The phenomenon of foreign direct investment from global multinational companies in Africa is still parroted as the panacea to the continent’s obstinate facts of poverty and hunger. Yet, the truth that is hidden from people is that foreign companies do not reflect any benevolence towards the continent: they only care about their the accumulation of private profits at the expense of the majority poor.
What foreign investments essentially entail is the socialization of poverty and misery vis-à-vis the privatization of profits by an elite oligarchical few. The myth of the ‘trickle-down’ effect — that private capital investment in a particular political economy will result in massive job creation and growth — is sold as the paragon of modern success.
The idea of trickle-down economics as the key pillar of liberalism promises a lot yet delivers nothing. Investment is packaged in the language of employment creation; better GDP and macroeconomic growth; better and efficient service delivery; lack of product and service shortages; and individualistic consumerist choice and liberty.
This superficial indicator of investment as the determinant of growth in ‘developing’ countries, largely purveyed by the Bretton Woods global financial institutions (IMF and the World Bank), does not address the negative implications it causes to the immense majority of poor Africans. And it carries serious colonial undertones and overtones of the white savior complex.
The pernicious idea of foreign investment is disastrously pervasive in that it glosses over the reality that the overwhelming majority of these foreign companies are not concerned with the organic development of Africa. Instead, these companies remit all profits back to the elite few in the industrialized metropoles of the world. And often, they leave a massive trail of destruction in Africa.
Regrettably, Africa’s leaders vaingloriously believe that foreign direct investment will cure the myriad problems bedevilling their respective countries. It is an obstinate fact that these foreign investors are perpetuating the over-exploitation of Africa’s natural resources to satisfy an insatiable global demand of products.
This is detrimental to the sovereignty of African peoples. Africa’s land rarely benefits the people who the sole birthright to it — the Africans themselves. Africa’s land serves to fuel the global capitalist wheels of abstract ideas; demand, supply, the free market, free trade, and so on.
The only reason that foreign investors exploit Africa’s resources on the basis of unfettered extractivism is rooted in imperial, neocolonial domination. The colonial paternalism that spurred the conquest of African peoples and their resources never disappeared. Global powers are still blinded by the myth that Africa cannot develop on its own and the phenomenon of political independence did not portend any cure to this dehumanizing vice.
So, this gives global financiers the impetus to come “invest” in Africa for its purported “development”, knowing very well that this impedes the self-sufficiency of Africans and thus perpetuates perennial dependency on the “global markets”. And this rarely benefits Africans.
The key question to ask is: despite the influx of “foreign investments”, abetted by the much-vaunted neoliberal policies of a “business and investor friendly climate, why is Africa still grappling with inequality, poverty, hunger, diseases, armed conflicts, corruption, and abysmal industrialization?
It points to an ineluctable conclusion: foreign investments in Africa are useless because they happen on unequal terms. There is no beneficiation whatsoever to the poor masses of the continent. It is time for African peoples to take charge of their land and resources; and not allow foreign predators to perpetuate their misery.