Looking for some good weekend reads, we could not let the following article We need a New Narrative for Globalization of Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum go unnoticed. As a Regular Author, Klaus Schwab produced many noteworthy contributions in various media on this very subject, and we could not let it pass without hopefully helping its spread throughout the MENA region. Globalisation is as a matter of fact impacting the MENA Region which with its diverse countries socio-economic and political arrangements does contribute to the ever increasing expansion globalisation but in its own discrete ways, resulting in as diverse appreciation and / or revulsion as elsewhere by its populations.
The only sure thing about this phenomenon is that it (globalisation) is here to stay and that it has only one way to go: expand further. As put by this author: ‘We have to manage our future based on the fact that we are simultaneously local, national and global citizens with overlapping responsibilities and identities.’ And that: ‘The promise of a better future lies in acting together as stakeholders of a technology-driven global transformation process, with the objective of building a more modern, inclusive and human world.’
The world is at a historic crossroads. Market extremism, often labelled neoliberalism, which has shaped our national and global policies for the past three decades, has become a toxic fuel for the stuttering engine for global growth. It has also generated polluting side effects that are no longer tolerated by large portions of society.
Yet market-driven globalization has lifted over a billion people out of poverty and has been an overall driver of improved standards of living. In its present form, however, it is no longer fit for purpose in our current – nor particularly our future – context.
What are the reasons?
First, the global economic system has moved from focusing on meeting the needs and aspirations of crucial segments of society who feel they are living in a precarious situation, to focusing on the optimization of the system itself. As such, individuals want to regain control of their livelihoods and seek out more than material satisfaction. People are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives – lives that are not solely defined by economics and business, but which also encompass social and cultural affinities. Many people feel spiritually isolated in a globalized world and long for a socio-economic context in which greater emphasis is placed again on shared values and less on impersonal rules.
In addition, the legitimacy of a purely market-driven global economy was undermined by a growing number of systemic challenges, such as:
The transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world, and consequently, to a world with competing societal concepts which challenge “Western” thinking;
Market power, corrupt practices and speculative financial practices distorting the fairness of markets and the process of real long-term value creation;
Transformation of production processes, emphasizing automation, capital and innovation over manual, and soon intellectual, labour;
The serious threat to the preservation and regeneration of our environment, caused by the excessive use and erosion of our natural resources.
Since the 1980s, I have drawn attention repeatedly to the deficiencies of neoliberal globalization. For example, in an editorial for the International Herald Tribune (now the New York Times) more than 20 years ago, I wrote:
“Economic globalization has entered a critical phase. A mounting backlash against its effects, especially in the industrial democracies, is threatening a very disruptive impact on economic activity and social stability in many countries … This can easily turn into revolt …”
Even though the World Economic Forum emphasized the importance of social responsibility in its programmes in Davos and around the world, these warnings were not taken seriously enough.
Today, we face a backlash against that system and the elites who are considered to be its unilateral beneficiaries. The danger of this backlash is that it overlooks the fact that the search for innovation and competitiveness is still the main driver of economic development, and ultimately social progress. It is not the market-based system itself that is the issue, but rather its implementation. It is the lack of adequate and trustworthy principles to maintain a social contract inside it, which is indispensable to a fair, prosperous and healthy society.
Moreover, the tendency to resurrect national borders and other obstacles to global interconnectivity overlooks the fact that the world has become a community of shared responsibility. Global cooperation cannot be undone without causing major damage to all involved. We depend on each other when confronting the challenges of pollution, migration, space exploration, terrorism and crime – to name but a few.
It is also true that some of the elites were at the origin of aberrations in the system, just as others triggered a popular outcry over excessive abuses of this power. But any society that wants to remain dynamic needs people who assume responsibility for political and economic successes and failures alike. In a fast-changing world, where our very notion of identity is being challenged, the ideological choice is no longer between left and right, but rather between open and closed – with one of the consequences being that people are increasingly opposing “cosmopolitan” elites.
Thus, the ideological battle currently raging should not be between defending the “old” system against the current forces offering simple answers to very complex sets of challenges. Instead, this impasse must urgently be overcome – to not only be responsive to the grievances and anger of large portions of society, but also to move forward. Failure to do so will only result in a further shift towards more polarized societies and a breakdown of the norms that are fundamental to social cohesion.
The future challenge: the Fourth Industrial Revolution
There is no new replacement or ready-made ideology that can be conveniently taken “off the shelf”. Our priority should instead be to redesign our economic and social systems, taking into consideration that humankind, thanks to global interconnectivity and the growing impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is becoming more sophisticated, and the individual more emancipated.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will completely alter how we produce, how we consume, how we communicate and how we live. It will redefine the relationship between citizens and the state. It will provide us with great opportunities for enhancing the lives of individuals and societies. It will allow, if we get it right, a much more human-centred approach, fostering not only material satisfaction, but also genuine individual and societal well-being for all.
The present focus of our economic and political discussions seems to completely miss the mark. We have now a historic window of opportunity to shape technological breakthroughs, such as artificial intelligence and gene editing, in the service and for the benefit of humankind. We have two options. We can either fully use the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to help lift humanity to new heights, or we can allow ourselves to be controlled by the forces of technology and end up in a dystopian world in which citizens will have lost their autonomy.
Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a global challenge. The tension between globalism and nationalism is artificial. We have to manage our future based on the fact that we are simultaneously local, national and global citizens with overlapping responsibilities and identities. The best way to develop a sustainable future is through the stakeholder concept, which I developed more than 40 years ago, and which forms the base of the Forum’s philosophy.
The basic principle for the success of the stakeholder concept is to find long-term solutions based on dialogue, and endorsed by the commitment and willingness to achieve the best outcome in the shared long-term interest of all stakeholders. As the international organization for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum is committed to serving this purpose as a catalyst and convener.
The promise of a better future lies in acting together as stakeholders of a technology-driven global transformation process, with the objective of building a more modern, inclusive and human world.
The transition energy guarantor of global security . . .
The one day 15th World Forum on Sustainable Development in Paris ended on March 13th, 2017 in the presence of many personalities from the world’s governments, politics, business, academic experts in energy.
I want to first thank the President of the World Forum of Sustainable Development for his kind invitation and for allowing me to put my view forward in an intervention, as an independent expert. It followed on that of the Algerian Minister of Energy who has objectively presented his vision of Algeria’s. Utopia aside, fossil fuels such as gas, still have time to go as the main source of energy at least until 2030. But governing is anticipating, it is up to Governments to deal with the new and irreversible global energy changes notably those enshrined in the agreements of the COP21 in Paris and signed off a year later at the COP22 of Marrakesh in order to prepare the necessary energy transition.
It is a strategic mistake to reason as in the past on a linear energy model of consumption.
As far as energy engaging the security of Nations is concerned, the strategy of renewable energy must form part of a clear and dated definition of a new model of energy consumption based on an Energy Mix by evaluating resources to achieve all objectives that have to prepare the industries of the future. These will be based on the new technologies related environmental industries, object of the new economic revolution that is anticipated to be in 2020/2040
Strategy for the Energy of the Future
Photovoltaic solar energy refers to the energy recovered and converted directly into electricity from the sunlight by photovoltaic panels. It results from the direct conversion into a semiconductor of a photon to electron. In addition to the benefits associated with the low cost of maintenance of the Photovoltaic systems, this energy fits perfectly for isolated sites and whose connection to the electric grid is too expensive.
Solar Thermal energy is the conversion of solar radiation into heat energy. This transformation can be used directly to heat a building, for example or indirectly (such as the production of steam for turbo-alternators and thus get electrical energy). Using this transferred heat through radiation rather than the radiation itself, these modes of transformation of energy differ from other forms of solar energy as solar cells such as Photovoltaic cells..
By definition, wind energy is the energy produced as a result of the action of wind on specially designed turbines to generate electrical power.
Average solar irradiation in African countries, according to IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) is between 1,750 kWh/m²/year and 2,500 kWh/m², nearly double that of the Germany (1150 kWh/m²) which has an installed photovoltaic farm of 40 GW (a photovoltaic capacity 20 times greater than that of Africa).
The load factor of any photovoltaic systems would be much higher in Africa than in European countries. And by end of 2015, Africa had 2,100 MW of installed solar photovoltaic plant, 65% of this capacity is concentrated in South Africa and 13% in Algeria and 9% the Reunion.
In the past two years, the continent has more than quadrupled its capacity in photovoltaic farming but this would remain still modest in the light of the great African potential because some 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity.
According to the Agency, this energy would be competitive today with currently used fossil fuels, whether in the case of important plants or isolated micro-grids (as well as home systems). According to IRENA, the investment of large photovoltaic power plants in Africa costs decreased by 61% since 2012 and possible a decrease of 59% of these costs over the coming decade.
These currently are nearly $1.3 million by installed MW (the world average for photovoltaic is around $1.8 million per MW/h according to IRENA). IRENA highlights the fact that photovoltaic energy presents for Africa a decentralized and “modular” solution (with facilities of a few to several tens of MW) for rapid electrification of areas not connected to power grids.
According to experts, it is true that the energy needs of Africans are limited to a few KW/h per capita per year, for mainly electric lighting. Electrical power networks are rare in Africa; therefore there could be no possibility of economy of scale. Africans pay 2 times more expensive power than Europeans do. It’s always more interesting to have cheap electricity.
But industrial development requires great levels of power and heat specially. Photovoltaic source of energy is certainly more suited to small off-grid installations and for some African countries but industrial production would require this to be combined with heat production.
Renewable energy expansion would be part of the professed Energy Transition.
The transition may be defined as the passage of a civilization built on energy essentially fossil, polluting but abundant and cheap, to a civilization where energy is renewable, rare, expensive but less polluting and aimed at the eventual replacement of energy (oil, coal, gas, uranium) stock by energies of flow (wind, solar).
Energy transition refers to subjects other than techniques, such as those related to societal problems. It is a move towards an Energy Mix as justified by the scarcity of resources, thus the urgency of a new model of consumption on a global scale which poses the problem of energy efficiency, and a social consensus, today’s technical choices engaging society in the long term: how much is this transition, how much is it worth and who will be the beneficiaries?
It was necessary to first make few remarks on the current approach to development of renewable energy. We must target priority projects which contribute the most to the achievement of the objectives. Without any decision between the Photovoltaic and Thermal, we would discuss solar heat that seems suitable in the regional program of the South. Algeria that has significant potential in this area can become between 2020 and 2030 an exporter. The lack of knowledge of the field could not explain the selected program.
Indeed, wanting to test all technologies before opting does not seem to be the right approach. This would hide all studies that have been used including the studies in question had been carried out in collaboration with key research centres in the USA, as the ENREL, as regulators of solar technology: the DLR (Germany) and CIEMAT (Spain). The Kramer Junction plant works in the USA since 1980 with a capacity of 300 MW on the same technology that was used in Hassi R’Mel, Algeria.
Solar towers in Spain have been proven for many years. This is to identify the parameters of different technology assessment. With GTZ (Germany) the decomposition of the value chain by component and by cost helped to set a realistic integration of 70% for the solar heat rate. Manufacturers of solar thermal converge with this rate, while also according with the level to export electricity to Europe. Indeed Europe will need to import 15% of its needs by 2030 that is the electrical equivalent of 24 GW or the equivalent of 50 billion M3 of gas per year.
The study has also defined the conditions:- a stable political framework, a sustainable local market the size of 250 MW/year and a market that is open between the countries of the Maghreb. Technologies must correspond to the most important value potential allowing a rate of integration, the greatest creation of jobs, offering the best match with the electricity market and finally, the most important technologies with the greatest potential for cost reduction up to competitiveness with fossil fuels.
The technology partnership and integration generally appeal to private companies. The risk is too great for an investor to agree to be put under the control of a public company.
Transition based on Realism
It is therefore to identify the real actors and have a strategic vision based not on utopia but on realism as it is generally believed that laws and changes in organizations would not solve the foundations of problems, the political actors are therefore essential, referring to the political and social base. As far Algeria is concerned, I warned the Government and particularly SONATRACH of a suicidal adventure that could involve the security of the country, if these were to engage in massive investments in conventional hydrocarbons whereas the world at this time would undergo between 2020 and 2030 a major shift in energy consumption.
The Government that was misled in the past into believing that $90/100 per barrel would be the market price of oil, must at all costs avoid to reason about a model of linear consumption. It is that large firms in the U.S., in the European and Asian International spheres are reportedly investing massively, preparing the future in other alternative energy segments. Also, future profitability must register for the deposits between a fork of $40/55 and for marginal deposits between $60/70 before despite the recent report of the IEA on a possible barrel at above $80/90
What are the axes for the energy transition of the 2017/2025/2030 Algeria?
The first axis, would be to improve energy efficiency with new technology; energy consumption whether at the household level and / or the economic sectors referring to the policy of the currently widespread subsidies source of wastage that should be targeted for energy products. The Algerian Government would be bound to reflect on the creation of a National Chamber of Compensation that would be charged to coordinate all inter socio-professional and inter-regional equalization.
The second axis would be for Algeria to decide on investing upstream for new discoveries. But for the profitability of these deposits, it will depend on price at the international level and the costs,.
The third axis, Algeria planning to build its first nuclear plant by 2025 for peaceful purposes, in order to meet its soaring electricity demand.
The fourth axis, would be the option of Shale Oil/Gas (3rd global reserves according to international reports) introduced in the new law of hydrocarbons from 2013, folder that I have the honour to lead on behalf of the Government and handed over in January 2015. In Algeria, in order to avoid positions decided for or against, a broad national discussion, because we cannot minimize the risk of pollution of aquifers in the South of the country where as a semi-arid country, the problem of water is a strategic issue in the Mediterranean and African level.
The fifth axis would be the development of renewable energy by combining Thermal and Photovoltaic whose global costs of production decreased by more than 50%. Algeria has decided to apply the resolutions of the COP21 and 22, about global warming. But effective action cannot be designed by a Nation on its own. It will involve wide consultation with especially between the countries of the South Mediterranean and the Maghreb because for the Maghreb including Algeria, water resources are vulnerable to changes in climate. Water and its management problems would definitely affect the future of all these countries.
With more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year, Algeria has what it takes to develop the use of solar energy in a win-win partnership. For this purpose, the CREG (regulatory agency) issued decrees to accompany the implementation of the program of Algerian of development of renewable energy in the context of the implementation of a national fund for energy efficiency (FNME) to ensure the funding of these projects and grant loans at subsidized interest rates and guarantees for loans made from the banks and financial institutions.
By 2020, it is expected that the installation of a total power of about 2,600 MW for the national market and a possibility of export of the magnitude of 2,000 MW and by 2030, it is expected the installation of a power of nearly 12,000 MW for the national market as well as a possibility to export up to 10,000 MW. According to the CREG, Algeria plans to launch a tender for investors for a mega project of 4,050 MW Photovoltaic solar power plants, soon split into three lots of 1,350 MW each and backed by the construction of one or more factories of manufacturing equipment and components of solar power plants.
Development of electric interconnection between the North and the Sahara (Adrar), will enable the installation of large renewable energy plants in the regions of In Salah, Adrar, Timimoun and Béchar, and their integration into the national energy grid system. If these achievements were effective, apart from the problem of funding with budgetary tensions, the country would have by 2030, 37% of the installed capacity of electricity for domestic consumption from renewable sources.
In conclusion, economic dynamics alter the balance of power throughout the world also affect the political compositions within States as well as at regional and nationwide areas. Energy, in particular, is at the heart of the sovereignty of States and their security policies.
As I had to sustain it in various international conferences of mine and recently in a long interview by the American Herald Tribune of January 28th, 2016), co-development, and collocations, which cannot be limited to economics, including cultural diversity, can be the field of implementation of all the ideas at the level of the Mediterranean basin as to hopefully turn it into a shared Lake of peace and prosperity.
In the interest of both the Europeans and all of the southern Mediterranean populations, borders of the common market, of Schengen, of social protection, would be the borders of the environmental requirements of tomorrow. These must be along a line south of the MENA region for a lasting peace, where Arab, Jewish and all other ethnic populations have a thousand-year history of peaceful coexistence.
In these moments of great geo-strategic upheavals, the African continent with very strong potential, would have to face up to significant challenges in the 21st century, such as rivalries between the major powers, USA/China/Europe for its control, whilst by 2040, it will have a quarter of the world’s population and perhaps drawing the growth of the world economy. This is subject to good governance and of the primacy of the economy of knowledge and the struggle to lower global warming which hits it hard by the preservation of its environment. In this context, the development of renewable energy is the guarantor of the coverage of needs and energy security of humanity. –
Written in Paris on March 14th, 2017 by Professor, Expert Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Director of Studies Department of Energy 1974/2008 – email@example.com
At the 15th Forum of Sustainable Development “The Mediterranean and regional borders” on Monday, March 13th, 2017 at 9, Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, Paris 75008, FRANCE.
See also recent contributions of Pr Abderrahmane Mebtoul on MENA-Forum.com
Avoiding rushing to the conclusion that a total accumulated loss of $7 billion, was consequent to Algeria’s association with the European Union (EU), we must look long and hard at the amounts of each year loss. According to the Algerian Customs statistics, the shortfall in duties, as a result of the EU and Algeria Association Agreement was worth $1.27 billion in 2015 and $1.09 billion in 2016. A 11th EU and Algeria Association Council Session will be held in Brussels on Monday March 13, 2017.
I have recently been recipient of the latest version of the partial revision proposed by the European Union following the Algerian revisions that comforts some Algerian proposals considered being not questioning nor amending the agreement framework.
This confirms the recent statement of an Algerian Department of Foreign Affairs official to whom the document containing 21 recommendations, would no doubt revive cooperation between Algeria and the EU so as to allow both sides to develop economic relations further and place these at the center of this cooperation, to give importance to this agreement and use its huge potential in its three components, e.g.: political, economic and human aspects.
As recalled in several of my contributions and echoing my conference at the European Parliament, after some concern of the international community following some Algerian media speculating on the end of this agreement, Algerian officials were clear in their response that for Algeria, it is not question of breaking the Association Agreement but only negotiating a win-win partnership, By the way and in addition to a good number of obvious questions, the above lowering of the Customs duties has on the other hand eased the import to consumers generally.
It will be to resolve any misunderstanding for a shared prosperity. At different occasions in both Algiers and in Brussels, the Algerian and European parties reaffirmed their common determination to enhance relations to maych their proclaimed ambitions.
The will would be to “densify” cooperation, according to the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who “claimed by Algeria that its evaluation process is not intended to about questioning the Agreement, but instead, to use it fully in the sense of a positive interpretation of its provisions thus allowing a re-balancing of the cooperation links,
On the European side, the talk was ‘constructive’ and bilateral relationships, in both the areas of energy as well as in the activity of business and trade, have unexplored, even if the potential were encumbered by red tape and persistent political decisions.
However, the situation in the country remains dependent on the evolution of the oil markets with sales that the country gets most of its revenues, recalling that energy cooperation, based on a specific Protocol, is at the center of the cooperation with the EU.
It is as such, that the Council of Ministers on October 6th, 2015 considered necessary to reassess the economic and commercial aspects of the Association Agreement with the EU that has not achieved the expected objectives for European investments in Algeria.
What is the evolution of trade between Algeria and Europe? And what can Algeria export outside its hydrocarbons that make up to more than 60% of its exports to the EU and ditto to Africa in the light of the embryonic state of its productive sector.
Officially, all exports declined to $28.88 in 2016 against $34.66 billion in 2015, or a fall of 16.7% whereas non-oil, of which more than 50% are derivatives of hydrocarbons fell to $2.06 billion in 2016 against $2.58 billion in 2015 (20,1%).
As for imports, these have also declined but at a lower rate to $46.72 billion in 2016 from $51.7 billion in 2015, down 9.62% giving a deficit in the balance of trade of about $18 billion; the amount of which there is need to add services and legal capital transfers. The balance of payments is the unique reference between 2014 and 2016.
It is a matter of deepening the reforms.
For Algeria, negotiating from a balanced position, would involve it changing its bureaucratic mentality. In this 21st century, it is the role of the State to regulate, and to reconcile economic efficiency with a deep social justice, investors and operators alike are driven by the logic of profit.
Concerns being certainly legitimate because tariff cuts are a shortfall in the short-term depending on sources between $1.5 and 2 billion a year as a result of the Tariff Relief, but we ought to think in terms of dynamic comparative advantages in the medium term.
Invoking the mono exporter situation of Algeria is no road holding; the majority of OPEC countries are members of the WTO. The great challenge for Algeria is to accelerate all comprehensive reforms for comparative benefit from inclusion in the international division of labour.
To benefit from the positive effects of the Agreement with Europe as much as from a possible accession to the WTO, a first clean-up of the Algerian economy would be necessary. The brakes to the overall reform are due to the fact of moving authority segments around that could explain the decline of the productive fabric. Any operational analysis should connect the advance or the brake to the reforms by analyzing the strategies of social presence; Government policy forces lying fluttered between two conflicting social forces. These are the rentier logic supported by proponents of import (actually only 100 controlling more than 80% of the total) and the informal sphere that is unfortunately dominant and the minority entrepreneurial logic.
This would explain that Algeria is in an interminable transition, neither a competitive social market economy nor an administered economy. The progress of reforms being inversely proportionate to the oil price and the value of the Dollar; reforms can only tentatively be made with inconsistency when only the price decline.
This explains also that despite successive devaluation of the Dinar, DZD5 in 1974 for a Dollar to DZD110 / Dollar in 2016 at the official rate, it has been impossible to boost non-oil exports showing that all blocking was and still is systemic related.
It is that 80% directly and indirectly from the growth rate of GDP mainly from Building and Infrastructure development and so is employment rate, that are all pulled by public expenditure coming from oil revenues that gives public or private wealth creation enterprise (often in debt to state banks) a negligible part.
Infrastructure being only a means, the unfortunate recent experience of Spain that bet on this segment must be carefully meditated by the Algerian authorities. Also, in order to attract investment, the latter should implement regulatory mechanisms to attract promising investors, avoiding periodic changes in legal frameworks, bureaucratic administrative actions not transparent source of demobilization and potentially scaring investors whether they are local or foreign.
In short, unlike some pessimistic forecasts predicting a worst-case scenario for the year 2020, Algeria, subject to good governance and a reorientation of its economic policy, has the ambition of its choice. For this reform of structures must intend to encourage creative added value investing through the overhaul of the system property, financial, customs, tax administration, and a new social regulation for the benefit of the poorest. There is urgency to specific objectives and a new institutional organization in order to give more coherence and visibility; otherwise we will always see the extension of the informal sphere to ever widening circles.
The macroeconomic framework relatively stabilized in Algeria would be fleeting without deep structural reforms, especially with the drop in the price of hydrocarbons, and the risk of exhaustion of the Regulatory Fund of foreign exchange reserves.
The people of Britain voted for a British exit from the European Union (EU) in a historic referendum on 23 June 2016. What does the Brexit as labelled by all, mean for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland countries and their peoples? How about each and every aspect of its life and relations with its neighbouring countries of Europe? Could Empire 2.0 for the Brexit from the European Union be the panacea? What about all those countries of the MENA region that never adhered to the Commonwealth proper and yet were and still are either under or within the British sphere of influence?
Here is a view from The Conversation as narrated by Stan Neal , Teaching Fellow in Colonial/Global History, University of Leicester on the present happenings following that seismic Brexit vote. This is literally trying the British parliamentary system to an unprecedented straining level. The Conversation reviews the historical background of the currently debated rebound jump as a palliative replacement to the now vanishing away EU.
As Britain prepares to leave the EU, its new international trade secretary is talking up the potential of trade with the 52 nations that make up the old British empire. Some have even dubbed Liam Fox’s meeting with Commonwealth leaders to discuss trade “Empire 2.0”.
There is an irony here. It comes at a time when populist critiques of the economic consequences of globalisation are frequently combined with nostalgia for Britain’s imperial past. But these views neglect the fact that the British Empire was itself a key agent for economic globalisation and the mass movement of migrant workers in the 19th century.
There appears to be a consensus that Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US are the result of low and middle income workers rejecting globalisation – specifically the integration of economies, industries and markets, and the connected movement of goods and workers across national borders.
Brexit is framed as a “backlash” against globalisation, led by those who have been “left behind” as they struggle to find jobs due to competition from migrant workers, while traditional manufacturing jobs move overseas.
At the same time, the historical links afforded by the British Empire have been presented as an alternative to economic over-reliance on Europe. Since the referendum, these Commonwealth nations have been described as “desperate” to agree to free trade deals. And Fox’s meeting with 30 Commonwealth ministers in London appears to confirm that there is more than just imperial nostalgia at play.
Overlooking some facts
There are two big issues with the imperialist view of Britain’s global future. It is based on an over positive view of the British Empire. As argued by the academic Alan Lester, public discussion of Britain’s imperial past tends to focus on positive rather than negative aspects. Plus, it tends to overlook the historical role of the British Empire in facilitating economic globalisation and mass migration.
The First Opium War (1839-1842) is among the most infamous examples of the British Empire’s role in economic globalisation. The opium trade involved private companies smuggling the highly addictive, and prohibited, drug from British India to China. When the Chinese destroyed British-owned opium in an attempt to stop the trade, the British government dispatched gunboats to both restore national honour and guarantee access to this lucrative export market.
At the end of the conflict, in which Britain’s naval technology ensured a decisive victory, the Treaty of Nanjing opened up China’s economy to the world. The treaty required large compensation payments from China, ceded the island of Hong Kong to the British, opened five Chinese treaty ports to foreign trade and ensured that British subjects in China were protected by British laws.
This opening of China to British traders was a key moment in economic globalisation. The Treaty of Nanjing was the first of a number of “unequal treaties” that saw China grant similar concessions to foreign powers. In Chinese history it is seen as the start of China’s “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign imperialism.
Free trade, free movement
British advocates of opening China to foreign trade, such as the opium smuggler James Matheson, criticised the Chinese market as an archaic monopoly. The Opium War was justified as part of the necessary destruction of economic protectionism, which was heavily criticised by British proponents of free trade.
But the free movement of British goods into China was matched by the movement of people out of China. The opening of the Treaty Ports to foreign powers, economic crisis in Southern China (a consequence of the opium trade) and the discovery of gold in various colonial locations provided the context for some of the largest mass migrations of the 19th century.
A popular destination for Chinese migrants were the British colonies in Australia. Around 55,000 migrants left southern China for Australia between 1851 and 1875. But Chinese immigration met with opposition from Australia’s white working class. Beginning in Victoria in 1855, the second half of the 19th century saw a series of colonial measures designed to prevent Chinese immigration. This culminated in the White Australia policy in 1901.
The contradiction between the British Empire’s role as an agent of economic globalisation and the opposition of white colonists to Chinese immigration was pointed out by Chinese migrants in 1879. In response to the exclusionary political rhetoric sweeping Australia, Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Chong and Louis Ah Mouy argued:
This outflow of our population was never sought by us. Western powers, armed with the formidable artillery with which modern science has supplied them, battered down the portals of the empire; and, having done so, insisted upon keeping them open.
Empire, economic globalisation and mass migration were connected.
The British Empire did not just open economic markets to trade, it facilitated the movement of migrant workers in the 19th century and beyond. To suggest that the empire offers a potential model for Britain’s role in the world today is to misunderstand this history.
After the US elections back in November of last year, it is the turn to the French ones next May. Emmanuel Macron, a young independent centrist has created some wages whilst on a short visit to Algiers last week. That country over the years with its capital city Algiers became one of the obligatory corridors for a French Presidential candidate. This week, in London, the other pre-election campaign stop-off for the French highest magistrate’s investiture, the 39 year old hopeful gathered the French diaspora and told them he wanted “banks, talents, researchers, academics” to move across the Channel once the Brexit is completed and that his ‘programmes’ would include all of them expats back home. Meanwhile most European observers regard the French poll as the most critical of all European elections for the future of the EU whereas most influential Algerian media appeared to have approved, appreciating that stance of his, seemingly helping to free them from the present ruling elite continuously dwelling on that ‘colonial’ past.
The Conversation in an article written by Itay Lotem, post-doctoral Fellow in French Language and Culture, University of Westminster, UK and published on February 22, 2017 in which he reviewed Macron’s political stance on the controversial issue of today’s France relation to its heavy handed colonial past hang-ups of today. This article is reproduced below with thanks to the author and courtesy to ‘The Conversation’.
Emmanuel Macron has suddenly found himself as the new poster boy of Europe’s beleaguered political centre. The insiders’ outsider, if you like. From Marseille to London thousands have been flocking to hear this insurgent presidential candidate for the French speak.
But just as pundits began to accept the bid from the former investment banker and minister of economy during the first half of François Hollande’s presidency, a new controversy about the interpretation of colonial history has tested Macron’s electoral appeal, and demonstrated that France’s colonial ghosts are alive and kicking.
On February 15, in an interview with the TV channel Echorouk News during a visit to Algeria, Macron followed protocol and spoke about his desire to “build a bridge” between France and its former colony. But in doing so, he addressed the subject of colonialism. He backtracked on a previous comment about the “richness” of colonial Algeria to brandish colonialism a “crime against humanity”.
Losing no time, a choir of commentators from the right interjected to castigate Macron for his “shameful” lack of patriotism. François Fillon, the candidate for the centre-right Les Républicains, sensed an opportunity to divert attention from his own scandals to brandish Macron’s words as “hateful” of France, and demonstrating that he had “no spinal cord”.
To dramatise things further, Macron was on his way to the southeastern France, an area where there is substantial support for the right-wing Front National, led by Marine Le Pen. The region has a large concentration of pieds-noirs, or former European settlers from Algeria, who still nurture a sense of resentment over French “abandonment” of its colony. As scenes of a demonstration of pied-noir activists in the town of Carpentras reached the press, this latest spat turned into a full-on controversy and Macron suffered in the polls.
Macron’s visit to Toulon on February 19 was disrupted.
This chain of events reflects Macron’s volatile position as the centrist in this election campaign. The former-socialist-turned-independent has succeeded in detaching his public image from his record as a minister in the Hollande government. His forward-looking attitude stands in sharp contrast to the projects of political nostalgia of Le Pen and Fillon. He has succeeded in attracting a truly diverse coalition of voters from left and right alike.
This success, however, is fragile. Recent polls show that only 33% of voters who consider voting for Macron are sure they will do so on election day, while his centrist position has attracted comments on Twitter such as: “Trying to be everywhere, he ends up being nowhere.” In this context, remarks about colonial history seemed to be a way for Macron to appeal to a younger, left-leaning electorate by talking about social issues beyond his normal focus on economic reform.
At first glance, Macron’s initial comments align with condemnation of colonial history that has become a marker of France’s political left in recent years. In 2005, the then left-wing opposition belatedly united to oppose a government bill, initiated by pied-noir associations, which ordered schools to stress the “positive role” of France’s “overseas presence”. The law was eventually dropped but the debate that emerged created new political fronts.
The right wing UMP (which has since changed its name to Les Républicains) ignored its history as the party of Charles de Gaulle, the president who had signed the 1962 Evian Agreements and retreated from Algeria to support the law. At the same time, the socialists skirted over their party’s historical support of colonialism and the Algerian War to portray themselves as a party of inherent anti-colonialists.
This same dynamic continued in 2012. Shortly after winning the presidency, Hollande organised a state visit to Algeria, in which he expressed his regrets over the “profoundly unjust and brutal” colonial system. Left-wing reactions to his speech back in France celebrated him as a part of the “left without complexes or compromises on the subject of the country’s colonial past”. Meanwhile, the same right-wing politicians who had initiated the 2005 law deplored his act of “repentance”.
A loaded term
Even Macron’s use of the term “crime against humanity”, which many observers denounced as inappropriate, goes back to a series of legislative actions to re-define France’s colonial past, most notably the 2001 law brought forward by the socialist Christiane Taubira that defined transatlantic slavery as a crime against humanity. In this context, it is unsurprising that France’s current minister for families, Laurence Rossignol, declared that Macron’s words were a way to “declare his affiliation to the left” by stressing his “anticolonial” credentials.
Macron’s reaction to the controversy suggests he had not intended to take a stand on a decidedly anti-colonial platform. On February 18, in Toulon, another pied-noir centre in southeastern France, he paraphrased an old speech of De Gaulle in Algeria as he backtracked and apologised to those offended by his first analogy: “je vous ai compris” (I understood you).
Macron’s foray into the politics of memory was ill-conceived at best. Over the last decade, the debate about colonialism has exacerbated the polarisation of French politics and left no space for a search of any middle ground. In entering this quagmire, Macron was destined to be pulled into a barren debate about a “balance sheet” of colonialism where politicians express political allegiances by addressing France’s historical past as simply “good” or bad”.
Nonetheless, there might be another reason for Macron’s initial stance: his age. Unlike most voices in these loud fights about colonial history, Macron is too young to have experienced any of the events of decolonisation and its aftermath first-hand. He grew up in a society that engaged with the memory of colonialism rather than with its actual violence. As such, he is comfortable speaking about “facing up to history”, thinking that colonialism truly is consigned to the past. This could be the position of a true centrist in 21st century France.
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