Writing the Struggle – EPAs: The European game is over, comrades
The current episode between some African countries and European Union over the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) proves to a great extent what Franz Fanon talks about when he says: “The new day which is already at hand must find us firm, prudent and resolute.”
In this case, Namibia has stood firm and resolute in refusing to be dragged into an agreement that would benefit Europe only.
The EPAs are part of a new regime of trade agreements done regionally and in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). They are a renegotiation of a series of other trade agreements that existed when most African countries gained independence.
The deadline for the agreements was supposed to have been 2007 when most other countries signed on but others including Namibia and South Africa in the SADC region refused to sign before proposed changes to some clauses were done.
Namibia’s argument is that the EU is asking far too much than what the WTO rules prescribe.
As the situation stands today, the EPAs are crafted to benefit the EU rather than Africa. Furthermore, the EPAs have no due regard for existing African regional trade bodies such as the Southern African Customs’ Union (SACU) to which Namibia has been a member for more than 100 years.
Caught in the harsh grip of poverty, poor business environment that has seen developing industries closing down because of financial predicament; joblessness; and poverty, many African countries cannot compete with the EU countries.
If Namibia signs and for those countries that signed the EPAs in their current form, Africa will be reduced to an importer of consumer goods from the EU without any development on the ground.
Critics have encouraged African leaders to
· Challenge the EPAs false urgency
· Insist that African countries’ access to EU markets continue during negotiation
· Call for an extension of the signing timetable
· Reject the negotiation of issues that have already been rejected at the WTO
· Reject any provisions on intellectual property and services which go beyond existing commitments under the WTO agreements
· Reject the EU’s demand that any future trade benefits that African countries might give to other major trading economies must also be given to the EU
So where does Fanon fit into all this, you may ask? The last chapter of his book, “The Wretched of the Earth” aptly summarises the scenario unfolding before us today. Europe has always played games with Africa. If it’s not a political game, then it is an economical one. In every match Europe has engaged Africa, she sought to smuggle in goals.
“Come, then, comrades, the European game has finally ended; we must find something different. We today can do everything, so long as we do not imitate Europe, so long as we are not obsessed by the desire to catch up with Europe,” Fanon exhorts.
Although Fanon said this in 1961, Namibia and South Africa as well as all those countries that are resisting the EPAs are showing that they are tired of playing Europe’s rearguard.
“Come, brothers, we have far too much work to do for us to play the game of rearguard. Europe has done what she set out to do and on the whole, she has done it well; let us stop blaming her, but let us say to her firmly that she should not make such a song and dance about it.
We have no more to fear; so let us stop envying her,” Fanon says.
Indeed, Europe today stands in the Third World’s path like a “colossal mass whose aim should be to try to resolve the problems to which Europe has not been able to find the answers”.
Have you imagined how and why Europe runs to try and solve African problems when Greece and such other countries in their midst have gone to the dogs?
Fanon urges Africa to move at her own pace and set her own target instead of playing the catching-up game.
“The pretext of catching up must not be used to push man around, to tear him away from himself or from his privacy, to break and kill him.
“No, we do not want to catch up with anyone. What we want to do is to go forward all the time, night and day, in the company of Man, in the company of all men,” he says.
Signing the EPAs as they are is a refusal to chart a new path, according to Fanon.
“It is a question of the Third World starting a new history of Man, a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious theses which Europe has put forward, but which will also not forget Europe’s crimes, of which the most horrible was committed in the heart of man, and consisted of the pathological tearing apart of his functions and the crumbling away of his unity,” he further explains.
Yes comrades, the European game is over.