For a some time now, various leaders and people in Africa have decried the extension of socio-economic and political activity by the West and the U.S aimed at reinforcing capitalism, neo-liberal globalization, and cultural subjugation on the continent.
This extension is done through aid and several exploitative policies of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the United Nations.
An explicit example is the recent decision by the World Bank to halt new loans to Uganda over the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA).
The United States-based development financier said the law was against its institutional values and that it would pause future financing, pending a review of measures to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in its projects.
The finance suspension, of course, has potentially significant implications for Uganda’s economy, development projects, and overall financial stability, and World Bank knows it.
But why was the Act brought forward? The President of Uganda, a sovereign State, Yoweri Museveni, and its Parliament, in the interest of the nationals in Uganda, deemed it fit to have a legislation that would prohibit such acts and their promotion because they undermine Ugandan and African values and cultures.
However, the decision angered the U.S. to an extent of threatening sanctions and withdrawal of aid. President Joe Biden directed President Museveni to immediately repeal the law on grounds that the legislation is a “tragic violation of universal human rights”.
Uganda is yet to give in to such demands, thanks to President Museveni, who insists that Uganda will instead reduce its borrowing and tap into alternative sources and oil production expected to start by 2025.
It should be noted that Uganda’s partnership with the World Bank dates some 60 years back when it became its member. Since then, the bank has been instrumental in the reformation of the country’s economy through financing and technical assistance, notably in shaping the liberalization policies and economic adjustment programs in the late 1980s.
The U.S., on top of threatening sanctions to Uganda, they turned to the world and possibly influenced it to suspend loans to the East African country over this law, which, in my view, is absurd. It Affirms allegations that the bank is merely an instrument for hire by the powerful to extend their imperialism in Africa.
Several members of the United States Congress wrote to World Bank President Ajay Banga urging that the bank cease all loans to Uganda in order to persuade the government to remove anti-gay legislation.
Previously, a coalition of 170 civil organizations urged that Banga respond to Uganda’s “abhorrent” law.
According to the group, a World Bank team went to Kampala “immediately” after the law was approved and found that further procedures were needed to guarantee project implementation fit with the bank’s environmental and social requirements.
Indeed, the global bank’s term or condition has always been spiced with elements of neocolonialism. Before rendering assistance to some of its member countries, particularly African countries, more often than not leaves one with the impression that the sub regional body controls or influences its African members especially particularly whenever they depend on its rich resources.
In fact, to buttress the foregoing view, it is expedient to contextually make reference to Jason Hickel’s article titled “Apartheid in the World Bank and the IMF” as published in the online edition of Aljazeera of November 26, 2020.
Hickel, who is a professor at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts partly wrote in the article thus, “Nowhere is this problem more apparent than when it comes to the distribution of power in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two of the key institutions that govern global economic policy.
We might expect that representation in these institutions would be modelled along the lines of the United Nations General Assembly, or perhaps calculated according to population. But in reality, they are deeply undemocratic.
“The problem starts at the top. The leaders of the World Bank and the IMF are not elected but are nominated by the US and Europe. According to an unspoken agreement, the president of the World Bank has always been from the US, while the president of the IMF has always been European.
“Moreover, voting power in these institutions is skewed heavily in favour of rich countries. The US has de facto veto power over all significant decisions, and together with the rest of the G7 and the European Union, it controls well over half of the vote in both agencies. Middle – and low-income countries, which together constitute 85 per cent of the world’s population, have a minority share”.
The question, which is invariably the headline of this piece, cannot be said to be a misnomer as the World Bank is an international organization affiliated with the United Nations (UN), and by that automatically subscribed to all members of the UN. It is designed to finance projects that enhance the economic development of member states.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the bank is the largest source of financial assistance to developing countries. It also provides technical assistance and policy advice and supervise, on behalf of international creditors, the implementation of free-market reforms.
Together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), it plays a central role in overseeing economic policy and reforming public institutions in developing countries and defining the global macroeconomic agenda.
As also gathered in a statement issued on Tuesday, August 8, 2023, the global finance group found that the East African country’s anti-LGBTQ law, which punishes “aggravated homosexuality” a death charge and imposes penalties of up to life in prison for consenting same-sex relationships, breaches its values.
The bank, in a statement, said, “We believe that our vision of ending poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.” This legislation hinders those efforts. “Inclusion and non-discrimination are central to our work around the world.”
For the same of clarity, it is expedient to throw insight into what neocolonialism is all about from the perspective of Encyclopedia Britannica, an online knowledge-based website.
It stated that Neocolonialism “Is the control of less-developed countries by developed countries through indirect means”, and further explained that the term was first used after World War II to refer to the continuing dependence of former colonies on foreign countries, saying that its meaning soon broadened to apply, more generally, to places where the power of developed countries was used to produce a colonial-like exploitation.
It added that the term is now an unambiguously negative one that is widely used to refer to a form of global power in which transnational corporations and global and multilateral institutions combine to perpetuate colonial forms of exploitation of developing countries.
It explains that neocolonialism has been broadly understood as a further development of capitalism that enables capitalist powers (both nations and corporations) to dominate subject nations through the operations of international capitalism rather than by means of direct rule.
The World Bank provides loans and grants to support development projects in various sectors such as infrastructure, education, healthcare, and poverty reduction.
As of December 31, 2022, the World Bank’s portfolio stood at US$5.4 billion, comprising 22 national and 4 regional projects where the urban sector dominates the portfolio with a share of 25%, followed by energy at 15%. The portfolio also includes US$$791 million (most of which is in grant form) from the Window for Host Communities and Refugees focused on supporting the implementation of Uganda’s integrative refugee policies.
According to the Bank’s website, a few of its most recently approved projects through its International Development Association unit include among others the Uganda Climate Smart Agricultural Transformation Project (US$354.70 million) approved on December 22, 2023 aimed at increasing productivity, market access, and resilience of select value chains in agriculture.
They also include the Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises Project (US$217 million), approved on June 17, 2022, aimed at increasing access to entrepreneurial services that enable female entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises and The Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Urban Development Program ($566 million), approved on May 31, 2022, aimed at improving the institutional capacity and increasing access to improved infrastructure and services.
So, the loans are very important to Uganda and the U.S. knows it. It’s the reason it thought it would use World Bank to pressure Uganda to backtrack on its decision.
One wonders which pile pressure on Uganda, yet there are numerous countries in the middle east which do not allow homosexuals. In fact, gays are hanged and executed there.
In the U.S. itself, numerous states have established laws that are either against or prohibit homosexual activity, why concentrate on Uganda (Africa) if it is not for imperialism reasons?
Africa should rise and jointly stand to reject policies by the instruments of the West and the U.S. that eventually undermines its traditions, values, and cultures.
The writer is a Ugandan journalist with a passion for current African affairs.
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