How the EU starves Africa

The starkest example of the dark heart of the European Union is its brutal neo-colonial relationship with the Third World, particularly Africa.

The most obvious and damaging exhibit is, of course, the Common Agricultural Policy which takes up half the EU budget and lavishes subsidies onto the EU’s biggest landowners at the expense of millions of the poorest farmers in Africa.

The criminal £30 billion-a-year subsidy regime allows the EU to dump thousands of tons of heavily-subsidised food into Africa every year. As a result local producers cannot export their products because they compete with the lower prices made possible by the CAP.

For instance EU farmers are guaranteed a price for their sugar which is three times higher than the world price. Mozambique loses more than £100 million a year because of restrictions on importing into EU coupled with the dumping of cheap exports at its door, while many thousands of workers in Swaziland have lost their jobs because the local industry cannot compete.

Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal have been hit by cheap, subsidised imports from Europe while the £30 paid to British farmers for every tonne of wheat they produce inflates the price of breakfast cereals, bread and other goods in Britain.

Thousands of tonnes of surplus powdered milk from the EU are dumped in West African countries such as Mali at a cheaper price than local cattle owners can sell at, devastating the economy and driving them out of business.

Unwanted EU chicken thighs and wings are often frozen and exported to Africa where they are sold for rock-bottom prices. Chicken farmers in Senegal and Ghana used to supply most of the country’s demand – now their market share has virtually disappeared because subsidised imports are 50 per cent cheaper.

As Claire Godfrey of Oxfam, says: “Not only does the Common Agricultural Policy hit European shoppers in their pockets but strikes a blow against the heart of development in places like Africa”.

As a result of this imperialist Catch 22 it is now estimated that Africa imports well over 80 per cent of its food.

Not content with this, an unrepentant European Commission is now attempting to impose a ‘free trade’ deal which African trade unionists have described as the latest ‘colonialist scramble’ for the continent.

ITUC – Africa general secretary Kwasi Adu-Amankwah said that the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) would allow the continued exploitation of the continent by European big business.

He said that the colonial economic structure set-up to export raw materials and import manufactures remained and called on Africa to reject “the latest scramble” by European powers.

“Structural Adjustment foisted on Africa with the active involvement of the European Union has killed off the little industrial capabilities countries mastered immediately after independence,” he said.

He warned that the terms of the agreements would only make it harder for Africa to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He said that the alleged market access offered under this and previous trade agreements were “contrived”.

“As the tariffs came down on African raw materials, they went up for manufactures.

“It is highly disingenuous to conceive of a free trade between the poorest continent on earth and the world’s most powerful trading bloc as the solution,” he said.

Therefore it is clear that these EPA’s are designed to open up the markets of all African, Caribbean and Pacific countries for EU exports, exposing third world producers to overwhelming competition from the world’s most powerful and rapacious transnationals.

In his book The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Calestous Juma argues that there are at least three ways in which EU policies affect Africa’s ability to feed itself: tariff escalation, lack of innovation and food export preferences.

The starkest example of this imperialist domination is coffee. In 2014 Africa —the home of coffee— earned just £1.5 billion from the crop. Yet Germany, a leading processor, earned nearly double that from coffee re-exports.

The reason for this is that Africa is punished by the EU with a 7.5 per cent tariff charge on roasted coffee but non-decaffeinated green coffee is exempt. As a result, the bulk of Africa’s export to the EU is unroasted green coffee and German manufacturers reap the rewards.

The charge on cocoa is even more debilitating as the EU tariff charge is a massive30 per cent for processed cocoa products like chocolate bars or cocoa powder, and 60 per cent for some other refined products containing cocoa.

Calestous Juma insists that the impact of such charges goes well beyond lost export opportunities. “They suppress technological innovation and industrial development among African countries.

“The practice denies the continent the ability to acquire, adopt and diffuse technologies used in food processing. It explains to some extent the low level of investment in Africa’s food processing enterprises,” he says.

While European colonial history in Africa is often ignored it is shocking that this brutal regime of economic domination continues today through the institutions of the European Union. Moreover it has been going on since the inception of the European Economic Community and all attempts to reform it have failed.

While a vote to leave the EU on Thursday will not stop this European-wide criminal colonial enterprise immediately a vote to remain will be one that endorses it.

Brian Denny is a spokesman for Trade Unionists Against the EU