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First African aggregated in history at the Sorbonne, alternative Nobel prize for his research on original models of development, historian and Burkinabé politician.
Joseph Ki Zerbo very early engaged in the struggle for independence and the African Union. In the interviews he has just published, this man of action who declares “preferring combat to careerism” claims to be a socialism “forged from African realities”
What is your view of young people and their relationship to the Western model?
What I note is that the image of Western youth presented by the cinema or television arouses in Africa new desires, new dreams, and influences the relationship to consumption. Affecting the imagination, by inducing a mimetic desire, these Western images generate needs out of step with local solvent demand. From this discrepancy arises frustration, even a certain schizophrenia, and from this frustration arises a frantic search for money, which has become the supreme value. To the point that people today are ready to let themselves be corrupted. This unrestrained quest for money can be observed even among the peasants, who hasten, for example, to sell the harvested cotton to obtain the money that will allow them to access other goods. This dream of the West sometimes leads us to scenes of the greatest absurdity: in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, it is not uncommon to encounter traffic jams from Mercedes!
You have just published When is Africa? Who is this inquiry for?
To the West as well as to young Africans. In the West, I mean: we are not fooled! The Africa you talk about every day is not yet our Africa. What we are offered is to survive, not to live. The happiness element is missing. To young Africans, I appeal for a start. I urge them to stand up, to fight. I also appeal to African heads of state. We need leaders with strong political will, leaders who do not give in to corruption, who value their own cultures, rather than Western values, and who promote endogenous development.
How do you view the impact of development policies on the African continent?
I see every day the damage of the structural adjustment programs imposed by the World Bank - in particular in the fields of health and education, very affected by the boom in privatization. It is clear that the world of single thinking and neoliberalism, the culmination of Western capitalism, does not favor our continent. We need a new theory of North-South relationships which takes into account the creeping impoverishment and allows us to evolve towards a less unequal exchange. Before, we had humanist thinkers like Nkrumah, Nasser, Fanon… Today, there is a vacuum, filled only with the proposals of the World Bank, which in no way meet local needs.
Where do you locate the resistance forces?
Partly in the bonds of social solidarity that characterize African traditions. A solidarity that we see, for example, expressed in reaction to the privatization of the health sector. Unfortunately, this solidarity declines, in contact with other Western values. I also believe a lot in women, who assume almost all of the informal economy; and in artists, especially musicians. The works of some of our artists, such as Youssou Ndour and Alpha Blondy, are exported very well. Carrying added value and a cultural message, they make it possible to envisage a less unequal relationship with the North.
What is the success of the anti-globalization speech in Africa?
People are internalizing it because they are feeling more and more every day the harmful effects of decisions imposed on us from outside. Little by little, people realize that we do not control the decisive parameters, whether it is the price of the raw materials produced on our soil, or even the value of our currency. They realize that we have no bargaining power. Just think back to the way the devaluation of the CFA franc took place. A devaluation which, by penalizing imports, had dramatic consequences, which everyone felt the backlash in their daily lives. All of this has generated a dangerous feeling of alienation - linked to the feeling of no longer controlling one's own destiny - and, at the same time, uncertainty about the future. This feeling is also not unrelated to the development of sects.