U.S. Fusion Center in Ghana, AGOA, and Trump’s “BUILD Act” Bolsters Impact Investment Projects
Data Centers in Africa and the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC)
I recently read that Liquid Intelligent Technologies, which is opening its fifth mega data center in South Africa, received loans from the UK, World Bank, and the DFC (U.S. Development Finance Corporation) to build the facility. This led me to some discoveries about the DFC’s origin and how it’s being used by the military and big business to further consolidate profit and gain control of resources under the guise of investing in the global south. The DFC, which is classified as a development finance institution (DFI), was formed through the BUILD Act which passed under Trump in 2018. That same year the DFC gave a $100 million loan to Africell Holding Limited to expand cell phone and internet services in Uganda and the DRCongo.
Internet connectivity is vital to the surveillance apparatus being built by NATO in Africa; especially in DRCongo because most of the minerals for the 4IR are mined there, thus, there is strategic interest in 24/7 monitoring of all activities in that country. Hence why the Pentagon is making an effort to partner with the Congolese military in order to invest in a biometrics and identity documentation infrastructure that keeps track of the Congolese population.
Side note: the first development finance institution or DFI was actually created in the UK in 1948, called the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC). The U.S. created OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) in the 70’s, but OPIC did not have close to as much power or funding as its replacement, the DFC.
The U.S. Impact Investing Alliance pointed out that one of the key parts of the BUILD Act is its emphasis on pushing private impact investment projects (which have loan guarantees) through its creation of the DFC because the DFC will play a central role in accelerating the global impact investment movement. I did write about impact investing and human capital markets here, if you want to better understand the social finance and predatory philanthropy space. It will help explain why the BUILD Act strengthening the impact investing sector is not actually intended to help anyone in need; it is, instead, a lucrative loophole for already wealthy multinational corporations to make even more money and further centralize control of the global economy.
One of the reasons for the BUILD Act was to be a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative — the DFC does have a higher lending limit than its predecessor, OPIC. Lastly, the BUILD Act provided the DFC with the tools to track, access, and report on the impact of each project it funds. In summary, the DFC will help “developing” countries transition from non-market to market economies with U.S. assistance if those nations agree to adhere to U.S. foreign policy objectives — similar to what was done in African countries through AGOA, which passed in 2000 under Bill Clinton.
What is AGOA?
AGOA or African Growth and Opportunity Act is a policy intended to eliminate barriers to U.S. trade investments and strengthen the private sector of African countries in order to liberalize their economies—meaning, the entire economy has to run on a profit basis (mostly benefitting multinational companies). Everything had to be turned into a commodity in order for the African country to be selected. This was accomplished by coercing the African nations to implement neoliberal policies, such as: free trade, government deregulation, and providing cheap labor to attract foreign investment. AGOA, to this day, still disproportionately benefits multinational corporations and the business class of the selected African countries. It is not, and never was, about providing good paying jobs or empowering workers.
In 2002, Mauritius law enforcement tried to ban protests during the AGOA Forum being held in the country. Mauritius courts struck down the police attempt to shut down protests against U.S. free-trade policies and the demonstrators were able to proceed with their event as planned—they were also protesting against the United States using their Diego Garcia island base to wage war on Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the right to protest in Mauritius should not be dictated by U.S. national policy, simple as that. The end.
AGOA explicitly states that the qualifying countries cannot engage in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests — how is this not the “neocolonialism” that people claim to oppose? Yet, I hear people in the “anti-imperialism” space portray AGOA as some sort of lifeline for African workers when it was never intended to benefit them. A recent example of the U.S. using AGOA as a bargaining chip is with Ethiopia—a long time U.S. ally and recently turned “foe”—was removed from AGOA because of disagreements between the U.S. establishment and PM Abiy Ahmed (that I won’t get into now, but have written about here and helped co-write here).
AGOA is also used to bully African countries into voting with the U.S. in UN Security Council meetings about foreign policy—forcing them to vote in favor of the constant wars and invasions because if they did not comply, they would be cut off from the U.S. market. Also, why does the national security of the United States take precedence over the security of African countries or the rest of the world? Absolutely ludicrous. Another point of contention is that AGOA was not even a multilateral agreement negotiated between the U.S. and African countries, it was proposed by the U.S. president and then voted on in the U.S. congress, at no point was there input from the African countries it claimed to be helping—as if Africa was a U.S. colony. For a thorough breakdown of AGOA, read this essay titled AGOA: An Instrument of the U.S. Ruling Class written in 2003 by a woman from Mauritius named, Rajni Lallah—she also gives a BBC interview here.
Lastly, when figures like Maurice Tempelsman, who worked on behalf of De Beers Diamonds and the CIA to get rid of Patrice Lumumba and install Mobutu in DRCongo, are in support of trade policies like AGOA; one should automatically question the legitimacy of such a legislation.
Maurice Tempelsman is still a board member at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to this very day — he has never answered for any of his involvement in regime change operations in Africa. Not once.
Let’s circle back to the DFC and U.S. inspired fusion center in Ghana:
In addition to the U.S. government (DFC) investments in data centers in Africa — Amazon, Huawei, Microsoft, and boston-based Berkshire Partners also involved in this sector. In 2019, Berkshire Partners purchased a majority stake in Africa’s largest data center firm, Teraco.
Question: why is a Boston-based private equity firm interested in the largest data center in South Africa? If data is the new oil and venture capital firms are moving their money in that direction—what we traditionally understand as “war for resources” looks different now.
Furthermore, in 2020, the AWS and U.S. State Department “Fusion Center” model was implemented in Ghana to more effectively share information and intelligence in order to combat terrorism. The U.S. State Department was “alarmed” by the uptick in illicit drug transit through Ghana from around the world; so, the International Narcotics Law Enforcement or INL and the FBI, partnered with law enforcement authorities in Ghana to train them to investigate transnational financial crime, develop an integrated approach to border management, and build U.S.-style fusion centers. I did not know this was such a popular method of surveillance because it seems rather intrusive and I doubt the Ghanians asked for this system. Are Americans even in favor of these fusion centers spread across their own country? My guess is no.
For example, the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust (SVRDT) created a DataZone in Santa Clara, CA to collect data on children and connect the offices of Education, Juvenile Justice, Behavioral Health, and Child Welfare to law enforcement — the SVRDT is partnered with the National Fusion Center Association and their goal is to raise:
Cross-agency awareness of credible threats to help students avoid resorting to destructive behaviors…[and] to identify and respond to potential threats, all in the interest of supporting early detection and intervention.
This sounds like pre-crime detection for children. I imagine that the fusion center in Ghana will fulfill a similar purpose — tracking and monitoring children and adults in order to enforce compliance through early intervention. You would think the civil liberties focused people would be denouncing U.S. partnership with Ghana to build fusion centers, but no, I suppose it is only the civil liberties of those within their borders that matter. I am a proponent of global solidarity, but perhaps that is now classified as “woke” and dismissed—very unfortunate.
To wrap this up, my main point in writing this is to create some awareness about the “development impact investing” space and how it is directly tied to militarism, surveillance, and the digital colonialism in the global south. Through the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), created by the BUILD Act, private sector impact investment projects were tremendously expanded. A lot of that capital is going toward building a militarized surveillance infrastructure in the southern hemisphere in order to further consolidate wealth and resources—AFRICOM is basically in charge of securing all of the mineral-rich land in Africa. AFRICOM is not “fighting terrorism” (no matter what your aloha drone queen, Tulsi Gabbard, tells you, don’t fall for it). I did not want to end this with a sneak diss at Tulsi Gabbard, but if the shoe fits—or rather, if the combat boot fits…
Peace and Blessings,