Disillusionment with European colonialism in Africa

About ten years ago, the late French President Jacques Chirac humorously summed up certain reversals of fortune with the formula “Disasters always fly in squadrons”. If the expression has since entered French common parlance, it is likely that the situation that Europe is currently experiencing is the one that best represents this image. Indeed, the countries of the European Continent are currently facing at the same time multiple difficulties and obstacles such as the Covid-19, which appeared before the Russia / Ukraine war but is still relevant, shortage of gas and other raw materials, galloping inflation, unprecedented rise in food prices, growth at half mast, severe drought, forest fires, plummeting of the Euro against the Dollar, claims and strikes by workers for wage increases and so on. The possible entry of EU countries into recession is now on everyone’s lips.

Considering this situation, the current French President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, has just announced, in particular, during his first Council of Ministers of the present return to work, that era of abundance for which France-EU1 has been accustomed until now is thing of the past. Abundance is effectively over for all of Europe with a feeling that can vary from one country to another due to their different degrees of dependence on energy and other imported raw materials.

1: We use this term on purpose because French officials who come to Morocco regularly remind (the two flags next to them) that they speak on behalf of France and the EU.

That being said, it is hard to believe that this unprecedented profusion of disasters, which are hitting EU countries hard today, is the result of chance or the result of the Russia/Ukraine war stricto sensu. But, for lack of knowing the real reasons for this European economic and commercial rout, a probable prelude to a rocking of the EU towards the unknown, we can always conjecture to try to see it a little more clearly.

First of all, to enjoy the abundance and the feeling of carelessness that France-EU has enjoyed until today, at the expense of our African populations, our northern neighbors initially resorted to political of the gunboat, then enriched by a cleverly organized strategy of several centuries of appropriation, for their exclusive benefit, of the commercial and economic circuits of the countries of our Continent. This has allowed them to maintain a standard of living that is far above their current industrial and technological potential. Indeed, these countries mostly lack their own energy resources and the majority of consumer goods they produce can be purchased elsewhere in the world at better Quality/Price ratios.

Despite this evidence, the perception of the average African citizen — probably haunted by a complex of submission inherited from the colonial period, combined with massive, diffuse, recurrent, regularly updated and embellished France-EU propaganda — is that Europe is prosperous, in particular by its agri-food resources and therefore able to help Africans to feed themselves at the lowest cost. This also explains the still large number of hunger migrants trying to reach Europe. On the same subject, a message was broadcasted a few weeks ago, on a loop on the France-EU media, on the Russia / Ukraine war which is seriously disrupting the supply of cereals to African countries and the Middle East. Curiously, the message did not mention any disruption to EU supplies (see below).

But, since Europe has not received mandate to speak on behalf of United Nations, one can wonder about the possible reasons underlying the remarks of Mr. Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, in its declaration of last July 22 that  resumption of    exports of grain from Ukraine is a “matter of life or death”. The concerns of Mr. Borrell in his announcement to the press seem to go far beyond those of the WFP (World Food Programme), a United Nations organization whose mission is to fight against hunger in the world. It may only be altruism on the part of the representative of France-EU. But colonial past of these powers – which is strewn with looting, theft and greed at our African countries and elsewhere – can plead for other less glorious reasons, although perhaps more difficult to unveil (see below).

To illustrate our point, we refer to this example taken from our personal archives. At the end of the eighties of the last century, we decided, for reasons not reported here, to invest in the valorization of essential oils. In this context, I was received by the first administrative manager (Caïd) of the largest rosemary oil production area in the eastern region of Morocco. This official was kind enough to bring in the largest artisanal producer of rosemary oil in the region and brought us together in his office with the aim of fostering the birth of collaboration. But the producer in question simply told me that he had no product to sell to me because all his production (several tens of tons per year) was bought from him and paid for a year in advance by his French customers.

It is perhaps in this way that France includes in its lists of exported articles products that it does not have on its soil.

Now back to our cereals. All those who are interested know that Geneva, which is home to a multitude of companies specializing in  trade of agricultural raw materials, is the hub of the grain trade in the Africa/Middle East zone, which remains an (agrifood) hunting ground for France-EU. So, like the France-EU customers of the Moroccan distiller mentioned above, these speculation companies buy cereals well in advance, even if they can keep them in stock in Ukraine or elsewhere. Usually, it is these companies that resell the cereals in Africa and the Middle East, who invoice them and collect the money with the option of possibly indicating the origin of the goods. For this reason, many African citizens have probably seen for the first time grain loaded in a port in Ukraine directly bound for Africa/Middle East and realized the importance of this country as a major supplier of cereals outside our France-EU “reference supplier”. As a consequence, it is not necessary to be Albert Einstein to deduce the real role previously played by France-EU on a good part of the cereals which were sold to us in Africa and the Middle East. That role is essentially of intermediation and speculation under the guise of saving our populations from hunger. In this regard, we do not exclude that comments of Mr. Josep Borrell, reported above, are sincere. However, we do believe that these statements must have been prompted by France-EU cereals lobby, whose members have indeed reason to be furious for having been excluded from their lucrative market, which they risk never to see again. We assume that concerns of these speculators in Geneva and elsewhere in France-EU must be immense after they realize that EU had no role to play in unblocking Ukrainian grain exports and that, on the contrary, their exclusion from these markets was at the initiative of Russia, helped in this by Turkey, the archenemy of France-EU, and with the blessing of Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of UN.

Today, the prices of foodstuffs of animal origin have increased significantly almost everywhere in France-EU, which has led the relevant officials to recognize that disruptions in the supply of Ukrainian cereals is largely responsible for the increase in the price of household basket in France-EU. As a consequence, and to limit the negative impact of higher food prices, France-EU has been forced to show more flexibility on health standards for the import of these basic products.

Obviously this upsets the French strategists who had planned to further tighten health standards for all countries  who wish to export to the EU market by requiring them to put in place what they call “Mirror clauses”, namely standards copied from those in force in France-EU.

In Morocco, we are directly affected by changes in control standards imposed by France-EU. Without going into too many details which would not necessarily be useful to any reader of this article, it is worth recalling here that Morocco, a member of the Codex Alimentarius (hereafter the Codex) is still reluctant to apply the spirit and letter of the recommendations of this UN organization on the control of food products. For example, since the mid-nineties of last century, the Codex has advocated the use of the HACCP approach to assess the degree of safety of food. In essence, this involves ensuring that the health risk during the production of these foods is as low as possible. However, the implementation of these recommendations refers explicitly to the control of the manufacturing process and its reproducibility over time. The most suitable basic instrument for verifying that Codex recommendations are met is the application of the principles (now widely known) of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) system. The 28-07 Act on food safety in force in Morocco goes exactly in the same direction as the Codex. But, in everyday work, HACCP is little requested by our national companies. Then, contrary to what is practiced elsewhere, the absence of the implementation of HACCP is not considered prohibitive by ONSSA (National Office for Sanitary Safety of Food Products). On the contrary, officials of this organization (it’s an open secret) use intermediaries who lead the registration of companies with ONSSA regardless of the implementation of HACCP system. This obviously poses a risk that is difficult to assess for the health of Moroccan consumers. If the people from France-EU who accredit the work of ONSSA have not realized this major defect in the services of this supervisory body, they themselves should change jobs or go and do their work elsewhere.

For example, the Moroccan government is committed to attracting Moroccan professionals (particularly in the food industry) working abroad to come and invest in their country of origin. Among these fellow citizens, there are obviously Moroccan Jews who work in Jordan and Israel and export with great success to the large American market. It should be noted that it is not possible for a company to export to this extremely lucrative market in the absence (at least) of the implementation of HACCP system. Knowing that Morocco – which has much greater potential in agribusiness than Jordan or Israel – enjoys a free trade agreement with United States, there is every chance that the aforementioned Moroccan citizens will want to come and invest in the agri-food sector in Morocco. But if these export specialists realize that ONSSA turns a blind eye to companies that do not apply the HACCP law, they would be entitled to consider this as unfair competition and seek compensation.

To return to the title of this article, we will recall that the myth (illusion) of colonialism which consisted in conquering a country to appropriate the work force of its population and its natural resources can now be considered over. France-EU adherents to this doctrine must now prepare for a long apprenticeship to relearn how to work hard and rely on oneself. These people would be well advised to get started now.