Home|[in] focus|African and Latin American Interdependency: Transforming traditional dependencies
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by Institute for Global Dialogue


Categories: [in] focus

by Institute for Global Dialogue


Politics of Dependencia premised on state and class control of capitalist development, can most visibly be observed in the fields of politics and economics. The financial and technological penetration by the developed capitalist centres of the periphery and semi-periphery states, and their political and ideological dominance over the peripheries, has produced an unbalanced economic structure both within the peripheral societies, and between peripheries and the centres. This has lead to limitations on self-sustained growth in the periphery that favors the appearance of specific patterns of hierarchical and dominant relationships between states. In other words, due to the limitations that Latin American and African states experience on self-sustained growth, it is inevitable that those states perceived to be ‘weaker’ states would become dominated by those perceived to be ‘stronger’. In this regard, Latin American and African states are perceived as having always been determined by the capitalist system and the ideological and political impositions of the West. Increased South-South cooperation may however be provide Latin America and Africa with prospective and renewed enthusiasm, in their efforts to reduce their dependency on the West.

In recent years, fundamental changes at the domestic and international level have marked significant moments of transformation for Latin American and African states, as the growth of emerging economies has given hope that certain dependencies will be able to be overturned. A lot of work however still remains for Africa to unburden itself from its dependency on the West; more so than Latin America. Latin American states in general tend to have a greater degree of political autonomy from the West and are economically less dependent on the West, than either Africa or Asia due intense regional cooperation and trade. The regional dynamics of Latin America, however, does involve the USA prominently in consideration of relations such as Cuba and Venezuela.

Africa can not claim similar successes as Latin America in reducing its dependency on the West, as it has relatively less political autonomy in its engagements with the West and a low degree of African economic integration. Intra-African trade, although growing, still needs to be pursued with a greater intensity and fervency, which will provide Africa with greater potential for economic growth but also with a chance to iron over problematic areas of relationships and increase political cooperation as can be seen among many Latin American countries.

Regarding Latin American-African dependency, economic ties seem to be regarded as less imperative than political ties. Therefore it seem that Latin American and African concerns of equality in the political power structures (security, production, finance, knowledge), forces the two continents to act in lock-step to further their causes and achieve their goals, particularly at the multilateral level. The relations between the two continents can also be decrypted as a collective base to resist the perceived tendencies of ideological and economic imperialism, whilst simultaneously establishing a relation of dependency among the two continents in their resistance to Western-European political and economic pressures.

Focusing on individual African and American states, a politico-economic dependency can noticeably be viewed between South Africa and Brazil, in the context of South-South cooperation and multilateralism, which is aimed at deconstructing the exploitative dependencies that has been at the centre of the periphery-core relationship. This relationship does represent a global South push for the equality of trade, however currently at the core of the South African-Brazilian relationship is the aspiration from both states in achieving a just, free and conflict-free world, elimination of poverty and reformation of the United Nations Security Council, which can be seen in Brazilian and South African contribution to global security provision with regards to peace support operations.

It could be argued that due to South Africa and Brazil’s economic, security and political positions in their respective regions, it was inevitable that a situation of dependency would be created regionally that would mirror the more traditional centre-periphery dependency structure. The recreation of dependencies can most curiously be seen in Southern Africa by South Africa and in the Caribbean and Central America by Brazil, particularly as the most recent economic data mirrors this reality: the biggest importers of South African products in Africa are Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia. The economic data also confirms the dependence of the BLNS nations (Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana) on the growth and well-being of South Africa’s economy, as it has been stated many times that South Africa’s economic performance is dragging the overall growth of the region down.

Brazil cemented its key global agricultural status in 2006 as it exported 26.4 percent of the world’s green coffee, 35.1 percent of the soybeans, 20.7 percent of the soybean oil, 24.6 percent of the beef, 30.7 percent of the sugar and 21.3 percent of the tobacco. Therefore Brazil has to contend with growing pains of dependency on its supply of agricultural products, as well as maintaining its level of exports in driving its economic growth and addressing financial and trade reform. Its dependency on the West and its efforts to delink these dependencies, particularly regarding financial and trade reform, has seen the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Doha, which was an initiative aimed at removing U.S. and European farm subsidies and trade tariffs that has kept Brazil’s exports from reaching new heights of success.

An example of beneficial South-South dependency, is that of hosting summits in Brazil, India and South Africa as facilitation of interaction between academics, policy makers and NGO representatives from the BRICS states is freer and more open due to their democratic-based governance, as opposed to summits hosted in communist-styled China which tend to take the form of formal, cautious, and considerate debates in difficult-to-access venues. The grouping is likely to continue efforts to reform the international financial system where a considerable overbalance exists in favour of the West.

In conclusion, although intra-BRICS ties at civil society level have increased since the respective states’ leaders decided to develop a more institutionalized format six years ago; Africa and Latin America still has a long and challenging road to prestige, friendship and prosperity. The South-South formations will have a big part to play in the growth of the African-Latin American relationship, whereby South Africa and Brazil has currently assumed the leading roles for their continents in driving a global South agenda. Developing states’ traditional dependencies on the developed states may be countered and overturned through the concerted efforts of Global South cooperation; however the creation of economic and political linkages amongst developing states of the Global South may result in the formation of traditional centre-periphery dependencies within the Global South as with South Africa in Southern Africa.

Mr.Wayne Jumat is a research assistant at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the IGD

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