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Home > English > Website archives > Rainbow of Crisis > The challenge of the World Social Forum this month in Nairobi

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The challenge of the World Social Forum this month in Nairobi

Tuesday 9 January 2007, by Mondli Hlatshwayo

The convergence of social movements and all those that are opposed to neoliberalism in Kenya in January 2007 compels us to examine the international context from a perspective that seeks to strengthen solidarity in the African

The situation in Africa more than before forces us to examine rigorously methods and approaches that can help in reinforcing resistance in the continent.

The recent survey conducted by UNICEF and the UNDP on social spending in Africa reveals that only three countries in Africa are allocating more that 20% of their budget funds for use on basic health care, education, and nutrition - a target set by the 1995 UN Social Summit in Copenhagen.

Forty four percent of Africans - and 51% of these in Sub-Saharan Africa live in absolute poverty. At the same time Africa’s debt stock has increased from $344 billion to $350 billion in 1998, and is equivalent to more than 300% of exports of goods and services from Africa.

Economic growth rates in the African continent continue to decline, as well as development assistance, which has dropped from $23 billion in 1992 to $18,7 billion in 1997.

On the other hand, according to the UNDP report, Americans spend more than $8 billion a year on cosmetics - $2 billion more that the estimated annual total needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world. In 1996 alone Ethiopia had a total foreign debt of $10 billion, whilst in the same year Europe spent $11 billion on ice cream alone!

The three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries.

At the end of 1997 nearly 31 million people were living with HIV, up from 22,3 million the year before. With 16 000 new infections a day - 90%
in developing countries - it is now estimated that 40 million people will be living with HIV in 2000.

South Africa

Closer to home, unemployment in South Africa is now almost 40%. According to the ILO, that is more than twice as high as most other middle-income countries. This, in turn means we face worse poverty than other middle-income countries.

Thus, amongst the 93 developing countries that the UNDP reports on, South Africa ranks 9th in terms of GDP - but only around 25th in terms of access to clean water, it is the 40th worst for malnutrition, and third from the bottom in terms of income distribution.

Global institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and the WTO act consistently in the interest of capital at the expense of developing countries and the poor.


Despite the neoliberal attacks on the working class and the poor, we have seen some important developments at the level of mass mobilization. What is called today the anti-globalisation and anti-war movement has been a force that has opposed the agenda of the imperialist and their agents. People of Iraq and Palestine continue to resist the occupation by America and Israel. Despite the decline in the anti-war mobilization, the Bush regime is under pressure and cannot afford another war.

Since the international struggles of Seattle, the anti-globalisation movement at an international and national level has demonstrated that through struggle and action
another world is possible. This is the movement, which is challenging the triumph of capitalism and the thesis of the end of history.

The recent developments and mobilizations in Latin America are also an indication that imperialism and the American dominance are not invincible. Noting all the debates and issues that have been raised by these developments, it would be difficult to contest an argument that the election of popular governments in Venezuela and Bolivia represent a step forward in the struggles for the emancipation of the working
class and the poor in Latin America.

In Africa, the convening of the World Social Forum in Kenya provides us with a space to learn more about our history of struggle in Africa, the nature and character of movements in Africa and methods of building solidarity with our African movements. As African people we are faced with NEPAD, a document that only serves the interests of the African elite and its bosses of the North. We have to use the WSF as a space for building resistance against NEPAD and all forms of oppression in our continent.

As people and movements coming from South Africa we have a bigger challenge. The state and capital have been taking over the African continent. The Eskom Enterprise is taking over electricity production and distribution on the African continent. We have also heard many stories on how South African companies like Shoprite/Checkers have been taking over the "market" in other African countries. Our task in the WSF and beyond is to expose all these injustices. We also have to look at how to link up with other African organizations in a campaign against South African imperialism in the continent.

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