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

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Abstract

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.
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