Architects of Poverty
By Moeletsi Mbeki
Mbeki starts off his book by painting a frank portrait of how post-colonial Africa has had difficulty increasing the socio-economic conditions of its people. He gives statistics of how Africa as a whole has for the most part worsened economically; especially between the 1960’s and the 1990’s.
Throughout his writings, Mbeki references reliable sources that include World Bank Reports, The Economist, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman and many others.
As the book progresses, he puts forward convincing arguments about the elites in South Africa. The Afrikaner, English and Black elites and how together their interests have been both beneficial and have worked to the detriment of the people of South Africa. Also, addressed is the animosity between the MEC (mineral energy complex) and the manufacturing sector, the result of what Mbeki terms, Codesa II.
Mbeki writes in a way that is simple to understand and very effective. This is effective in keeping the reader’s attention throughout his argument, without the need to cross-reference. The book is written in a way that is almost textbook-like.
He provides answers such as why the ANC never nationalised mines and financial institutions when it took power in 1994; why SA would fare better as a manufacturing competitor to countries such as South Korea, but why this is not possible; and why SA cannot grow as rapidly as China.
More than just mildly interesting, is Mbeki’s analysis of what went wrong in Zimbabwe. In a way assuaging some of the blame away from Mugabe and his Zanu-PF government, but still not denying it’s hand in the economic woes of the past 14 years specifically. He also explains why there is such opposition to the MDC from Zimbabwe’s neighbours in a way that makes perfect sense.
What fascinates about this book, is the fact that Mbeki doesn’t merely swallow what he is told. He analyses the facts and gives a convincing argument as to why the problems on the African continent and specifically sub-Saharan Africa exist and persist. Mbeki doesn’t sugarcoat his message either, describing trade among African countries as “pathetic.”
He contends that the failure of African governments is attributable to the fact that they have been unable to create their own bourgeoisie and instead have to rely on foreign investors and the peasant classes to rule the economy. This has led to a dilemma which Mbeki describes as the creation of pseudo-states that are in fact not in control of their economies.
In the Appendix, Mbeki addresses “Gukurahundi” or the 5 Brigade of Zimbabwe that wreaked havoc during the 1980’s and how the presidential election of June 2008 looked all too familiar.
Mbeki’s book was certainly insightful, interesting, critical and somewhat entertaining.
I give this book an excellent 8/10