Repackaging the Developing World

Nations around the globe are mulling over how to restart and rescue flagging economies brought on by the worldwide COVID-19 Pandemic. Among those seeking a solution to economic woes are the world’s “developing economies,” many that often have GDPs lower than many Western multinationals. These nations must not only determine how to solve the new economic quagmire, but also the older ones of infrastructure, industry, education and development. Years of neglect has left local populations in dire conditions as the world hopes to re-order itself.

A part of these issues requires the developing economies and middle income economies like India and Kenya to start looking at how they are packaging their overall growth. Constant military and socioeconomic contests that must be aided by outside interests like the US or the EU reconfirm to the world that internal self-determined sufficiency has not been reached. Repackaging African states means confronting economic devastation, development and infrastructure in sustainable ways, while acknowledging those missteps without deflection.  African states will need to own those errors and be honest and upfront about how those issues will be solved.

Africa’s young population is maturing in the age of information and local conditions and financial data that could at one time be buried in voluminous reports and election giveaways are now open for the all to see.  Repackaging African states will require different engagements regionally and locally–moving away from rich-state alliances that have clearly brought no real growth or relief to its young populations.  A better plan of international engagement will not just invite international investment, but acknowledge longstanding structural problems that threaten the standard of living of its local people.  Regional African groups will likely have to emerge offering better economic and infrastructural solutions than the previous generation.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and the world needs a more savvy, self-interested Africa.  It will be imperative, as larger nations scurry to shore up its own infrastructure, military and economic state in the wake of COVID-19.

Screenshot_2020-06-15 United States Africa Command - Wikipedia
February 2007 Pre-Decision Working Paper, Draft Map of U.S. AFRICOM

While not one African nation has a military base in the United States, according to Pentagon Mapping Data there are 29 US military bases on the continent. Just recently in 2016 the U.S. Sunk 100 billion into a drone base in Agadez, Niger (with some estimating reaching over $200 million dollars in total for its completion in 2018). It is unbelievable to imagine investing that much finance outside of the nation when income growth in the US been extremely weak over the last 40 years the Brookings Institute reports. In fact, data from Brookings shows that U.S. middle income wages grew by only a paltry 12 percent from 1979 to 2018—nearly 40 years! US AFRICOM headquarters employs 1500 personnel and spent 276 million alone in 2012, following Operation Juniper Shield deployed in Libya Conflicts in 2011. Why is the US keeping tabs on Africa at such a high cost when domestic issues in need of dire finance crumble? In fact, US defense spending has increased on external engagements recently—most notably in a pivot from a focus on Africa to India.

Screenshot_2020-06-15 Exercise African Lion 2018 FINEX
Base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Other Budget 2001-2019

In May of 2018, the US renamed its PACOM (US Pacific Command) to INDOPACOM, with a greater focus on India. As a growing middle income nation, India now takes the stage setting the next precedent for developing economies hoping to improve their socioeconomic bracket. India’s growth has been intelligent and dynamic in the past 10 years alone, with the EU and even the US now seeking greater military ties.

In May of 2018, the US renamed its PACOM (US Pacific Command) to INDOPACOM, with a greater focus on India.

According to a release from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, “On 20 November 2018, EU’s strategy on India entitled “A Partnership for Sustainable Modernization and Rules-based Global Order” was issued by the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It views India as an emerging global power that plays a key role in the current multipolar world and a factor of stability in a complex region and calls for greater India-EU political, security and defense cooperation.”  Could this “Rules-based Global Order” be a determining factor in the EU’s disapproval of the recently brokered Libya-Egypt peace deal?


China was once the main export and investment location for the US, in the same manner in which India holds a similar position with the EU. As Chinese financial agility, technological advancement and international prowess increased, Sino-US relations began to sour. Now that China seeks to repackage itself in the wake of a bitter trade war with the US, less developed states and middle income nations are taking diplomatic note. Super-interdependence has cost China—and it is not clear how the EU’s envisioning of a “Rule-based Global Order,” will impact India or its economy in real-time.

The EU’s “rule-based global order,” was slated to role out in 2020 according to an official release covering the 2016 India-EU Summit. Also of note, in the thick of a worldwide pandemic, India is currently in the midst of restructuring its own military. India has increased military spending and ranks number four in the world, according to 2019 data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).  Currently, 24 percent of India’s foreign Direct investment (FDI) flows from the European union, with over 90 billion dollars coming from European nations. The EU itself and through NATO has agreed to increase its own military spending as well, despite high debt to GDP ratios and languishing populations asphyxiated under draconian austerity measures.

SIPRI top 15

Repackaging the developing world without the heavy-handed access of regionally self-interested outside states will be critical in the coming years. China-US relations serves as a telling reminder of the detrimental costs that can arise. Partnerships, investments and military access do not seem to yield the results many leaders in the developing world imagined. The structural and systematic discrepancies and underlying intentions of both parties are often not clear (or heeded) until diplomatic calamity strikes. And that calamity is exacerbated by the palpable suffering of local populations whose resources are siphoned off to military and defense budgets, at the strangulation of growth.

The EU’s “rule-based global order,” was slated to role out in 2020 according to an official release covering the 2016 India-EU Summit.

Undoubtedly, developing nations must repackage themselves with better regional alliances and agreements that take into account the complicated histories of those with which they wish to create economic or military pacts.  African states being principal among those needing a self-interested restructuring that protects against future loss.  The EU has already begun working on its new, “rule-based global order,” but the real question is whether developing states like those in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America formulated their own., that meets the needs and interests of its nation and regional neighbors.  It seems the developing world will have to learn to repackage itself for longevity and sustainability in order to create any real confidence in its local populations and its position on the world stage.

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