Western economies are heading towards a crisis as their growth is not being matched by the actual production of goods. Sooner or later, their currencies will be exposed as worth less than presumed. How should Africa react?
I shall allow myself only one self-congratulatory sentence for accurately predicting, in these columns, a renewed interest by post-Brexit Britain in the Commonwealth; and also that the two Koreas, long divided by superpower rivalries, would make their own decision to bypass the US and start seriously talking to each other.
So here is another prediction: there will be no global economic recovery. Capitalism and its spouse called prosperity are headed for a very messy divorce. Only those places least entwined in that system, like Africa, will survive the catastrophe. We have been assuming that the usual symptoms point to the usual problems. But as medical professionals advise: a familiar symptom can sometimes mask a much graver malaise.
What have been the key pillars of the West's global dominance, and to what extent are they still holding firm today?
The most important was the establishment, and control, of a global trade system. Everything, from trade finance and credit, to patents, to air, land and sea transport infrastructure, and even to an extent language, was owned and overseen by the West.
There was also the obvious military might that backs up these arrangements, through policing trades routes, to suppressing unrest among the globally exploited populations. A reality of failure and a sense of crisis hung over the Industrial Revolution even at its beginning in the 18th century, but the creative and fiscal wealth that flowed out of it simply drowned out the sound of those fears. What makes the problem critical now, is the decline in real material returns from this rickety system.
So, much as Western economies are growing, this does not necessarily mean they are working. Certainly not for significant swathes of their populations, which have undergone a massive shift from being makers of things to becoming speculators and service suppliers.
It is now a two-stage process of cannibalism. Commercial enterprises attach themselves to what Is essentially public infrastructure (railways, education, and in Britain, the National Health Service) and then get paid for 'service' contracts. The top echelons then milk as much as they can out of those contracts through huge bonuses, regardless of the companies' performances.