Going it all alone. Africa's potential for delinking from the neoliberal paradigm

Master's Thesis, 2019

174 Pages, Grade: 65


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Education under the neoliberal paradigm
1.2 The research design
1.3 The Case Study Methodology
1.4 Introduction of the Paper’s Theoretical Framework
1.5 Summary and Outline of the Paper’s Content

Chapter 2: The theoretical framework
2.1 Defining a Theoretical Framework
2.2 Arguments Posited by The Decolonial Theory
2.3 An Analysis of the Elements of Decoloniality and its Origins
2.4 Intellectual Underpinnings of the Decolonial Theory by Third World Scholars
2.5 Interpreting Decoloniality in Relation to the Phenomenon Under Investigation

Chapter 3: Research Design
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The Chosen Type of Research Design
3.3 Statement of the Research Problem
3.4 Research Question
3.5 Research Aim
3.6 Research Objectives
3.7 Data Collection Methods

Chapter 4: Literature Review
4.1 Defining a Literature Review
4.2 Purposes of a Literature Review
4.3 The Concept of Neoliberalism: its Global Reach and Fundamental Tenets
4.4 The Neo-Liberal Education System

Chapter 5: The adoption and consequences of the neoliberal model of education in Africa

Chapter 6: The case studies of South Africa and Rwanda
6.1 The South African Case
6.1.1a The Effectiveness and Limitations of International Laws Obliging South Africa to Provide free education
6.1.1b South Africa’s National Law Regarding its Provision of Free Education
6.1.2 Neoliberalism in South Africa’s Education
6.1.3 Student Protests for Fee Free Education Under the Banner #FeesMustFall
6.1.4 Arguments for Free Education in South Africa
6.1.5 Arguments against Free Education in South Africa
6.2. The Rwandan case
6.2.1 Rwanda’s Progress Regarding the Provision of Free Education
6.2.2 Case Study Comparison

Chapter 7 : Discussion of findings (Data analysis and Interpretation)
7.1 Education as a public good vs education as a private good
7.2 Decolonial Arguments for the Minimisation of the Neoliberal Influence in Education
7.3 Implications of Minimising the Neoliberal Influence in African Countries
7.4 Alternative African paradigms
7.5 Chapter concluding remarks

Chapter 8 : Solutions and recommendations
8.1 The formulation of endogenous egalitarian policies
8.2 The importance of public participation in policy-making
8.3 African economic and political integration
8.4 Domestic policy network over Western intervention

Chapter 9 : Conclusion



I would wish to acknowledge the intellectual contribution of my Supervisor Dr. Mabutho Shangase through the writing of this work. I would also like to acknowledge the University of Pretoria’s Department of Humanities for hosting helpful seminars, forums and other activities meant to assist postgraduate students through the journey of realising their goals. I would like to acknowledge the University of Pretoria for its amazing and supportive facilities, their conducive and enabling environment which has sustained my persistence towards achieving this goal of completing my dissertation. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge my family and friends for their love and patience, in particular my dearest mother Linah Thoko Mputi, for her financial and emotional support and her unwavering faith and loyality, God bless her.

- Jacob Mahlangu

List of abbreviations:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


The neoliberal paradigm has been a dominant economic ideology practised in the International Economic System through multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. It has also been the dominant discourse in the study of International Political Economy. The paradigm promotes the values of individualism, supporting the fundamentals of the ‘free market’, deregulation, the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, the protection of ownership of property, commodification of products, economic competitiveness and last but not least, non-state intervention in individuals’ private affairs.

The paradigm was introduced in the form of structural adjustment programmes (which were later renamed as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers) in African countries through the ‘Washington Consensus’. These countries were to reform their policies and enact the recommendations offered by the Consensus as a conditionality prior to receiving financial aid, funds and loans from the Washington Consensus’ trio of organisations. However, since the implementation of these reforms, African countries have faced dire economic conditions, having their resources exploited and the uneducated, unskilled and those who lack capital and training being marginalised and unable to operate within the paradigm.

The paper seeks to argue that due to the economic interdependence and connectedness of the global economy, it may be impossible for African countries to delink from the neoliberal paradigm completely. This is due to them having an open economy, and a liberalised economy; furthermore, it’s also due to the fact that they are signatories to multilateral institutions. However, the paper argues that there is a possibility of minimising, reducing and mitigating the influence of the neoliberal paradigm on a sectoral level. The paper seeks to demonstrate this by utilising the case studies of two African countries, namely: South Africa and Rwanda. The paper analyses the education sector of these two African countries; especially and specifically their efforts and attempts in making education accessible and available to those whom if education was to operate in a neoliberal paradigm would have been excluded and marginalised from it. The neoliberal paradigm commodifies education and treats it as a private good and a product to be consumed by those who can afford to pay for it as a service through fees and other charges.

The consequences, penalties and negative effects of the adoption of the neoliberal paradigm in the education sector (particularly in Higher Education) of African countries is examined. The efforts of the governments of Rwanda and South Africa in challenging this type of educational provisioning has been remarkable, hence making this sector suitable for the purposes of the study. These countries have had to revisit their economic, political and social structure through policies, government initiatives and movements since their new 1994 era, with the end of genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the advent of democracy through free and fair elections in South Africa the same year.

The paper utilises the qualitative research design, and also the decolonial theory as a theoretical framework. The paper is an Extended Literature Review type of research , sourcing data and information from the internet, newspapers, online Journal articles, library and other relevant places. Therefore, this is a desktop study, highly dependent on available publications.

Upon a serious inquiry and an extensive search, the paper reveals alternative African paradigms that are non-economic in nature but could be transformed to fit an economic narrative such as Pan-Africanism, Afrocentricity, Ubuntu and African Renaissance; furthermore, the paper reveals how the extended hand of the market can have non-market forces on its grip. Through the sectoral level analysis of the effect of the neoliberal paradigm, the paper tends to find out that even when major attempts are made to completely rid a sector off the neoliberal grip, its after-effects, remnants and remains continue to operate and may further exacerbate, perpetuate and worsen again. Therefore, the fight against the neoliberal paradigm does not require just an alternative paradigm to replace it, but to ensure on a daily basis that it is kept at bay.

Chapter 1: Introduction

The neoliberal paradigm was introduced to the international economic system in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Harvey 2007: 24). Since then, neoliberalism has been a dominant discourse in the academy; furthermore, neoliberalism has become a framework for policy-making in the Western world to African countries (Harvey 2007: 24). The neoliberal paradigm has been imperialistic in its approach, as it sought itself to be applied beyond its place of creation to having an impact on the rest of the world (Harvey 2007: 24). The neoliberal policy reforms for African countries were intended at keeping power and dominance of the West alive in continental Africa post the colonial era. The neoliberal paradigm was introduced to African countries in the form of Structural Adjustment Programs by the World Bank (Caffentzis 2002: 90). Furthermore, the World Bank exacerbated its continuity through publishing the Berg Report in 1981 called ‘Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa- An Agenda for Action’ (Loxley 1983).

The neoliberal paradigm in the African continent has had negative implications, such as: replacing African values of the humanistic approach, eradicating the conception of African countries being viewed as welfare states, and also, by extending its ‘free market’ tenet to non-market forces (Kawulich 2002: 87-89).

The neoliberal paradigm advocates for economic fundamentals that support liberty and individualism as opposed to community and collectivism (Merino 2010). The praxis of neoliberalism motions for limited or non-state intervention in a state’s economic affairs (Schram & Pavlovskaya 2017: 13). Furthermore, neoliberal policy reforms require that states should privatise their state-owned enterprises through selling them to private individuals (Harvey 2007: 24). Neoliberalism recommends that there should be less regulation (deregulation) of the free market in order for it to run efficiently and effectively (Merino 2010).

The rationale for the study is based on the limited literature of a complete analysis of the neoliberal paradigm through the lens and perspective of a decolonial nature. The knowledge gap recognised by the researcher and which motivates the conducting of the research, is the absence of a progressive and continuous attempt to solve socio-economic issues by reducing the influence of the neoliberal paradigm. Many scholars studying alternative paradigms only base their intentions at critiquing mainstream paradigms. Their critique lacks a proper praxis for their own paradigms to successfully replace an already dominant paradigm (such as neoliberalism). The study utilises this opportunity to operationalise a practical method to investigate, analyse, examine, and produce a way that the neoliberal paradigm could be replaced by an alternative functional, workable and sensible paradigm.

The aim of the study is to investigate Africa’s potential and possibility of delinking from the neoliberal paradigm.

The paper’s core argument is that: it may be impossible for African countries to completely and entirely delink from the whole international economic system. This is due to the continent’s nature of connectedness to the global economy; furthermore, the countries within the continent are signatories to the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) (Hopfmann 2018). Therefore, they are compelled to apply the neoliberal paradigm in their domestic terrain (Hopfmann 2018). The paper motions that: there is however, a possibility to reduce the neoliberal influence on a sectoral level.

The paper utilises the qualitative research design to study and explore the phenomenon under investigation. Furthermore, it uses the case study methodology, to examine the education system of two African countries, namely: South Africa and Rwanda.

In the case of Africa, neoliberalism was introduced by the ‘Washington Consensus’ and its organisations, namely: The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (Stein & Nissanke 1999: 399). It came in the form of the Berg report in 1981 and also as Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) (Stein & Nissanke 1999: 399). These Western Financial Institutions (IFIs) presented the paradigm as a conditionality prior to African countries’ gaining membership and turning them into signatories.

According to Bryer (2016) Due to the need for financial aid, funds and loans by African countries (as they were facing poor and unfavourable economic conditions) they were left with no choice but to accept the requirements that accompanied their membership into these institutions. The paradigm came in the form of policy reforms of market-oriented and free market based ideology of neoliberalism (Fourcade-Gourinchas & Babb 2002: 533-535). The practice of neoliberalism in Africa prevented its countries’ flexibility in making policy decisions suitable for domestic conditions of their societies (Bretton Woods Project 2014: 1-12).

The neoliberal paradigm originates from the West and puts the market at the centre of socio-economic organisations (Williamson 2004: 1). Through its imposition, it disregards taking into consideration the nature of economic problems faced by African countries (Williamson 2004: 1). Furthermore, neoliberalism becomes a barrier in implementing policy ideas that resonate, reflect, and are a direct response to the specific/unique economic issues faced by African countries (Lipton 2013).

Both Western and Third World Scholars have deemed the neoliberal paradigm to be inappropriate as an economic and political tool for Africa (Laybourn-Langton & Jacobs 2018). Such is evidenced by the rise of its critiquing in the academy, the introduction of alternative paradigms in academic publications, and through public and intergovernmental institutions (Laybourn-Langton & Jacobs 2018). The paradigm is deemed to be exclusionary (to the poor) in its implementation, execution and policy application, as it results in rising economic inequalities (Brock 2012). Furthermore, neoliberalism only benefits the already rich few elites while exploiting and impoverishing the poor (Brock 2012).

In the case of the African continent, the majority of the African peoples are poor and live in dire conditions (Birch 2010). The application of the neoliberal paradigm as a political and economic policy in Africa creates a barrier in African peoples’ access to: resources, basic needs, and services that could serve to empower them economically so they could also take part in the free markets (Birch 2010). The neoliberal paradigm’s overemphasis on individual responsibility does not take into account the conditions that are beyond an individual’s control and which are no fault of their own (Fridell 2006: 8-28). Neoliberalism also has an exploitative global nature that benefits the West through liberalising African markets in order to access and utilise their natural resources and cheap labour (Hassan 2015: 159). The neoliberal ideological strategy is intended at keeping Western hegemony, power, dominance and influence alive in the 21st century (Hassan 2015: 159).

1.1 Education under the neoliberal paradigm

The education service has been traditionally deemed and treated as a public good (Liven 1987: 628). In the neoliberal era, education has turned into a private good, through commodifying it and making it obtainable through being purchased, therefore putting a price on it (Brackmann 2015: 116). This has made education unavailable to the majority of the African poor peoples who do not have any source of income (Almeida & Levin 2017). The neoliberal education further excluded those without any skills, training and experience to be attractive to the market for employment opportunities, and to those who are born in circumstances not of their choosing (Almeida & Levin 2017).

By examining the extended hand of the market, the neoliberal paradigm has been criticised by its scholars to be embedding itself on non-market forces (Thorsen & Lie 2010: 2). For example, the financial exclusionary access to goods and services that are mandatory to be accessed by the public at large; making them available only to those who are economically active (Thorsen & Lie 2010: 2).

In this sectoral narrowed down approach of viewing the implications of the neoliberal paradigm; the paper stresses on the existence of the urgent need for a bottom-up approach at reducing the influence of the neoliberal paradigm on a sectoral level.

1.2 The research design

This research study employs a Qualitative design to study the phenomenon under investigation. According to Biddix (2017) the qualitative design is based on the perspective of social constructivism; furthermore, the interpretation of the research is based on the data collected and the researcher’s own perspective. Under the qualitative design, data collection methods include: interviews, biographical study, document analysis, observation, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study (Biddix 2017). Such a research design is suitable as the phenomenon is complex, its understanding is subjective instead of objective (Cresswell 2014: 32). The qualitative research design concerns itself with the normative instead of positive (meaning that it looks at ‘What should be’ instead of ‘What is’) and also seeks to validate experiences, opinions and expressions instead of statistical facts, measurements and numbers (Cresswell 2014: 32).

1.3 The Case Study Methodology

The paper examines the influence of the neoliberal paradigm in the education sector, and explores how it can be reduced at a sectoral level. It looks at two case studies of African countries, namely: South Africa and Rwanda. The paper explores the attempts by these countries in reducing the influence of the neoliberal paradigm in their education sector. The reason behind the choice of these two particular case studies is first due to the fact that they suffered an almost similar past. With Rwanda it was the genocide that took place which ended in the year 1994, and with South Africa it was the apartheid era which also saw its complete end in the year 1994 accompanied by a democratic government under free and fair elections. Furthermore, the choice of these two case studies is based on how the South African country transitioned its development policy from Redistribution and Development Programme (RDP) to Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) with the latter policy having neoliberal ideas embedded within it. There has also been numerous involvement by donor countries in the Rwandan country post-1994, to ensure the economic revival and well-being of the country. This then justifies the selection of these two case studies, as these two countries both adopted the imperialistic paradigm of neoliberalism post their struggle and the period of their newly instituted and democratic governments. The last factor to delve upon is that both the South African and Rwandan’s constitution share the same sentiments when it comes to the provision of education and its access.

1.4 Introduction of the Paper’s Theoretical Framework

The paper utilises the theoretical framework of ‘Decoloniality’ as its lens to explore and examine the problem under investigation. Decoloniality is suitable as it developed in the Third World (Pahad 2013: 3). Decoloniality advocates for the representation of the marginalised voices of the South in the academy (Snyman 2015). Decoloniality is mostly used by third world scholars to promote their unique perspectives, ideas, and alternative thinking from Western epistemology and its claim to universality (Snyman 2015). Decoloniality critiques the existence of neo-colonial tendencies by the West when dealing with African countries in the modern era (Seroto 2018).

The proponents of the Decolonial theory include Grosfoguel, Walter Mignolo, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Anibal Quijano, Ali Mazrui, Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon, Sabelo-Ndlovu Gatsheni and many others (Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2015: 23-25).

1.5 Summary and Outline of the Paper’s Content

The paper first provides a description and outline of the theoretical framework chosen as its lens, called ‘Decoloniality’ in Chapter 2. Secondly, it outlines the research design and methodology chosen to undergo the study in Chapter 3. Thirdly, it delves into the “Critical Literature Review” that explains what the neoliberal paradigm is and its implication to the world, how the neoliberal paradigm functions in the educational system, and also how South Africa and Rwanda (the chosen case studies) have dealt with the issue of reducing the neoliberal paradigm in their education sector, in Chapter 4. Fourthly, it offers an analyses of the collected data in Chapter 5. Lastly, it offers solutions and recommendations generated from the collected data about how to go about solving the research problem in Chapter 6.

Chapter 2: The theoretical framework

The aim of this chapter is to first define what a theoretical framework is. Secondly, it delves on the chosen theoretical framework for the paper through explaining it, describing it, examining arguments posited by the theory and also outlining its shortcomings and limitations. The chapter concludes by stating why the chosen theoretical framework for this paper is justified as an appropriate lens and perspective to investigate and explore the phenomenon under study.

2.1 Defining a Theoretical Framework

According to Kawulich and Chilisa (2015) a theoretical framework seeks to answer questions such as: what are the theories utilised to guide the choice of the topic of your research, the type of research questions you ask, the reviewed literature, the methods used to collect data, analysis and interpretation? According to Miller and Brewer (2017) theoretical frameworks provide a particular lens or perspective utilised for the purposes of examining a topic. They further state that there exists a multitude of theoretical frameworks which include but not limited to: economic theories, organizational theories, social theories and psychological theories (Miller and Brewer 2017).

According to Leighton et al. (2016) a theoretical framework is used for guiding the basis of a concept/s for the study, describing the relation of variables, introducing ‘a rationale’ for predictions by informing its development of an intervention, explaining the measurements of concepts of interest, and contextualizing the results. A theoretical framework refers to a collection of concepts which are interrelated; they are used to guide the research, equipping it with the purpose of explaining the results of the research and also predicting them. This study is going to employ decoloniality theory as a framework of analysis (LeCompte and Preissle 1993).

2.2 Arguments Posited by The Decolonial Theory

Decoloniality is a metamorphosis of its theoretical predecessors such as Marxism, the Dependency theory, Post-modernism, Structuralism and Feminism. Decoloniality is suitable as a lens and perspective with which to examine the study. The study deals with how developing countries (in particular, African countries) are obligated to apply a Western, American-Eurocentric paradigm in their policy-making, which in the modern age is neoliberalism, globalisation/liberalisation and good governance. Due to the donor-recipient relationship, the periphery is dependent on the core, which provides financial aid accompanied by policies of reform. Decoloniality recognizes this dependence and seeks to challenge this ‘colonial matrix of power’ between the relationship of the global North/South. Decoloniality addresses the path-dependence, neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism formed after African countries gained independence, and demonstrates how exploitation still exists in the relationship involving the developing countries and the developed. Such exploitation includes the plundering of resources, the expansion of transnational corporations to take advantage of cheap resources and labour provided by the Global South, the social learning occurring in domestic countries whereas multilateral global institutions determine paradigms and ideas for policy makers by considering themselves as ‘epistemic communities’. Decoloniality advocates for a pluriversal world, hoping to produce more paradigms and epistemologies- not to replace the dominant neoliberal paradigm which has already influenced almost the whole world, but for the International political and economic system to possess multiple paradigms co-existing in the same continuum. This would allow countries to have freedom in choosing which paradigm they wish to adopt in order to govern their internal affairs, instead of being force-fed a paradigm that does not suit their domestic socio-economic issues due to being obligated through conditionality.

Mlambo (2006: 161-179) a proponent of the decolonial theory, unpacks the theory’s interpretation, perspective and lens of the current era. He states that: capitalism, the Western sciences, Social Science and other practices and knowledges in the modern era, have been identified as the main causes of the domination of African countries by the West and their marginalization in the world (Mlambo, ibid). These causes affect African countries in factors such as: their capacity to fully participate in the global knowledge community and also in their own economic development (Mlambo, ibid).

On the basis of research, the decolonial theory’s critique of the West is that: methodologies by social scientists emanating from the West have been considered inappropriate for African countries (Mlambo 2006: 161-179). These disciplines are Western-centric and Western-oriented (Mlambo 2006: 161-179). The theory of Decoloniality advocates for a radical epistemic delinking for the neo-imperialized and neo-colonized countries of the Global South Stojnic 2017: 105-111). The proposal to delink is inspired by the possibility of the liberation of the Global South from the “colonial matrix of power” (Stojnic 2017: 105-111).

Decoloniality also advocates for a change in the relations of the existing global power (Stojnic 2017: 105-111). Decoloniality critiques these relations by stating that: they are still based on colonialism and perpetuated in the current era (Stojnic 2017: 105-111). Decoloniality asserts that the continuity of such relations is visible through the means of the construction of the other (racialisation), exploitation and expropriation (Stojnic 2017: 105-111).

In the academic discourse context, Decoloniality reflects the critique of Western hegemony in the world, which pushes other forms of knowledges created outside the West ‘back to the margins’ (Stojnic 2017: 105-111). The decolonial theory asserts that the West is prejudiced and discriminatory towards knowledges created elsewhere, and that it brands this knowledge as ‘non-scientific’ (Stojnic 2017: 105-111).

In differentiating the decolonial theory from the Western sciences, Stojnic (2017: 105-111) refers to Grada Kilomba’s dichotomies which distinguish the decolonial theory from Western imperial knowledge as follows: The Western world advocates for universality, neutrality, objectivity, impartiality, rationality, validating facts and scientific knowledge. Decoloniality contrasts and oppositely proposes its own set of classifications such as: specificity, personality, subjectivity, partiality, validating opinions and experiences. Cheah (2006) offers a counter-argument to Kilomba’s diagnosis on ‘Western imperial knowledge’, by stating that it is not a proven assumption that Western logic/rationality emanates from its epistemic power; neither does it come from a totalizing and universalizing source. However, the occurrence and existence of neo-colonialism has been negatively felt by African countries, and these countries are desperately attempting to extensively investigate it (Rodney 1973: 4).

The attempts aimed at examining the decolonial theory are inspired by the goals of African countries to successfully formulate and produce their own tactics and strategies (Rodney 1973: 4). Such tactics and strategies are geared towards gaining emancipation and improving development (Rodney 1973: 4). The decolonial theory identifies with such goals as Mignolo (2007: 6) argues that a decolonial epistemic shift functions to bring more epistemologies to the surface. The epistemic shift is an opposition to the acceptance of Western epistemes that are geopolitically adopted and expanded to the rest of the world (Mignolo 2007: 6). Decoloniality also aims to bring other principles of understanding and knowledge which will consequently introduce other systems for the economy, politics and ethics (Mignolo 2007: 6).

Decoloniality aims to denounce the proclaimed universality that is a product of a particular ethnicity (body politics) stemming from a specific part of the world (Mignolo 2007). For instance, the universality of ‘European’ ideas (geo-politics) where the ideology of capitalism grew widely with colonialism as a consequence (Mignolo 2007). Decoloniality aims to introduce other-universality or pluri-versality in order to create the co- existence of universalities as a universal project (Mignolo 2007: 6).

Mignolo (2007: 455) mentions the geo-political aspect of pluri-versality as being the presupposition of border epistemology and border thinking. Pluri-versality does not reject nor avoid the foundation of modernity and knowledge as being Western; but rather serves to highlight its shortcomings, limitations and danger (Mignolo 2007: 455). One of such shortcomings according to the decolonial perspective is the tendency of the Western world to make the world function on unicentrism (Davies 1999: 96-97). This means that the rest of the world is obligated to perceive the world in a Western-centric lens (Davies 1999: 96-97).

Davies (1999: 96-97) argues that American-Eurocentric paradigms provide an assumption to the rest of the world that the location of the centre of the universe is in the West. According to Davies (1999: 96-97) such an assumption developed together with the domination of the world by Western nations which were not more than a handful. Davies (1999: 96-97) further argues that the logic of a single centre is the basis of control and dominance, as it functions with other communities in regards to competition, subordination and hierarchy.

2.3 An Analysis of the Elements of Decoloniality and its Origins

According to Mignolo (2011: 273-283) the point of origination of the decolonial theory was the Third World. Decolonial thought has its historical basis in the Bandung Conference of 1955 where African and Asian countries gathered amounting to 29 countries (Mignolo 2011: 273-283). The central goal of the conference was to find a common vision and common ground for a future that had neither communism nor capitalism (Mignolo 2011: 273-283).

According to Snyman (2015: 266-291) the decolonial turn questions the remnants of colonisation in current subjectivities and ‘forms of life’. He cites Maldonado-Torres (2007: 343) to argue that the removal of the colonial invading power does nothing to the power structures that the colonizers have put in place. This is due to the colonizer still possessing an influence on the invaded subjects (Snyman 2015: 266-291).

Radcliffe (2017: 329-332) cites Mignolo and Slater (2000; 2004) to argue that: although the colonial rule reached a formal end, it resulted in postcolonial nation-state formation. Furthermore, the world became explained, modelled and apprehended according to the roots of post-enlightenment and American-Euro claims (Radcliff 2017: 329-332; Mignolo 2000; Slater 2000). This has made it possible for them to pronounce universal truths and to also theorise the world (Radcliff 2017: 329-332; Mignolo 2000; Slater 2000). Such a diagnosis leads to the assumption that the decolonial theory as an approach to the study of political economy, challenges the continuity of Western ideological dominance in the non-western world. It acknowledges the hallmarks of domination and marginalisation between the interaction of ex-colonized countries with the West based on the previous centuries of the colonial era, as having a presence in the 21st century and also possessing serious implications for the future development of African countries.

According to Ndlovu-Gatsheni (487-489) influential African scholars and activists that have contributed to the decolonial thought are: Ali A. Mazrui, Ngugi wa thiong’o, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkruma, Edward Blyden and Chinweizu. Other prominent scholars from other parts of the third world include: Anibal Quijano, Walter D. Mignolo, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Samir Amin, Ramon Grosfoguel, William EB Dubois and Aime Cesaire (Ndlovu-Gatsheni: 487-489).

In terms of the elements of the decolonial theory, Grosfoguel (2007) argues that: Decoloniality is not a fundamentalist, essentialist or a critique that is anti-European. Grosfoguel (2007: 1-38) argues that decoloniality is a perspective which is both critical of Third World and Eurocentric fundamentalisms, nationalism and colonialism (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38).

The decolonial perspective is sceptical of fundamentals because what all fundamentals share: is a tradition of possessing one sole epistemology which is then utilised to achieve universality and truth (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38). This means that there should not be one dominant epistemic location influencing the rest of the world (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38). Furthermore, the rest of the world need not draw knowledge from a single epistemic location while considering that location to be producing objective, universal knowledge and truth (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38).

To Grosfoguel (2007: 1-38) decoloniality brings about a polycentric and pluriversal world. Such a world would entail the emanation of knowledges from different locations (Both in the Global North and Global South) to co-exist in the same world (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38). Furthermore, countries would be able to choose freely which epistemic tradition they apply to govern, instead of the epistemic locations of the Global South being silenced or ignored (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38). There would be an end to the occurrence of the Western world force feeding their knowledge to the Global South through imperialistic tendencies (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38).

“The hegemonic Eurocentric paradigms that have informed western philosophy and sciences in the modern/colonial capitalist/patriarchal world-system for the last 500 years assume a universalistic, neutral, objective point of view. Nobody escapes the class, sexual, gender, spiritual, linguistic, geographical, and racial hierarchies of the modern/colonial capitalist/patriarchal world-system” Grosfoguel (2007: 1-38).

The decolonial theory opens a perspective that delinks from being categorized in the chronologies of new paradigms and new epistemes as it presents itself as an option (Mignolo 2011: 273-283).

2.4 Intellectual Underpinnings of the Decolonial Theory by Third World Scholars

According to Thiong’O (1986) imperialism caused by the Western world continues in the modern era; it controls politics, the economy and cultures of African countries. Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2015: 485-496) argues that the basis of decoloniality is characterized by the re-telling of knowledge and history from the location and ‘epistemic’ sites of the victims of modernity’s ‘darker side’. The decolonial theory advocates for de-hegemonisation of knowledge, the democratisation of knowledge, de-Europeanisation of knowledge and lastly, de-Westernisation of knowledge (Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2015: 485-496).

According to Mazama (2011: 387-390) Western hegemony and dominance is not only caused by Western power but also by African countries themselves. He elaborates that the main problem of African countries, is their unconscious and usual adoption of the Western perspective, world-view and conceptual frameworks (Mazama 2011: 387-390). As a result, Western theories and ideas have invaded African countries, and these countries continue to normalise and naturalise them (Mazama 2011: 387-390). African countries then tend to find themselves having lost sight towards creating their own independent ideas, and are dislocated from their unique selves (Mazama 2011: 387-390). Therefore, the difficulty of African countries orienting their citizens’ lives in a constructive and positive manner increases (Mazama 2011: 387-390).

The decolonial theory suggests that African countries should aim towards their liberation in the international political and economic system (Schiele 1997: 22-29). The methodology that decoloniality advocates is based on the intention of African countries in generating knowledge that will empower and free them (Schiele 1997: 22-29).

Quijano’s (2000: 533-580) conception of decoloniality, is that: the fundamental axes which constitute the model of power, are the mental constructions based on the colonial domination experience, (these pervade the core elements of global power). Such a model creates social classifications in the world’s population (Quijano 2000-533-580). This includes the specificities of Euro-centrism and rationality and the global hegemonic model of power that is perceived as presupposing an element of ‘coloniality’ (Quijano 2000: 533-580).

According to Suleiman (2016: 320-330) the reason behind the continuing interest in the decolonial theory is that: African countries are dissatisfied with the conflicting ideological prescriptions that lead to the path of socialism and capitalism. Therefore, African countries are seeking solutions for development apart from Western suggestions and intervention (Suleiman 2016: 320-330). Scholars, policy-makers, analysts, leaders, and intellectuals located in the third world have articulated and pointed out the unequal relationship with the West and their exploitation by it (Suleiman 2016: 320-330).

Grosfoguel (2007: 1-38) argues that the decolonial turn seeks to decolonize knowledge. The requirement of achieving this goal is to hold the insights/cosmologies/perspectives of critical thinkers located in the Global South in high regard (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38). Grosfoguel (2007: 1-38) states that a decolonial perspective reflects the need for economic justice and global equality. Furthermore, the decolonial theory is based on the idea that: socialism and democracy are not the only two models which can be used to guide African countries’ thinking and doing (Grosfoguel 2007: 1-38).

Radcliffe (2017: 329-332) quotes Cusicanqui et al. (2016) stating that: “the modern episteme is always and intrinsically saturated with coloniality, although it is insecure in its depth and reach”. She then argues that the decolonial turn is a broad call to analyse and understand the particularities of the universal, and also, the co-existence and deepening of all particulars.

2.5 Interpreting Decoloniality in Relation to the Phenomenon Under Investigation

Mlambo (2006: 161-179) argues that Decoloniality recognises the European assumptions about non-Western societies, as they perceive them to be inferior. The decolonial theory recognises how the West prides itself in the superiority of its culture (Mlambo 2006: 161-179). Such pride becomes detrimental to the rest of the world; the West is influenced by it to arrogate to itself the authority to impose its institutions and norms upon the non-Western world and its peoples (Mlambo 2006: 161: 179). In its theoretical challenge to the neoliberal paradigm implementation on the African continent, the decolonial theory advocates for what Adedeji (1991: 49) calls a new African transformation which is ethically based on a ‘human-centred development paradigm’. Such a paradigm is related to the ‘welfare state’ which has been eroded by the neoliberal paradigm, as it is based on: a country putting its people at the centre of the process of development (Adedeji 1991: 49).

This suggested paradigm is also grounded on a transformational change that shuns the ‘top-down’ approach of decision making, and supports the ‘bottom-up’ approach (Adedeji 1991: 49). Hypothetically speaking, this means that within the borders of each African country, “every stratum of the society” should be involved in the evolution of such a paradigm (Adedeji 1991: 49). In the international arena, the paradigm would be interpreted in such a way that: the hierarchy that enables the West to impose its culture on the African continent would be turned up-side down by the proposed paradigm of a decolonial nature (Adedeji 1991: 49). The African continent should be the major contributor of ideas, strategies and solutions intended at development; if not for the world then at least for itself.

Rodney (1973: 4) articulates that a vast amount of the ‘so called’ underdeveloped countries are considered to be in economic stagnation. Rodney’s (1973: 4) empirical findings suggest that the problem of overpopulation in such countries is coupled and worsened by their slow economic growth. Such a situation he argues, is caused by the nature and expansion of the capitalist system, as it transfers its barefaced and abusive forms of exploitation by the West (Rodney 1973: 4).

Rodney (1973: 4) offers an antidote to his diagnosis with a solution that is oriented towards a decolonial turn. Rodney (1973: 4) cites Che Guevara (1964) to argue that the only way to solve such a problem is through completely eliminating the ‘exploitation of dependent countries’ which is caused and perpetuated by capitalist developed countries. This should be done despite all the implications and consequences that such a solution might imply (Rodney 1973: 4; Guevara 1964).

The decolonial theory has a tendency of revisiting the past in order to make sense of the present (Andreasson 2005: 971-974). Decolonial scholars believe that the current global era and its international political and economic system is just history repeating itself. Andreasson (2005: 971-974) provides his conception of the decolonial theory by referring to the classical era of colonialism in Africa which followed after the ‘Berlin conference’ (1884-1885). Andreasson (2005: 971-974) argues that this particular event is significant, as it provides a clear linkage between the West’s notion of African inferiority (culturally and biologically). The period also portrays how the West took it upon itself to be a guardian for the African continent (Andreasson 2005: 971-974). This included the imposition of Western-centric solutions to African unique problems. Furthermore, Andreasson (2005: 971-974) attests that the problematic relationship between the developed and the developers is present throughout the landscape of North-South relations, in particular, Africa and the West.

Hall (1996: 187-191) argues that capitalism has emerged as a global market and that this is due to much of the world being dependent (economically) on the West although all of these countries have been formally decolonised and are now ‘independent’.

Hall (1996: 203-205) poses a decolonial question, asking that: could a discourse created by the West intended at theorising about the rest operate outside the domains of power? The assumption is that if African countries were not forcefully fed the Western narrative, it is not likely that they would have considered a Western paradigm as appropriate, neither choose and apply it in their countries. Hall (1996: 203-205) argues that: The Western perspective which is expressed as “the West and the rest” is not innocent, as it ‘does not represent an encounter between equals’.

It is necessary to identify an argument of a decolonial nature in order to contribute to its expansion, as it has a shortcoming of being too broad while lacking pragmatic depth in its analysis. To support this claim, Krueger (1995: 892) argues that the complexity of the politics of economics and the economics of politics is still not sufficiently researched in African countries. Furthermore, bureau and public choice theory have been reluctant in grappling with the economics of African countries (Krueger 1995: 892).

According to Mlambo (2006: 170-172) under the wisdom of neo-liberalism, Africa is ‘pushed back’ to where it is obsessively trying to escape from. What this means is that, the neo-liberal paradigm is pushing the African continent back to the marginal role and status that it has always held in the global economy (Mlambo 2006: 170-172).

The neo-liberal paradigm justifies the persistence of the assumptions of modernity, for example: it justifies the perpetual domination of African countries by capital from the West (Mlambo 2006: 170-172). Furthermore, neoliberalism facilitated the penetration of the markets of African countries by Western transnational enterprises which are seen as agents that diffuse the values of modernity (Mlambo 2006: 170-172). Stojnic’s (2017: 107-111) decolonial interpretation of the modern era is that: We currently find ourselves in a world where the ideology of capitalism is ‘equalled with reality’; furthermore, the decolonial approach introduces a possibility of creating different possible presents. In order to achieve this, the decolonial theory suggests a struggle and call for detaching and delinking reality from capitalism (Stojnic 2017: 107-111). However, Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2015: 485-496) argues that the decolonial epistemological movement has always been shunned and overshadowed by the hegemony of social theories and intellectual thought which emanates from the American-centric and Euro-North modernity.


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Going it all alone. Africa's potential for delinking from the neoliberal paradigm
University of Pretoria
International Relations
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Neoliberalism, Education, Washington Consensus, Decoloniality, International Financial Institution, Research, Capitalism, South Africa, Rwanda, Pan-Africanism, Afrocentricity, African Renaissance, Ubuntu, Diplomacy, Structural Adjustment Programs, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, International Community, Paradigms, Monetarism
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Jacob Mahlangu (Author), 2019, Going it all alone. Africa's potential for delinking from the neoliberal paradigm, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/539781


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