Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

Francesco Vergari 110622440

The readings this week discuss the role of neoliberalism in the economic development of African countries. The examples discussed demonstrate the opportunity and success experienced by the wealthy few and the less wealthy majority. The opportunities and wealth available to Africans can be observed along the lines of class especially in South Africa. As Thomas recounts, the Koch brothers of South Africa used their status and privilege as non-blacks in South Africa to build their wealth and enterprise. Prior to apartheid the Koch brothers profited from the regime by exploiting Black South Africans looking to fit into the light skinned ideal. As the apartheid regime folded the Koch brothers profited from the increasing importance of Black South Africans as a growing consumer base and used the Post-apartheid ideals to their advantage by sponsoring the Apartheid museum. As South Africa and other parts of Africa grow it is acknowledged that they grow unevenly as many remain impoverished.

As Dolan and Roll discuss the poor as a consumer base has enormous potential as an economic driver. Many transnational corporations can be observed to emptying various methods with make their products accessible to the poorer demographic. Referred to as Bottom of the Pyramid economics, the model promotes providing opportunities to the poor to encourage entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures. The increased economic activity and initiative is supposed to provide income and stability to improve quality of life. The targeting of the poor consumer base by transnational corporations, however, sounds far too reminiscent of the once lauded trickledown effect where by the poor and middle class majority are to benefit from the wealthy few through investments, growth and employment trumpeted by neo-liberalism. As the past decade has demonstrated the wealth does trickle down fast enough nor far enough as only the wealthy few have genuinely benefited. The Bottom of the pyramid approach is similar as transnational corporation will benefit from expanded markets while only nominally compensating salesmen and entrepreneurs whom promote their products.

Additionally as Dolan and Roll discuss the supposed benefits of the poor as vast untapped consumer markets as means to development, no consideration is made of the ecological impacts of the increased consumerism. Companies such as Coca-Cola and P&G are discussed as promoting their products to large markets, products which often require large amounts of packaging for food and health supplies. Rural areas are also discussed as difficult to access but profitable if reached by entrepreneurs. As consumerism grows in Africa so too will the need for waste disposal and recycling infrastructure to manage the waste produced by consumption. That is not to say he the poor masses in Africa will soon match the levels of consumption and waste experienced in the Global North nor is it to say they should not develop economically in this manner but the failure to take into account ecological consideration will only and to mounting pressures of climate change and pollution. As climate change affects all states and citizenship around the world, equal consideration must be given to pollution and waste in order to adequacy address planetary ecology and the well-being of all human beings.

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