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Rethinking the African economic ethic of indigenisation in the light of the expansion of global neo-liberal capitalistic practices : a critical study on the prospects for purposeful regional economic integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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During the Cold War, the world order was bi-polar and largely divided between liberalism and communism. The end of the Cold War saw global neo-liberal capitalism emerging to dominate the world as the only economic system available for development. However, that development is yet to be seen in Africa despite pursuing neo-liberal policies for many years. The failure of neo-liberalism in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to stimulate economic development has been attributed partly to the failure by the region to domesticate capitalism. In response to the challenges of neo-liberalism, SADC states went into a regional integration with an overarching objective of eradicating poverty and improving the economic well-being of the people. The regional economic integration has had its own challenges. One of the reasons for the failure of the SADC regional economic integration was because of the absence of regional capitalism to promote intra-regional trade and investment. Another response by the post-colonial SADC states to global neo-liberal capitalism was the African economic ethic of indigenisation. This was also an effort to address economic inequalities introduced by colonial and apartheid systems. Indigenisation sought to promote fair participation in economic activities by deliberately empowering the majority previously marginalised people. The economic policy of indigenisation was popular and implemented at the national level by most of the SADC states, but at the regional level it seems there was no clear expression of the same policy. The indigenisation policy has been a controversial policy with its own ethical challenges regarding its fairness and consequences. This research attempts to explore ways in which the SADC region can come-up with a purposeful regional economic integration which can help reduce poverty and domesticate capitalism for the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people as argued by utilitarianism. The study also investigates why there was no regional SADC policy on indigenisation if the policy was popular at the national level. The research used a qualitative analytical case study desk research design which analysed SADC policies and the theories and concepts that inform global-neo-liberal capitalism and regional integration. The research established that, the African economic ethic of indigenisation can be ethically justified from a utilitarianism perspective as it sought to deliver the greatest good to the greatest number of local people. It also came out from the research that the African economic ethic of indigenisation was a response to unethical discriminative colonial and apartheid practices which were viewed as sources to poverty and economic inequality. The research also observed that the SADC through the Common Agenda of the treaty sought to eradicate poverty and improve the well-being of the people of SADC. These objectives were well aligned to those of the African economic ethic of indigenisation. However, the pressures of global neo-liberal capitalism have seen the SADC region failing to explicitly express the African economic ethic of indigenisation in any of its policies and initiatives. The other reason for the failure by SADC as a region to express indigenisation explicitly in its policies was that the political elite sought to maintain unchallenged authority and unethical benefits from indigenisation in their own countries free of the regional oversight. The research however, found it ethically beneficial for the SADC region to embrace neo-liberalism but at the same time promoting the development of regional capitalism; which I would call ‘SADCapitalism’. Developing capitalism in SADC would help domesticate capitalism for the benefit of the majority of the SADC people. To domesticate capitalism at the regional level, there is a need to come up with a regional integration which promotes regional indigenous entrepreneurs or capitalists. This would be in the form of a regional indigenisation policy which promotes SADC citizens to invest and migrate within the region enjoying preferential treatment ahead of non-SADC citizens. In the rethinking, there is need to redefine the people who should be regarded as regional indigenous people include at least fourth generation descendants of former colonial or apartheid white rulers, Indians and coloureds.


Doctor of Philosophy in Ethics. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2019.