The G8 is a group of governments consisting of eight of the world’s eleven largest national economies. Brazil, India and China are excluded from the group. The forum started in 1975 with six nations – France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States hence the name G6. The addition of Canada in 1976 led to the group being called G7.The group became the G8 after Russia was added in 1997.
The main aim of the G8 is to resolve the issues that the world is facing on any given year. The problems that the G8 tackles include health, economy, and development among other issues. The G8 has no office, no budget or bank account. The group however influences the world’s direction on issues given that the control a large section of the world’s economy.
At the Kanaksis summit in 2002, the summit came up with the African Action Plan which solidified their African agenda. Most of the development plans, which the G8 has, are closely linked to Africa. There are many arguments as to why the G8 find it necessary to support Africa, one of which is to improve Africa’s capacity to trade with The West; another is to alleviate development problems which have plagued the country for years. One of the arguments advanced by anti-G8 proponents is that the G8 selfishly seeks to promote their own interests in Africa while ignoring what Africans want. My counter to that is – we still benefit, not as much as when they do it right but either way we can count benefits. Just as Colonialism cannot be referred to as a good thing, but some of its effects are positive.
This post is in response to a query whereby one of our readers suggested that the G8 obsession with Africa is selfish – the G8 countries interference is a form of neo-colonization which interferes with East African’s agricultural policies. While it would be easy to agree I tend to disagree. Below I will outline a few facts that will help you decide whether the G8 is invading into East Africa and Africa’s policies in a colonial form or seeking solutions for development- through The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
We must remember that the G8 has not budget- much as it says it will increase aid and engage in various activities the budget eventually comes from individual countries. As such the resolutions, which the G8 makes, are recommendations to countries and it is up to these individual countries to implement these recommendations.
During the Muskoka summit in 2010, the G8 looked back at its track record. You may access the executive report here. The report takes a look at the achievements of the G8 over the years. In particular the G8 obtained a pledge of $22 Billion specifically for sustainable agricultural development. In terms of debt relief, the G8 countries have reduced the debt of Highly Indebted Poor Countries from 114% to 35%. These figures are as at 2010. While the cancellation of debts was received with mixed feelings I believe that it can be partly credited with the decline in poverty. Some argue that the cancellations were politically motivated and had hidden motivations especially since they came with Poverty Reduction Strategies requiring countries to make structural adjustments in order to qualify. But that is outside the scope of this paper.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was founded in 2005 by a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. The aim of the two foundations was to reduce food insecurity by 50% in at least 20 countries, to double income of 20 million small scale farmers and help 15 countries to be on track for green revolution. Many of the partners of AGRA are affiliated with members of the G8 but at this stage I will point out that the G8 did not create a partnership with AGRA but rather recognized its efforts in improving smallholder farming through public-private partnerships and gave it a role in implementing G8s initiative on food security. See here.
AGRA seeks to increase smallholder farming by introduction of hybrid seeds and farming practices and financing agro dealers. AGRA also increases research capacity by educating African scientists in African universities who later go on to produce new varieties of crops in Africa.
In 2011 The Horn of Africa faced a famine which dragged on for months exposing parts of the continent to adverse effects which can still be felt in parts of East Africa. The drought pushed the world to think deeply about food security, climate change and the role of agriculture in resolving these issues. Since then many solutions have been suggested towards accelerating food security in Kenya, some of which AGRA has aggressively sought to introduce in the country. While some people have resisted such initiatives those that have embraced them have returned positive results and continue to do so. Some initiatives to mention a few involve the use of greenhouses, drought resistant seeds, change from cash to staple crops (e.g from growing tea/coffee to growing maize, millet) etc.
The argument that The G8 and AGRA are neo-colonizing East Africa holds very little water in my opinion. Granted we should be careful before accepting initiatives from the West but why throw out the baby with the bath water? I believe that Africa is in dire need of a change in Agricultural practices if we are to move towards food security and eventually development. We have land and we have labor and even though there are climate change issues to be factored in, unless we can be food secure then we expect to be begging for food from The West once a year when the drought strikes.
The use of modified seeds has been an ongoing debate for years. The arguments against most of these seeds are that they may be the cause of cancer, diabetes and other terminal or long term illnesses. These arguments have little scientific basis and are rather broadly applied to all types of genetically modified organic products. What many do not mention is that modified seeds and new species of plants which are drought resistant could be the answer to Africa’s drought problem. The agricultural research that AGRA is undertaking is specifically geared towards small scale farmers which is very important for Africa since most of the population engages in small scale, subsistence farming.
When we purchase food from The West, especially food that we buy from supermarkets, the arguments against genetic modification seem to be irrelevant. We still import sugar, wheat and rice which we can produce in plenty within the country if only we adopt new ways of farming. If the West really sought to take over East Africa they would ensure that we never attain food security, so that they would have a constant market for their processed goods.
As much as The West may be seeking to improve agriculture in Kenya for their own selfish reasons – we are also in it for our own reasons. We want to live, we want to develop, we want to resolve the basic needs of life so that we can have better lifestyles. The consequences of accepting ideas from The West can me mediated but not avoided. We can ensure that we are more aware, such that we can have better and more fruitful negotiations in regards to agriculture, trade and development. However, we cannot blindly oppose initiatives from The West citing the danger of neo-colonialism.
If we claim to be neo-colonized, especially in this age, then we are also saying that we are powerless and have not negotiation power. We have a voice- let’s use it to better the continent rather than tear it down.