Macro & Cheese – Ndongo Samba Sylla: Imperialism and the Global South’s Debt

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Countries of the Global South usually are tied to debt in a foreign currency for a number of reasons, including balance of payment constraints and the capture of export income by transnational corporations. Some debt was carried over from colonial rule. Ndongo emphasizes that these countries are often trapped in an extractive economic model. Their resources are exploited by foreign companies, leading to a cycle of debt and dependence.

Debt cancellation, while absolutely necessary, is not enough to address the structural issues that perpetuate the crisis. Ndongo mentions ecological debt — the extraction and exploitation of natural resources from the Global South by the Global North. He highlights the need for a fundamental change in the domestic economic model of accumulation to eliminate the role of debt as an instrument of domination.

Ndongo also traces the history of structural adjustments after attempts at reform in the 1970s, beginning with the proposal for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) that challenged the imperialist system. The austerity we witness today arose from the reaction to that agenda.

Ndongo Samba Sylla is a Senegalese development economist. He has previously worked as a technical advisor at the Presidency of the Republic of Senegal, and is Programme Manager at the West Africa office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. He is the co-author of Africa’s Last Colonial Currency: The CFA Franc Story and author of The Fair Trade Scandal.

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