Out of the Ivorian election disaster is coming a new beginning and structural framework. Africa must fashion its own new economic framework; weaved internally that will empower and unleash broad economic reforms, freedoms and prosperity to its peoples.
We are determined to uproot the still existing colonial economic frameworks and patterns of distortion that have kept us and our continent underdeveloped and backwards for centuries.
The leaderships and emerging power houses of South Africa, Angola, Ghana and Uganda in the Ivorian crisis stood up and took ownership at the recent African Union summit in Addis Ababa against forces pursuing military confrontation and infrastructural destruction.
This momentum must now give rise to further optimism for profound and unprecedented economic changes in that country and around the African Continent.
It is the paradigm shift in the international economy that has dislodged and relegated the economies of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Portugal and to a lesser extent the United States by the emergence of China, India, Brazil, Russia and even Turkey which has resulted in the creation of a new power vacuum in Africa.
This vacuum must be filled by the new emerging African regional economic empowerment centers. Indeed, South Africa, Ghana, Angola, Uganda and others yet to come are rising. Under the Mbeki doctrine of African Renaissance -through regional unification; one candle at a time, we will eventually up root all the colonial distorted-structures and restore the dignity of this Continent.
To start with, the Ivorian economy is controlled by about 700 major French companies from the lucrative exploitation of cacao exports, manufacturing, infrastructure and telecommunications. According to official figures, French companies established in Ivory Coast pay some 50 percent of total taxes in that country.
Since the outbreak of the civil war in 2002, French Corporations invested some 270 billion euro in the West African country, proving that local insecurity is not detrimental to business.
A glimpse of the Ivorian economy tells us that France from the time of the late President Felix Houphouet-Boigny controlled much of the Ivorian economy.
It has made Ivory Coast the base of its control of other lesser viable West African francophone economies such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Niger, Togo, Benin and Equatorial Guinea. Thus the loss of Ivory Coast will radically determine events in all these other Franco-controlled States as well.
In the specific case of Abidjan, the French maintains a stranglehold over trade, finance and until recently the military. Under the French Ministry of Co-operation there are thousands of French nationals sent to the Ivory Coast as ‘advisors’.
In some Ministries there is one Frenchman for every Ivorian. French administration still permeates all Ivorian structures including Ivorian government ministries, banks and institutions. French soldiers and police are based in the Ivory Coast and are responsible for the training, equipping and deployment of the Ivory Coast forces.
French businesses are accustomed to having the right to operate monopolies in crucial sectors of the economy. French companies control water, electricity, construction, port operations, transport, a dominant part of the oil and gas industries and much of the food trade.
President Gbagbo’s government tried to empower Ivorian but this brought him into much conflict with the French. When a new bridge was to be built in Abidjan the French quoted a very high price. The Chinese offered to build a two-level bridge on the same site for about half the price tendered by the French.
The advisors in the ministries assured that there was no acceptable technical specification which would allow the Chinese to win the right to build the bridge. Thus this threatened the economic position of French companies not just in Ivory Coast but also serves as an encouragement to opposition movements within the entire Franco-controlled regions of Africa.
Furthermore, the macroeconomic management of the Francophone economies with Ivory Coast at the centre firmly puts France firmly in control. They have erected a system whereby the French Treasury maintains control of the CFA franc, through the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).
In Ivory Coast, eighty-five percent of the cash flow of the Ivoirian economy is banked in Paris after passing through this central neocolonial system. To demonstrate the extent of this control, the post election dispute in Ivory Coast has led to the removal of the Ivoirian Head of this institution as dictated by France via surrogates in Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal. This has led to President Gbagbo seizing all of the bank’s assets in Abidjan as a measure of extreme reaction.
I say we must dismantle these colonial structures that are designed to serve the purposes of European economies and replace them with a new structure established on the stability of strong regional economies.
Now that the African Union has stepped in and established a non violent way forward, these emerging powers within the African Union must ensure that whatever political solution emerges in that Country a firm strategy is in place to wean Ivory Coast off French control which is the real crisis in that country.
Measures must be taken to bring the manufacturing industry of cocoa-based products and coffee into Ivory Coast and the region. Ownership of French monopolies in the telecom, oil and gas sectors must be broken up to allow international competition and regional integration. Major South African, Angolan, Ghanaian, Ugandan etc.
Companies and institutions can partner with Ivoirians to establish regional economy of scale and competitive entities that will empower Ivoirians to fill those spaces. This is the unfolding of the Mbeki doctrine. In order to enable an orderly transition, this revolution must not be hijacked and if necessary the South African Navy must be stationed nearby just in case.
Plans must now be drawn up for a post election crisis recovery that will see major economic diversification and beneficiation in the Country to cushion anticipated French divestment and disorderly capital flight. We will not have a repeat of the Zimbabwe inflationary crisis that followed major structural and ownership changes in that economy.
In the meantime, the proposal of the African Union for a binding solution by a five Panel African Union Heads of State must obtain the support of the United Nations and both the Ivorian political principals of the election before the exact membership of that Panel is revealed.
Only the broad and basic international principles of the rule of law, equity and justice that will guide the Panel in their investigations will be elaborated clearly and identified prior to the names of the leaders are announced.
The finality of the process must be respected by all interested stakeholders so that this process will not be dragged on or be hijacked by France and its surrogates. Both the Reports of the initial AU Envoy Thabo Mbeki and that of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga should be admitted as sources to support the conclusions and findings of the teams of investigators acting under the authority of the Panel of Five Heads of State.
The UNOCI officials in Abidjan must cooperate with the investigation so that we all can get clear answers about the serious allegations of widespread electoral fraud and cover up.
In good faith during this time also the EU and the United States should relax all restrictions on the Government of President Gbagbo particularly those services that enables the government to ease the humanitarian plight of the citizens of Ivory Coast.
All stakeholders including the United Nations Secretariat should support the reconciliation efforts of African leaders and allow the authentic voices of moderate and measured African diplomacy to make tangible progress.
The people of Africa is awaiting the independent findings of this Panel of last resort and no one should stand in the way of the universal principles of accountability, transparency and the rule of law.