This week, the CEO of Coca Cola company made a statement that capitalism must evolve. The way the market economy has been developed over the centuries has not changed. The poor are still being affected by the policies of the lassie faire. This book was written when Africa was being colonized by European powers. The native people were regarded to be a resource to exploit for and labor. The author refers to a case in South Africa where the colonialists created artificial food scarcity and imposed hut tax to subjugate the African to a state of hopelessness. When the fabric of the culture and the society was destroyed, the local people were left to die due to sudden and forced policies that were imposed on them. They were unable to feed themselves. Just as Owen Robert states that ‘market economy left to its own laws would create great and permanent evils’ (136), I believe that this fact is true today in Africa as it was in Europe.
The way that capitalism will evolve will require the establishment of a new system of class definition. As long as society is stratified based on economic terms, a large number of people in the society will find themselves being pushed to the margins. I watch the people living in the slums and working in the factories in the industrial zones of Nairobi, earning minimum wages equivalent to 90 dollars a month or 3 dollars a day, and I wonder how such people will break out of the cycle of poverty. They are overworked and under compensated. How will their children go to school, will they have any savings? These are the people who when given even five dollars by a politician to cause chaos, they will gladly do so. They have been stripped of any sense of appreciating human life and dignity because their identity is in the class strata in society.
The issues of land in Kenya are very emotive. Land still remains an important element of the identity of a people. The number of internally displaced people and squatters is rising every day. Many people are losing their land to corrupt officials, debt collectors and evictions due to tribal wars. The cost of real estate in the major cities is increasing every day. The cost of an acre of land is beyond the reach of many Kenyans. Most of the land is held in family trust and as the land is subdivided many people find their portions not economically viable.
A common way of lifting people out of poverty that is becoming popular is micro financing. Profit margins from small market traders cannot repay the loans given or improve the livelihood of those who receive it. Many people are caught in the cycle of poverty because they cannot repay the loans. If diseases strike, the money is used to pay the bills rather than expand the business. The rates of inflation increase as the Gross National Product decreases. When leadership fails the people by failing to look for ways that can uplift the economically, poverty increases. Just as failure for market to self-regulate would lead to the two world wars in the 20th century and the economic meltdown in 1929, in the same way wars have broken out in eastern Congo, and civil wars in many parts of Africa. Political, economic and social turmoil results and the poor and vulnerable suffer the most.
Is the government the solution in regulating the markets in Africa and bridging gap between the rich and poor? There has been no success story as such where capitalism has works well for the poor. Maybe Ghana may stand out as a country where the government has attempted to regulate the economy successful. Capitalism and the market economy as it is will not change the fortunes of Africa, and I agree with the CEO of Coca Cola, capitalism must evolve. How this will happen is a conversation that leaders in Africa must engage in.