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A review of Richard Kamidza’s, 'From Antagonism to Re-engagement: Zimbabwe trade negotiations with the EU, 2006-2016'
The Source

I have argued consistently for many years that trade is war contrary to Kamidza’s view that it is benign and developmental.  I do not believe there is any “developmental” potential in EU’s aid or trade policy towards Africa. Indeed, I contend that all development is resistance against imperialism.

In recent years the Langaa Research & Publishing of Cameroon has published some excellent titles, among which is Richard Kamidza’s book on Zimbabwe’s trade negotiations with the European Union. The book is an important addition to the literature on the continuing relationship between Africa and Europe since colonial times to today.  The back cover of the book describes its essential message as follows: 

“The book interrogates the European Union (EU) - Zimbabwe Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations, covering trade in goods, trade-related rules and development cooperation. The negotiations coincided with EU’s motives as the dominant development partner, and Zimbabwe’s state-stakeholder fault-lines, creating dilemmas in the pursuit of a fair EPA outcome. As a result, the economically weak Zimbabwe signed and ratified an asymmetrical interim EPA (iEPA) with an economically powerful EU in 2009 and 2012, respectively. Meanwhile, direct bilateral re-engagement which eluded the Government of National Unity (GNU), became real following ZANU-PF landslide victory on 31 July 2013, that sufficiently altered the power balance to trigger the process between the former nemesis in support of iEPA domestication, and social and economic development. ZANU-PF government stopped blaming the EU and other western nations for the country’s continued economic under-performance, signalling a softening approach on its part. Similarly, the EU and its member states softened its perception on ZANU-PF leadership leading to resumption and intensification of re-engagement despite failure to implement the Global Political Agreement-related constitutional and democratic reforms, agreed by GNU. This re-engagement was firmly endorsed when the EU and Zimbabwe signed an agreement in July 2015 to normalise bilateral relations and start cooperation.”

This is a fair summary of the book.  However, let me recapitulate some of its critical messages.

  1. The EU has been using “guerrilla tactics” during the negotiation process (p. 131, 258, 263)
  2. The EPAs will have negative impact – a “Tsunami” effect on Zimbabwe’s economy (illustrated by a vivid cartoon on page 128)
  3. The EU had misgivings about the July 2013 elections. However, since then it has “softened” towards Zimbabwe, as has Zimbabwe to the EU (pp.221-225)
  4. The EPA agreement has opened "flood gates for manufactured European products to enter the local market. These will include agricultural outputs, leading to Zimbabwe’s unprocessed agricultural products becoming less competitive, given the power of transnational agribusiness in the EU…” (p. 258)
  5. The EU's “development assistance” has enabled the EU to "divide and conquer from above" whilst “from below the potential for solidarity between the civil societies of the EU and ACP (especially Zimbabwe) failed to materialise.” (p. 258). The EU has continued to "bankroll” Zimbabwe’s “democratic” CSOs whilst “denying funding to CSOs critical of EPA process”. (p.259). The State-CSO relationship has been "tense". The government “mainly consulted only those CSOs which are not critical of government approach” (p.265)
  6. One of the challenges Zimbabwe is facing is access to foreign capital because of the EU-US sanctions. Zimbabwe eventually signed and ratified iEPA in 2009, and this “reflects the success of the EU's 'guerrilla' negotiating strategy & tactics.” (p. 263)
  7. After the iEPA was signed, the EU has given Euro 7.5m to “domesticate” iEPA (p. 266). Zimbabwe can now access the EU's 11th EDF (European Development Fund) in order to "facilitate industrial rehabilitation and modernisation" (p.268)
  8. If the recommendations made in the book are pursued, and improves EU-Zimbabwe bilateral institutional relationship within the eleventh EDF funding framework has the potential to return the Zimbabwe economy to its past glory and confirm the practical developmental aspect of the EPAs in Zimbabwe, especially if accompanied by liberal democratic values and acceptable governance practices.” (p. 267)

I have been monitoring Africa-EU trade negotiations for 40 years (since 1975), and have a full chapter on it in my book Trade is War (2015), and I can attest to Kamidza’s observations about EU’s “divide and conquer” tactics, as also his conclusions about the damage that the EPA will cause to Zimbabwe’s economy (points 1 to 5 above).  In the light of this it is surprising to me that the author appears to have taken an ambivalent (even contradictory) position (points 6 to 8 above) on how the signing of the EPA will now “return the Zimbabwe economy to its past glory”, etc.

I have argued consistently for many years that trade is war contrary to Kamidza’s view that it is benign and developmental.  I do not believe there is any “developmental” potential in EU’s aid or trade policy towards Africa. Indeed, I contend that all development is resistance against imperialism. (See: Africa Development, Vol. 40, No 3 (2015).

So here Kamidza and I part company.

I also part company with his view that South Africa has a “sub-imperial commercial agenda” in Zimbabwe. (p.273). In April 2014 Pambazuka News carried several articles on the so-called “sub-imperialist” BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Three of these were by Patrick Bond and four by his present or past students – among them Kamidza - at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre (UKNC) for Civil Society of which Bond was the Director. Since then, Bond has maintained a sustained attack on the BRICS. I have countered “sub-imperialism” as an invented abstract category. By its definition Kenya, for example, becomes a “sub-imperialist” country in relation to say Uganda. This is absurd, since both Kenya and Uganda are neocolonial countries under the effective domination of the empire. “Sub-imperialism”is a politically hostile category aimed at the global south that is still dominated by the imperial global north. (See: my “Sub-imperialism and BRICS-bashing”-

Barring these rather serious contradictions in the book, I would highly recommend it to readers.  It has a lot of useful historical and statistical information based on a questionnaire which formed part of the author’s research findings.

@Yash Tandon

15 October, 2017