“We should never ever forget that given that in Africa the state acquires its legitimacy primarily from the West and only very much secondarily from its people, the conflict as a result of which people are experiencing the destruction of their livelihoods and increased repression is at bottom one between state and empire. This should be apparent from the fact that the African state – which has been singularly unable to genuinely represent the nation since independence – owes its survival primarily to whether it conforms to Western precepts.” (Neocosmos 2010).
The recent developments in Egypt and Tunisia have inspired debate across the continent and even the wider world, with many admiring the Egyptian and Tunisian people for taking to the streets and subsequently effecting the resignation of their long-time leaders. The ‘popular revolution’ frenzy has spilled over into Libya, Yemen and other parts of the Maghreb. Now, speculation is rife as to whether this ‘revolutionary spirit’ will spill over into other parts of Africa and possibly Asia. Yet, no one is taking the time to academically measure whether Egypt and Tunisia are really better off now that Ben-Ali and Mubarak are no longer in office.
It is not extensively documented in the media, the effects that the demonstrations have had on the Egyptian economy. Professor Michael Schwartz professor of sociology at Stony Brook State University suggests that “since pyramids and other Egyptian sites attract more than a million visitors a month and account for at least 5% of the Egyptian economy, tourism alone (given the standard multiplier effect) may account for over 15% of the country’s cash flow. Not surprisingly, then, news reports soon began mentioning revenue losses of up to $310 million per day. In an economy with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of well over $200 billion, each day that Mubarak clung to office produced a tangible and growing decline in it. After two weeks of this ticking time bomb Crédit Agricole, the largest banking group in France, lowered its growth estimate for the country’s economy by 32%.”
It must be noted here that the military council which is currently in charge of Egypt until elections, which will apparently happen after six months, has a relationship with Mubarak who himself has a military background. After ruling for thirty years, we can expect that the generality of the military beauracracy is sympathetic towards Mubarak and his policies especially where the elite of the military benefited economically. Furthermore it is speculated that by the time of his resignation, Mubarak and his family had accumulated a personal fortune of an estimated $US5 billion.
The point is this: these “popular revolutions” that are being hailed by radicals as the advent of new era in the Maghreb and the world at large will not change the livelihoods of the people who were (are) on the street. If anything, their lives will be superficially bettered by an array of freedoms and personal liberties such as the freedoms of expression and assembly, however, the damage suffered by the Egyptian economy will take years to reverse, and there is no guarantee that the next Egyptian leader will be any less repressive than Mubarak; neither is there any guarantee that the military will not choose a candidate from within its own ranks and tamper with elections as Mubarak has done for decades.
Ultimately, when the euphoria of the “revolution” wears off, the (Mubarak) military regime is still in charge, the economy has taken a heavy knock, and Mubarak is somewhere with US$5 billion. All international treaties and obligations made during the tenure of Mubarak will be upheld, says the military council, and elections will be held after six months or so. In the final analysis, it seems that the people of Egypt have been deceived into believing that they have made some kind of progress. Nothing has really changed; expect that Mubarak stepped down nine months earlier than he had initially decided.
In conclusion, it must be noted that this writer is for active-citizenship. However, it must be fruitful- because removing the face of the regime does not necessarily equate to removing the regime itself. Removing the face of the bureaucracy might make the masses happy for a while, but if the spirit of the bureaucracy will prevail, why put our lives at risk?
Tau Tawengwa is the Secretary General of Zimbabwe Renaissance Society.