African Youth and Capitalism

Supporters of capitalism decorate it as an economic system that triggers innovation, competition, direct foreign investments, hard work, and economic growth.

This explains why the very same victims of the system see it as okay even though reality is in the contrary. The 2013 Human Development Report which presents Human Development Index (HDI) values and ranks for 187 countries and UN-recognised territories, along with the Inequality-adjusted HDI for 132 countries, the Gender Inequality Index for 148 countries, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index for 104 countries shows African countries dragging at the tail while African resources are exploited by multinational capitalist companies from western countries.

That is why very often the words of Steven Bantu Biko echoes in my head,

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”


Capitalism possesses the minds of African youth, and therefore, Africa suffers the most yet it is the most resourced and geographically well positioned continent to allow trading with all the other continents. As capitalism possess and exploits Africa, it is us African youth who experience the worst of it all. A painful example is the case of Botswana, a free market economy for capitalists.

In our country the first people of Kgalagari (Southern Africa), the indigenous people of the area commonly called Basarwa or the San, were and are forcefully evicted from their lands across Botswana. Evictions done to pave way for international capitalists to exploit mineral resources to increase private capital for themselves at the expense of the indigenous people’s human rights despite Basarwa having won the longest case in Botswana against Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) evictions in 2006.

Basarwa youth and everyone else (except diamond mine owners and their workers) staying in the CKGR are not treated as citizens of Botswana. The government of Botswana denies them access to: education, healthcare, government subsistence programmes, ARVs, and even for registration for identity cards that is legal proof of citizenship. Although Botswana is a multilingual nation, not only Basarwa are marginalised so more especially the youth from non-Tswana tribes are victims of the system, however even Tswana tribes are victims of the capitalist mode of production in different ways. This is because capitalism takes advantage of any opportunity and reason to divide and exploit the poor who make it run by selling their labour power for slave wages.

Other alibi capitalist use to treat African youth unequally to justify exploitation include: academic progression, length of employment in a certain work place, cheap labour, you have to be rich to qualify for government funding (security), discrimination based on nationality/Afrophobia, gender based capitalist discrimination at work places, disability used against the disabled youth since access to opportunities does not account on special needs of the disabled, the list goes on and on.

By its nature, capitalism and NOT life, survives on few people monopolising the products of labour power of majority of the labour force, one example of this is some chain stores. While they employ many youthful citizens which would have been commendable, the profits that result from the sweat of these youthful workers are only enjoyed by a few capitalists who are not involved in the production process.

The drivers, cleaners, shelf packers, cashers, security guards, cooks, who make billionaires which go into the pockets of a few capitalists, live under abject poverty. Even unsold cooked food that is left everyday is thrown away as waste and workers are not allowed to eat them for free, they must buy these leftovers from these supermarkets and restaurants to make more and more wealth for the few owners of the means of production.

Some workers earn less than a thousand (P4.32/hour or less) regardless of their hard work.

The bases of capitalists monopolizing the wealth produced by workers are that they own ‘the means of production’ that is land, property, production tools, machines, and financial security.  These are the things that have to be there for production to take place. In result of the fact that the African youth do not have the means of production they are economically disqualified to take part in the so called ‘free market economy’ as owners and not as tools of production. There by political and economic power is not under capitalism, in the hands of the African youth for the African child. What is evident is that there is a class war for political and economic power in our everyday lives.

At the same time our government prohibits ordinary citizens trading as hawkers and street vendors who survive by selling fruits and vegetables in the streets from importing quality farm produce to sell to the same consumers. Now the aspect of free trade suddenly does not apply because capitalism is not for everyone, it is for the interest of the rich class. The hawkers and street vendors are forced to support local capitalists by buying from Botswana farmers who produce low quality fruits and vegetables. At the end consumers buy imported quality farm products from capitalist shops while the fruits and vegetables wilt and dry at the hands of hawkers and the street vendors.

Capitalism uses legal, political and economic power to force poor people to comply with laws that advance the interest of a few people over the majority of Africans. Another example of economic domination against African youth is reflected by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s policy on privatisation of public land by city, town and district councils as viewed by UDC mayors and district council chairpersons.

In this set up, hawkers and street vendors are not allowed to trade in public land in populated areas adjacent to capitalist shops. This is seen by capitalist shops as poaching their customers and they only need to call UDC city and town mayors to send by law officers to harass, evict and to take and destroy poor hawkers and street vendor’s hard earned stock. Also in Botswana skilled labour university graduates are cheaply exploited through ipelegeng, internship and volunteer programmes. In these programmes, the youth work for private companies and even for the government but for free. They are not rewarded by salary but are only given food allowance for over two years. The alleged reason is that this process of working unpaid jobs gives the youth opportunities to get working environment experience. In the end, the African youth grows old and poor as their parents, while few capitalists get exponentially wealthier every second of the day. As things stand unemployment in Botswana remains persistently high for a country of middle income status. Many times they say for you to get funding from even government financers you have to have security in the form of assets/capital. Whereas they claim that the market is open for everyone, reality is your current wealth determines whether or not, you qualify to win even a government tender. The requirements to bid for tender are way beyond the financial ability of majority African youth. In Botswana for instance you are required to pay between P250 to P500 and over for just collecting tender documents, you need to have Public Liability cover and workman’s compensation insurances, proof of ownership of 3 or more vehicles, you have to have a registered office in a commercial or industrial area and with full time administration. All these are possible to existing wealthy business people and to very few youth who are dependants of the capitalists so basically poor people are not allowed to tender and make business in a capitalist economy. Unprocessed raw materials are exported to other countries and create jobs where they are processed while youth in Botswana are unemployed, underemployed and have no job security.

All the painful impacts of international capitalism are common setbacks for youth not only in Botswana but uniform the whole of Africa and elsewhere. If private capital is the common problem for the African continent then there exists common solutions. As we commemorate the African Youth Day, we must also appreciate what needs be done to abolish exploitation of billions of Africans by few capitalists. ...to be continued in African  Youth and Capitalism (PART TWO)*Poloko Parks Monang(facebook), 75630121

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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