Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Water and reconstruction in Africa: an agenda for transformation

What is hidden from the Wise and Prudent will be revealed to babes and sucklings.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. Luke 10:21 –

Islam ascribes the most sacred qualities to water as a life-giving, sustaining, and purifying resource. It is the origin of all life on earth, the substance from which God created man (Qur’an 25:54). The Qur’an emphasizes its centrality: "We made from water every living thing"(Qur’an 21:30). Water is the primary element that existed even before the heavens and the earth did: "And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and his Throne was upon water". (Qur’an 11:7).


I have quoted from the Bible and the Koran because once one begins to deal with water one is dealing with the fundamentals of life. In all major religions and forms of spiritual reflection, water plays a central role. Whether it is the religion of the African ancestors or the newer religions such as Christianity or Islam, water is presented in real or symbolic forms. Water as a symbol of life as well as a means of cleansing or purification is of particular importance in the traditions of Africans. In nearly every African society, the water spirit is one of the most positive and forceful spirits in the community. It is because of the importance of this spiritual energy that the external exploiters always wanted to control this resource, bot at the spiritual level and at the material level. The lakes and water resources served as a spiritual and ritual space for the peoples in so far as the importance of water was understood in spiritual terms of giving life.

Those who believed in the ‘mami wata’ spirit were accused of witchcraft and oftimes cast out of communities. Those who remember the imperial partitioning of Africa will recall that for the dominant imperial force at that historical moment, the race was to reach the source of the Nile. The conquest of the peoples in the Nile valley was always central to imperial objectives in Africa. After using the water to support colonial mining, agriculture and industrial uses to the detriment of the vast majority of the peoples, colonial overlords left schools of engineering and hydrology that repeated discourses about “Global water crisis.” It was in Southern Africa where this was most obscene. Settler colonialists consumed vast amounts of water for irrigation, sprinkling elegant gardens and for their swimming pools while there was water shortage for the majority. Irrigation schemes had been established by the settlers to provide water for the farms and the political and economic power of settler colonialism had been stamped in the building of the Cabora Bassa and Kariba dams. During the period of apartheid, the minority government in cooperation with the World Bank invested in the Lesotho High Water Dam to dispossess the people of Lesotho for industries and big corporate entities in South Africa. As in South Africa, so all over Africa these schemes benefited the rich while there were books and papers on the “Global Water Crisis in Africa.” International relations experts then produced reams of papers on future water wars.

Today we are now being told the truth about the abundance of water resources in Africa. In reality, the publication last week by the British on the large underground supplies of water is only news to those in the West who had built an industry out of consultancies on water shortages in Africa. The peoples of Africa always knew of the tremendous wealth but we will use the publication of the British Geological Survey and University College London (UCL) to reflect on the tasks of building the kind of infrastructure of canals and water systems for the unification and for the health and well-being of the peoples of Africa.
As reported on the BBC web page,,

'Huge water resource exists under Africa ... Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater. They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface. The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource.’ Read more

Africa and the BRICS formation: What kind of development?

The fourth BRICS Summit met in New Delhi, India, on 29 March 2012 under the theme, ‘BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity.’ From the press reports coming out India, we have learnt that the leaders of Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa signed two pacts to stimulate trade in their local currencies and agreed on a joint working group to set up a South-South Development Bank that will raise their economic weight globally.

The participating banks for this new international financial struggle include the Export Import Bank of India, Banco Nacional de Desenvolimento Economico e Social (BNDES) of Brazil, State Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs of Russia, China Development Bank and Development Bank of South Africa. At the end of the meeting the five leaders issued the 50 point Delhi Declaration declaring their intention to further strengthen “our partnership for common development and take our cooperation forward on the basis of openness, solidarity, mutual understanding and trust.” [1]

In our commentary this week we reflect on the seismic changes in the global economy and the reality that Europe has suffered so much from the capitalist crisis that the major capitalist corporations are making preparations for the collapse of the Euro. [2] With each passing day there are reports in the financial press that ‘investors are taking huge sums out of eurozone bonds. [3] Where the BRIC leaders had started a formation to facilitate their expanded trading relationships, the collapse of the dollar zone and the Eurozone has accelerated so fast that the policy makers are now improvising without a clear road map as to a project of real international solidarity. To their credit, the BRICS leaders have seen concretely that there is no alternative to moving from a unipolar world to a multipolar world in the 21st Century that is based on mutual respect and an end to hierarchies. Yet, as we will argue in this extended commentary, the focus of the planning of the peoples of the South should no longer be on the basis of bargaining for better terms with western capitalist states. We will maintain that for genuine social and economic transformations to take place in these countries representing 45 per cent of the world’s population, it will be necessary to make a clean break with the ideas of ‘historic capitalism.’ [4] Whether the BRICS formation will be the embryo of a ‘new wave of independent initiatives from the South’ or based on regional hegemons will be dependent on the extent to which the forces of social justice and emancipation engage the political and ideological struggles around BRICS. A 17 point action plan focused on issues relating to finance, health, population, food security and multilateral energy cooperation within the BRIC’s framework provides spaces for a new research and policy agenda that could strengthen and consolidate the goals of a new framework for economic cooperation. In this way progressive scholars can give meaning to the call for the expansion of the channels of communication, exchanges and people-to-people contact amongst the BRICS, including in the areas of youth, education, culture, tourism and sports. [5]

The current leaders of India aspire for a BRICS and the ‘development bank’ to be an auxiliary institution of the World Bank. Read more