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An Islamic Critique of Neo-Liberal Economic Development In Burkina Faso

In his final sermon (McIntire, 2008), the Prophet Muhammad stated that “Allah has forbidden you to take usury … you shall neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.” The Prophet of Islam went on to say, “A white has no superiority over a black” (Mcltnire, 2008). In violation of this, I argue the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program is based upon utilizing usury to secure an economic order in which whites have superiority over blacks in the world’s economic affairs, and that the neo-liberal economic system solidifies a system of white supremacy.

The Qur’an (2:276) mandates that “Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity.” And that “wealth may not circulate only among those of you who are rich(59:7).” In addition to positing an Islamic critique of the contemporary international economic system, this article will argue that the Islamic principles of Banking and Finance are a more ethical and humane alternative to the conventional secular western banking system. I argue that neo-liberal theories governing economics are materialistic and will never benefit Africans; they operate to secure a system of white supremacy in the world’s economic affairs. Rather, what is needed to bring harmony back to Africa is the abandonment of neo-liberal influence and a re-emergence of Islamic economic thought.

Walter Rodney in how European Underdeveloped Africa demonstrates exactly how European powers underdeveloped Africa and benefited from a parasitic economic relationship. According to Rodney, “Islamic Universities suffered because colonialism deprived them of the economic base which previously gave them support. As with so many other aspects of African life, what the colonialists put in must be weighed against what they halted and what they destroyed in both real and potential terms. Colonization has led to a decline in Islamic economic thought, yet indigenous African-Islamic economic thought can be found in the works of Uthman Dan Fodio, Askia Muhammad, and Al-Magadi. Islahi (2008) does an analysis on indigenous African-Islamic economic thought in which he states that Uthman Dan Fodio “advocates foundation of an economic system based on values such as justice.”

British Colonialism put an end to the society established by Uthman Dan Fodio, and with the Eurocentric educational system there has been a decline in African-Islamic economic thought; neo-liberal theories of economics are the prevailing model that the IMF and World Bank operate in Africa. These neo-liberal capitalist theories concerning development have been a disaster for Africa.  These neo-liberal theories are simply false and will not benefit Africa.

According to Zaham (2012), ”The founders of Islamic Economics had a vision of a superior and spiritual alternative to the injustices and exploitation of materialistic western systems.” This case study will examine the impact that the Structural Adjustment Program and liberalization of Burkina Faso’s economy has upon the people from an Islamic theoretical framework. It will provide a contrast between the reforms under Thomas Sankara and the IMF, and neo-liberal reforms speared-headed by his successor, Blaise Compaore. Was the World Bank’s “Poverty Reduction” program at all effective in reducing poverty in comparison to the reforms of Sankara?

White Capitalist Exploitation of Africa

 Bond(2006) critiques both the world bank and IMF. Bond(2006) argues that the World Bank work to maintain Africa in a perpetual state of poverty. Some of these schemes range from the outright theft and looting of resources by Western corporations in the Congo to clever and sophisticated programs, such as the structural adjustment program.  Bond(2006) notes that Tanzania is in debt by $7.5 billion, and Dar Es Salam’s water was privatized as a condition for the structural adjustment program and not many poor people lack access.  The author concludes that “Africa is poor, ultimately, because its economy and society have been ravaged by international capital as well as by local elites who are often propped up by foreign powers.” Furthermore,  Bond(2006) concludes that the economic relationship of the IMF and World Bank to that of Africa is one of exploitation.  

Payer(1982) gives a broad overview of the history of the World Bank and the IMF, exposing how it has largely been dominated by the United States of America. Payer(1982) ultimately concludes that their programs benefit the wealthy and that there is a major impossibility in alleviating poverty from a neo-liberal framework.  In a much more recent analysis, Ndikumana (2011) found that African nations seeking aid from the IMF are given loans with various one-sided stipulations. The interest rates are significantly higher than comparable loans, and, following the loan stipulations, various resources of the nations who cannot pay the loans back are privatized by Western corporations. The impact is that much of the resources and wealth of African nations are not in the hands of Africans themselves, but Western corporations; moreover, the high interest rates keep African nations locked in a cycle of debt

.Due to the high interest rates, African nations have actually repaid the IMF, World Bank, and Western governments significantly more money than was originally borrowed. As a direct result, the author, Ndikumana(2011), emphasizes that “contrary to the popular perception of Africa being a drain on the financial resources of the West, the continent is actually a net creditor to the rest of the world.” Moreover, the privatization of the resources of Sub-Saharan Africa by Western corporation results in wealth being increasingly concentrated in Western elites, outlining a major discrepancy.

An Islamic Analysis of Burkina Faso’s Economic Development