as African tyrants and his comrades in arms he helped turn in to instant millionaires out of blood money.
There is no wonder why his clueless diehard supporters are hysterically defending him. After all, besides cashing in as crony capitalist of the lowest order they can’t help but admire him observing him in the world stage playing his role of serving his foreign enablers as he is paid to do so.
As a leader of a self declared minority regime, the late tyrant understood his self belittling minority rule can’t sustain the tide. Therefore, when he came up with his latest diversion of Growth and Transformation Plan and changed gear as ‘Developmental Regime’; he knew all along peddling ethnicity may have worked to neutralize his rivals but, can’t be sustainable to move on to the next stage. What else but economic development slogan can save minority ethnic tyranny? After all, Authoritarian Capitalism tuned out to be the only hope of tyrannical regimes to survive.
Obviously, luck has something to do with it too. Westerners needed him on War and Terror and poured in money to serve them as mercenary-for-hire. While his Eastern comrades loved him for making their plunder of Africa look good; in the quest to slow down democratic movement away from their shores. At the meantime, the mindless Arab tyrants adore him for doing their dirty job they aren’t able to do at home or anywhere else. He was indeed good salesman in satisfying his customers’ needs that are willing to come up with the money to the benefit of his cronies.
The reaction to his unexpected death and the chaos it created among his comrades and cronies to the point of denying his death to raise him to Sainthood speaks volumes. As expected, the fall out of the criminal enterprise he put together began. But, as long as Westerners keep-on bankrolling and Easterners give it legitimacy in the name of economic development the status qua of a corrupt minority rule will hang around.
The Era of the Authoritarian Capitalism up on us
Economic Development became the new fad African tyrannical regimes play to extend their illegitimate rule and to counter the democratic revolution at their gate. Development before Democracy became the motto of the 21st century tyrants and their benefactors, thanks to authoritarian regime of China that made tyrants of the world feel good. China also put Western democracy on the defensive for their blunder of pampering their chosen tyrants of Africa against the principle of democracy and the free market.
With Media and the means of production under their control and China as their role model, African tyrants are havening the best of tyrannical control and corruption under Authoritarian Capitalism to save their neck.
The sign is on the wall; when Western leaders and intellectuals praise a small time tyrants of Africa and entertain the China model as a competing alternative to economic development we are already on the way to the new World order led by China?
The West may have won the Cold War but, lost the battle for democracy and free market on its own making; competing with authoritarian regime on economic development and praising small time tyrants as champions of development say it all.
Is there anyone left to defend democracy and the free market anymore?