SEATINI and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung East Africa in partnership with the Foundation to Promote Open Society (FPOS) Hold a Conference on the search for a New Economic Dispensation in Africa: Lessons from COVID-19
On 12th August 2021, SEATINI-Uganda in partnership with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung-East Africa Office and the Foundation to Promote Open Society (FPOS) organized a conference on a theme: “Towards the Search for a New Economic Dispensation in Africa: Lessons from COVID 19”.
The purpose of this meeting was to provide a platform for different stakeholders to understand and appreciate the link between the current development paradigm and existing development challenges. The conference brought together stakeholders from the academia, civil society, media, and government, among others.
In her welcome remarks, Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director at SEATINI Uganda emphasized that this is a timely conversation following the advent of COVID 19 that brought to the fore challenges of health, debt and economic crisis.
‘‘Globally, there is an ongoing debate about ‘‘Building back Better’’, ‘‘Building back Greener’’ but we need to rethink our economic policies and clearly define the kind of policies that can propel us to ‘‘Build back Better’’ and also ensure that there is equity while taking into account issues of the environment,’’ Jane Nalunga said.
Furthermore, Jane Nalunga reiterated that the neoliberal toolkit provides that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; including the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the economy, or that corporations should be given total freedom among others.
The Neoliberal Toolkit consists of:
o Liberalization (Free-Market Policy)
While sharing a brief background about the Equator School for Alternative Development Model, Mr. Mwambutsya Ndebesa, the Chairperson, Board of Directors at SEATINI Uganda noted that the Equator School was established to provide a platform for aggregating development ideas and concerns about the overall development trajectory.
Equator School provides a platform for development analysts, commentators and activists to aggregate development ideas and concerns about the trajectory of public policy, how it is shaped and influenced. The School will also provide a platform to distill and propagate new ideas and information so as to shape Public policy, research and the overall development debate.
‘‘The Equator School for Alternative Development Model seeks to bring researchers from the academic field and practitioners with experience from the world of work to blend academic experience with practical experience. There is a realization that there is a development crisis which has been fueled by the current development paradigm of neoliberalism,’’ Mr. Mwambutsya Ndebesa said.
Prof. Lwanga Lunyiigo, a renowned Historian who preferred to introduce himself as a peasant with a great passion for development related issues reiterated that the most important thing in development is to create an economic stake for everybody in the country.
‘‘We have labored under the Washington Consensus regime for the last forty years but we have seen little development and unsustainable debt crisis,’’ Prof. Lwanga Lunyiigo said.
Participants observed that the global political economy that has emerged over the past 30 to 40 years is increasingly governed by laws and regulations that are dominated by neoliberal economic ideas of unregulated market freedoms that suit transnational corporations and large investors.
Banjwa Adventino, a PHD Fellow at Makerere University Institute of Social Research (MISR) noted that following the advent of COVID 19, government is simply launching new ways of borrowing and pushing our debt beyond limits, these are lessons learnt from the pandemic but they are the wrong lessons.
Dr. Esuruku Robert, the Head of Development Studies Department at Makerere University emphasized that COVID 19 crisis has given us a lot of thinking and learning. He added that the first basic learning from COVID 19 is that a crisis is real and it affects all of us most importantly the crisis has helped us to re-examine ourselves.
Susan Nakacwa, the Program Officer at GRAIN observed that our development related problems are deeply entrenched in the decisions that we made many years back and to solve these problems, we need to revisit some of these decisions.
During the discussion, it was revealed that Africa does not have political agency at the global level and thus can never dictate terms that go against this neoliberal state of affairs.
Participants also raised the need to reflect deeply about the current debate around ‘‘Building back Better’’ post COVID 19 that is being promulgated by many International development institutions as this is ongoing without clear commitments to addressing the structural and systemic issues that have brought us to where we are now. It was emphasized that unless African States rethink neoliberalism, building back will not be better but rather more of the same.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Yash Tandon, renowned author and Public Intellectual reiterated the need to understand the political economy of development. “Without understanding how and why the economies of the Global South are controlled and shaped by the superstructure, which most often works with “Compradors” in sustaining State and development agenda capture.
“The school will therefore engage in knowledge generation to propagate an ideological shift which is critical in challenging the systemic and structural challenges of Underdevelopment of economies of the South” Prof. Yash said.