Generations of African leaders have failed to transform economies inherited from colonial masters, Cogress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretaryZwelinzima Vavi said on Friday.
“All our economies to this day remain dominated by the unprocessed natural resource sector, with little or no industrialisation,” Vavi told African Union leaders at the International Trade Union Confederation congress in Boksburg.
“Some countries rely 90% on mineral exports,” he said.
Vavi was concerned that “colonialists” were continuing to plunder Africa’s mineral resources, decades after their political defeat.
Scramble for resources
He said the scramble for Africa’s resources by imperialist forces and their interference in the continent’s affairs had to be confronted.
Africa had an abundance of natural resources, but remained the poorest continent in the world, Vavi said.
Income levels remained “terribly low”, while income inequalities had remained “stubbornly high”.
He blamed mass poverty and food insecurity on a failed post-colonial political economy on the continent.
This was exacerbated by “a venal, corrupt and visionless leadership which cares little for people”.
Vavi called for the renewal of the African trade union movement towards African emancipation, saying it was time for all workers to re-mobilise and fight for a new freedom not gained.
The scale of the continent’s “sham of independence” needed to be exposed, he said.
“For too long we have allowed the dependency syndrome whilst claiming to be liberated.
“Either we export our minerals to our colonial masters, or they control our finances, or both.”
‘We don’t own mines, economies’
The continent had not industrialised or diversified its various economies, and had not added value to natural resources, said Vavi.
“We do not own our mines and we do not own our economies,” he said
President Jacob Zuma, who addressed delegates via video link, agreed with the union leaders in that the labour movement had a role to play in shaping African economic emancipation.
This would be among the issues the congress would discuss until its conclusion on Sunday.
Zuma said the continent still faced major problems like poverty, inequality and unemployment. These needed to be decisively dealt with, he said.
He urged the labour movements to help their governments and contribute more to Africa’s social and economic development.