Contemporary Islamic influences
in sub-Saharan Africa
An alternative development agenda

by Heather Deegan
Middlesex University, London, England

This paper © Heather Deegan

Paper reproduced from
The Middle Eastern Environment
published by St Malo Press
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The relationship between the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa is complex and can be examined from a number of perspectives. It may be considered on a cultural level, given the intertwining of historical association, settlement, and religion between populations through time. Conventionally, it may be viewed within the context of colonialism and neo-imperialism, set against the backdrop of Western domination and control. Alternatively, the relationship may be seen in terms of patron-client states operating in an unequal differentiated economic environment highlighted by rising oil prices and increasing indebtedness. In today’s context, it may be viewed in terms of post-modernism and heterogeneity with a mixing and blurring set of changing relationships. Alternatively, it may be viewed under the umbrella term “third world” in order to exact a firmer understanding of the meaning of what increasingly is becoming a catch-all phrase. Lastly, the relationship may be examined within the context of a maturing alternative Islamic development agenda which intends to be established and nurtured in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In short, Islamic influences in sub-Saharan Africa may be defined as political, religious, and economic.

Political factors

One of the central fears about the increasing influence of Islam is the perceived absolutist and potentially undemocratic nature of its political objectives. Since the Gulf War of 1990-1, different statements have emerged from Islamic quarters. “Islam”, declared Dr Usman Bugaje, Secretary General of the Islam in Africa Organisation, based in Nigeria, “has a great capacity for tolerance”. Yet the renewed importance of religion in the politics of countries in the Middle East and Africa has inevitably given rise to a number of studies examining the relationship between Islam and democracy. Some analysts have pointed to a basic incompatibility between what might be regarded as secular democracy and God’s law. Islam with its totality of view and exclusion of other beliefs, militates against full participation in multi-party politics. The central difference between the West and Islam is rooted in their “two opposed philosophies: one based in secular materialism, the other in faith”. Nevertheless, it is possible to be both Muslim and a democrat. The notion of consultation is an important feature of Islam embraced within the institution of shura (consultation). Islamic intellectuals have also begun to concern themselves with the question of democracy. Raghid El-Solh believes Islamists divide into three groups: those who reject democracy completely and equate it with apostasy; those who believe that Islam is inherently democratic, articulated in its notions of shura, and those who advocate the appropriation of other societies’ concepts of political theories and practices and their application to Islamic society. Hasan Turabi, the leader of Sudan’s National Islamic Front, has no hesitation in assimilating the concept of democracy into Islam, but argues that shura is superior to Western democracy. By dividing the process of shura into different types, that which is binding, i.e., those assemblies (majlis) inclusive of all people or of people qualified to act on behalf of Muslims in appointing and deposing the ruler, and the forms which are non-binding, i.e., those comprising specialist groups or existing to provide an arena for public expression, Turabi distinguishes between a more egalitarian form of direct, participatory democracy and a rather less representative version. Islamic democracy is seen as preferable to Western democracy because it is not a separate political practice but permeates all spheres of human existence. Politics is linked to morality and is based on ijma (consensus), rather than on the rule of the majority. The fact that it is divine, which is sovereign and therefore unchallengeable, is not seen as a restriction on the freedom of people because they all believe in the principles and details of sharia law.

Turabi continually asserts there must be no coercion in religion and that non-believers must be persuaded by argument, dialogue and example. Central to his argument, however, is the thesis that all people must adhere to the tenets of Islam. The National Islamic Front promotes Islam as the basis for national life. It does not permit any organised political opposition and would like to see Islam propagated throughout Africa. Some non-Muslims feel themselves to be disadvantaged and reports speak of a brutal campaign of forced Islamisation in southern Sudan. Central to Turabi’s views is the belief that Islam must unify Muslims over and beyond the confines of the nation state. The Islamic Caliphate would be re-established providing one centre of authority and holding the wider Muslim community together. In other words, such a Caliphate would mean the creation of a unified Islamic order under a political system which conformed to sharia. The Caliphate would serve as the central institution of the Islamic umma (community), upholding the deeply entrenched Islamic traditions of free migration and would be reminiscent of classical caliphates. The weaknesses and vulnerability of some sub-Saharan states make the application of Turabi’s ideas both applicable and feasible.

Muhammad al-Ghazali and Muhammad Amara, however, whilst adhering to the central principles of the Qur’an, believe it may be possible to learn from the past and to develop and modernise approaches so they may be “compatible with new circumstances of life”. Al-Ghazali asserts: “Western democracy has generally laid down proper principles for political life. We need to take much from these states in order to fill shortcomings due to the paralysis which has afflicted our jurisprudence for many centuries.” A form of representative democracy would be appropriate in an Islamic state since greater public freedom provides opportunities for strong religious movements to emerge.

National integration is still problematic in some sub-Saharan states with problems of violence and civil conflict. This situation raises the question of the extent to which Islamic theocratic forms of political expression are appropriate for Africa. Inevitably, Christian missionary groups believe such forms are not appropriate: “Something endemic in African culture, at a basic level, is uneasy with Islam.” Nevertheless, certain elements within Africa are uncomfortable with ;liberal democracy. Western ideas of democracy and Islamic notions of sharia and shura have both been imposed on Africa through conquest and control, although both the West and the Middle Easy maintain respectively that the demand came from Africa. Dr Usman Bugaje, the Secretary General of Islam in Africa, argues that Africa “craves for Islam” as a part of its quest for “cultural freedom” and search for “an alternative world view which can stand up to challenge the West”. Statements by the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali, highlight Africa’s need for democracy and an informed body of citizens. In a sense, both these interpretations are accurate simply because Western and Islamic influences on the continent have been so profound and are part of Africa’s historical and cultural development. Cultural diversity within Africa results in part from external influences in the form of language, political ideas, religious faith and so on. Most countries over time are exposed to the cultural domination of other powers and often to the gradual assimilation of those cultural features. The significant factor in the case of Africa when viewed as region of the third world, however, is that the Middle East, also part of the third world, has an influence over the continent’s political direction.

It may be the case that Islamic ideas of democratic participation in the context of shura find a greater resonance in African states simply on the grounds of similarity with past patterns of political expression. After all, the secular one-party socialist model, the “charismatic” leader and the military ruler, whether revolutionary or otherwise, all added up to pretty much the same experience; authoritarian government with very little opportunity for citizen participation. An Islamic model of political behaviour may actually be viewed as preferable to such practices. But that is not primarily the point. The issue here is the extent to which countries within Africa choose their own political structures. This question goes further than simply a debate about Islam and democratisation. It goes to the very core of external control, to cultural assimilation and identity and to funding and access to resources. Van Hoek and Bossuyt refer to the relative ‘absence of a genuinely African discourse on democracy and its related search for institutional arrangements which are rooted in African culture and society and relevant to present day realities”. But if an assimilated African culture is partly an Islamic culture, then - logically - Islamic political practices may emerge. As Ernest Gellner states: “Islam is trans-ethnic and trans-social: it does not equate faith with the beliefs of any one community or society.”

Religious factors

The spread of Christian and Islamic religions in Africa must be seen in the context of conversion. Both Christian and Islamic groups continue to speak of religious conversion as the means of disseminating their respective faiths. To an extent, religion in Africa and the Middle East has been politicised largely because of the paucity of channels through which to articulate opposition and the general authoritarian or paternalistic political structures which exist. Seyyed Hossein Nasr maintains, however, that one of the important aspects of Islam in contemporary life is the appearance of movements standing for the re-establishment f the full and complete reign of the sharia over the every day life of Muslims. The basis for this trend rests on the strong desire among many people for a “moral revivification and renewal”. Yet, despite assertions that the “return to religion” and the “resurgence of Islam” are the result of the pursuit for ethical and moral restoration, Arkoun suggests that theological research and ethical reflection have “practically disappeared from the Muslim intellectual domain”. Contemporary Islam, then, is characterised by a “flight from ethical concern”. The attraction of Islam is interpreted by Juan Goytisolo: ‘The human swathes of the faithful prostrated outside the mosques of Cairo or Algeria are less an expression of fervour than an act of protest.” Economic and political deprivation have inclined people towards Islam. Goytisolo argues: “The affirmation of Islam in the political arena conceals and blocks out all spiritual, cultural and historical values. Reference to the sharia the sunna or to the holy imams (religious leaders) within Iranian Shi’ism becomes an essential element in the legitimisation of all government projects.” In the process, Islam, conceived as a faith, a deep personal experience or a code of morality, has been replaced by a ‘simplifying doctrine which ignores the individual struggle to interpret the text of the Qur’an, and restricts itself to the condemnation of other regimes as “unholy”. In a sense, these developments represent an impoverishment of the contemplative and religious in favour of an enhancement of the political and social. Syrian bureaucrats reluctantly admit that nationalist, socialist politics tend to be resisted by young people increasingly looking to Islam for political direction and identity.

Some analysts, however, do not view the Islamic state as necessarily reactionary, but rather as a post-modern phenomenon. Thus: “Islamic fundamentalism reflects the modernist ideas of secularism and a secular state and society, which are felt to have failed in providing an appropriate and moral social order for humans.” Gellner, in fact, believes that of the “three great Western monotheisms, Islam is the one closest to modernity”. Musing on the possible existence of an historic Muslim rather than a Christian Europe, he points to Islam’s “modernist” criteria: “universalism, scripturalism, spiritual egalitarianism, the extension of full participation in the sacred community and the rational systematisation of social life”. But if modernism, by definition, is secular, with the “grand narratives” of “exploitative capitalism and bureaucratic socialism imposing a barren sameness on society”, Islamic states must be post-modern. The apparatus of the modern state can, however, be adapted to conform to religious imperatives. Nevertheless, the nature of the repression required to stem opposition within the polity can be just as barbaric and arbitrary. On one level, since the demise of the Soviet Union, Islam is viewed as an opposing force, antipathetic to Western capitalism, able to provide an alternative political framework and identified as post-modern. On another level, however, Islam may in fact present its own “grand narrative” of “religious orthodoxy and uniformity” as penetrating and insistent as any modernist rationalism.

The sharia encompasses religious duties and obligations together with secular aspects of law, both substantive and procedural, which regulate human acts. The individual must therefore obey the law in action and in conscience. In the early days of Islam, sharia did not carry the specific meaning of law and Islamic jurists defined it variously as meaning a set of duties or processes. Today the term sharia is an all-embracing concept covering the basic tenets of religion and law but there are problems in the precise definition of an “Islamic State”. According to Hasan Moinuddin a “state may be defined as ‘Islamic’ in which Islam is declared to be the religion of the State”. Some Islamic states, e.g., Iran, declare themselves as such within their constitutions, while others, Saudi Arabia, do not have a constitution. An approximate definition of an Islamic state could be one which combines an observation of religious duty with the code of law. Yet it could be misleading to believe that only one form of Islamic state exists. Juan Goytisolo qualifies his views: “Muslim governments can be totalitarian or liberal, adepts of the ideas of social progress or locked into a rigid, anachronistic tradition. The Qur’an justifies the legitimacy of traditionalist monarchies, Jordan, or fundamentalist, Saudi Arabia. Some underline community and social aspects, others respect for the sunna and quietist values.”

Perhaps one of the best ways of gauging the intensity of Islamic religious life within a state is not to divide between so-called fundamentalist and conservative forces - terms, incidentally, which result from Western interpretations of Islam - but to consider the extent to which sharia is embraced and applied. These factors may change depending on regional dynamics. An increased interest in Islam has been evident in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, which in part has given rise to a resurgence of “anti-Islamic authentic African values”. In fact, Sudan’s 1989 military regime of Lt Gen Omar Hassan al-Bashiri’s upholding of sharia law has been condemned as largely an act of cynicism and primarily fostered for political and strategic reasons. Critics suggest that an Islamic state was proclaimed for three reasons: “to gain aid from the Muslim countries of the Middle East; to justify harsh treatment of those forced to steal to live, and to unify the northern Sudan Arabs against the Christians and animists of the south in the long-running civil war”. As far back as 1983, Saudi Arabia exerted pressure on Sudan to declare a constitution which would enable Sudan to become an Islamic state. For increasingly impoverished sub-Saharan African states, external influences or inducements to proclaim themselves Islamic can be significant, and this underlines the importance in Africa of organisations like the Islamic Conference Organisation, the Islamic Development Bank and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).

Economic factors

African Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA)
Established in November 1973, and funded by the government of the member states of the League of Arab States, BADEA’s total resources amounted to roughly US$1.6 billion at the end of 1991. In 1987 BADEA approved loans and grants to African states amounting to US$828.8 million. By the end of 1992 the bank had contributed almost US$1.1 billion.
Table 1 illustrates the extent to which BADEA financed African countries between 1975 and 1993. Table 2 and Table 3 provide the sectoral and sub-sectoral breakdowns of BADEA commitments between 1975 and 1993. Initiatives were sustained during 1993 with the objective of “activating Arab-African co-operation and infusing fresh vitality into its structures and organs”. The 1993 OAU Summit called for an “intensification and co-ordination of direct contacts between African and Arab institutions such as chambers of commerce, businessmen, and trade unions”. Several visits were made to African countries by BADEA representatives and the Bank participated in a number of meetings both on the Arab and Islamic sides, as well as at the African and international level: Arab League Council Sessions, the Higher Committee for Co-ordination between the League of Arab States and the Arab Joint Action Institutions, the Arab Development Finance Institutions, the Arab Fund for Technical Assistance for African Countries, the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank, the OAU Council of Ministers, the African Development Bank, the Association of African Finance Institutions, ECOWAS, the World Bank and the agencies of the United Nations. Loans and grants approved in 1993 divide into Project-Aid and Technical Assistance. Yet in its lending operations BADEA admits that “aggravating conditions” confront the economies of countries which receive aid from the bank: accumulating debt and a shrinking volume of external financial flows, all of which contribute to the reduced number of projects which were deemed suitable for BADEA’s financing. BADEA’s lending strategy is affected by concerns similar to those confronting the World Bank and IMF programmes. On 1991 figures, BADEA in part attributed its decrease in lending to West Africa to the accumulation of payment arrears, political instability and economic and financial difficulties. West Africa received assistance of US$21 million for four operations, representing 29 per cent of 1991 lending, compared with eight operations in East Africa, amounting to $50 million, which represented around 70 per cent of total lending.

Islamic Conference Organisation
The Islamic Conference Organisation (ICO) was established in May 1971 with the objective of promoting Islamic solidarity among member states in order to gain mutual assistance in “economic, scientific, cultural and spiritual fields, inspired by the immortal teachings of Islam”. ICO member states must proclaim the intention to uphold the objectives of the organisation for which they in turn gain access to the resource allocations of Islamic financial institutions. The majority of member states are from the African continent. The ICO admits that more needs to be done to promote co-operation and understanding among Muslim countries and Muslim peoples. But the ambivalent principles of the ICO outlined in the articles of its charter raise difficulties of interpretation. Article 11 (A) 6 refers to support of the struggle of Muslim peoples which should be undertaken in order “to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights”. There are Muslim minorities in non-member states of Asia, Africa and Europe and it is unclear whether “Muslim peoples” should be construed as Moinuddun suggests: Muslim peoples living under colonial rule or military occupation, or Muslim minorities permanently resident in non-Muslim states. Any interference in another sovereign territory would contravene the principles of self-determination and non-intervention contained in sub-paragraph 2 of Article 11 (B) which upholds “respect of the right of self-determination and non-interference in the domestic affairs of member states”. It would also undermine the principle of sovereignty outlined in Article 11 (B) 3 which calls for “respect of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each member state”. Equally, the preamble of the ICO Charter reaffirms the commitment of its member states “to the United Nations Charter and fundamental human rights, the purposes and principles of which provide the basis for fruitful co-operation amongst all people”.

Yet the ICO does operate on a political level. From its inception it called for Arab territories to be restored by Israel, the rights of Palestinians and of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to be recognised and Jerusalem to be returned to Arab rule. In fact, the 1981 Summit Conference called for a jihad (holy war) for the liberation of Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. The ICO was particularly active in the early 1980s following the Islamic revolution in Iran and was quick to affirm the importance of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, opposing any foreign pressures which might be exerted against Iran. By 1989 it declared that as Muslims in Africa shared a common colonial heritage, there was a need for unity between all Muslims. Its proselytising function was clearly outlined in July 1991, when the ICO’s secretary-general visited a number of African states “in order to promote the organisation of the Islamic movement in the world’. Continual ICO meetings refer to the 300 million Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries, and whose rights should be safeguarded and assert that only when there is solidarity between Muslims will the full potential of the Muslim world be realised. President Rafsanjani of Iran refers to the “enormous powers and resources” the Islamic world possesses, which could be employed in the pursuit of its goals. While King Hussein of Jordan speaks of the Muslim community’s “distinctive cultural identity” and its need to “draw up comprehensive plans to spread its message to the world, to achieve solidarity, and to protect its rights”. ICO member states are exhorted to unite and join ranks in order to manage Africa’s problems and to “prepare them for a better future”.

President Jawara of the Gambia asserts: “Many countries in Africa, some of them ICO member states, are affected by increasing poverty, destabilisation, troubles and violence”, and urges the Islamic world to draw up the bases for its new global order: “Islam is not merely a creed but a way of life. God has blessed us with human and material resources so that we do not have to rely on others. The Islamic community must become a recognised power in the international community.” Links between the OAU and the ICO have been steadily increasing as numerous states are members of both organisations. Inevitably, similar problems are debated in both organisations. In fact, some view the two organisations as comparable given their dual emphasis on brotherhood and solidarity “in a larger unity transcending ethnic and national differences”. Yet, there are differences. Whereas the OAU Charter refers to a compact geographical area, the Charter of the ICO speaks of the eligibility of every “Muslim state”, regardless of geographical location, to join the ICO. Eligibility exists when a state, anywhere in the world, expresses its desire and preparedness to adopt the ICO Charter. According to the secretary-general of the OAU, Salim Ahmed Salim, the closeness between the two organisations is the result of the support the “Middle Eastern states within the ICO extend to many African states in their struggle for economic development.”

Nevertheless, criticism is levelled at the Arabs: “black Africans respect Arabs more than they respect us”. Despite the very strong cultural links, it is admitted that “ill-educated Arabs have disparaged black Africans”, although this tendency is deemed to be slowly changing. Certainly the ICO has been criticised for devoting too much time to Arab issues and ignoring other areas. The 1991 ICO Summit, the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, was deeply affected by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War of 1990-1. African leaders condemned Arabs as “immature” and predicted a worsening of Arab-African relations as a result of the conference. Political events in the Middle East and the obvious lack of unity within the Arab world undermined statements concerning the great Muslim community umma. It was quite apparent that the Arab world was as divided and riven with conflict and animosities as were parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

But the potential for a closer relationship now exists with a Muslim population in Africa having increased by an estimated 50 per cent in the past decade to 149 million, which, according to one interpretation, now results in there being more Muslims in Africa than in the Middle East. For Turabi, the ICO is a failure: “Perhaps the highest disenchantment is that the ICO, a professedly Islamic association, has turned out to be politically impotent and totally unrepresentative of the true spirit of the community that animates Muslim people.” Another view, however, sees the ICO as having considerable radical potential. Moinuddin maintains that a change of attitude towards the principles enshrined in the ICO Charter could be accelerated and supported by a steady radicalisation of Islamic orders at a national level. This would give an opportunity for radical elements in the Islamic world to pursue a militant course and “perhaps even translate it collectively through ICO action”. The time is now right for such a move according to Turabi on the grounds that the present growth of Islamic revivalism implies a “deeper experience of the same culture and a stronger urge for united action, nationally and internationally”.

Islamic Development Bank
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB), an organisation set up by the ICO to “augment (further) the financial aspects of co-operation between countries” is judged by one authority to be “a proven and effective instrument of mutual co-operation”. Its aim is to encourage the economic development and social progress of member countries and of Muslim communities in non-member states. The Bank adheres to the Islamic principle of forbidding usury and does not grant loans or credits for interest. Instead, its methods of financing are; provision of interest-free loans (with a service fee) mainly for infrastructural projects which are expected to have a marked impact on long-term socio-economic development; provision of technical assistance, (e.g., for feasibility studies); equity participation in industrial and agricultural projects, and leasing operations. Funds not immediately needed for projects are used for foreign trade financing, particularly for importing commodities to be used in development, such as raw materials and intermediate industrial goods, rather than consumer goods. Priority is given to the importing of goods from other member countries. In addition, the Special Assistance Account provides emergency aid and other assistance, with particular emphasis on education in Islamic communities in non-member countries.

At the annual meeting of the IDB in Iran in 1992, President Rafsanjani called for a strengthening of the Bank in Islamic and third world countries “in order to fight against the plundering of their national resources by the West”. He pointed out that Islamic countries often needed urgent loans and in obtaining them from the West, they were “ready to give political concessions” and that he thought was “very detrimental to the Islamic world and highly beneficial to the colonial powers”. He warned the IDB not to be manipulated by Western policies. Yet, the Bank has forged much closer ties with both multilateral financing institutions and other international institutions including UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNICEF and “continues to hold regular consultation/co-ordination meetings with the World Bank”. Equally, when the World Bank announced in 1993 that it had suspended disbursements to Sudan because of that country’s arrears of US$1.14 billion, the IDB immediately agreed to finance a US$8 million road-building project in the country. Both the World Bank and the IDB have been fully aware of political factors when dealing with Sudan

Development Agendas
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank link economic progress to the wider issue of development. Interestingly, both institutions identify the same priorities for assistance in their respective member countries: food security, trade among member countries, infrastructure, human resource development and technological advancement. Just as the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) emphasise their continuing commitment to health and education projects, IDB reports also stress the financing of social-sector projects such as education and health. Equally, as food security and poverty reduction are highlighted in World Bank literature, the IDB declares its full participation in the achievement of the goals and objectives of the Decade of Food Security for the Islamic Countries.

Regarding infrastructure, the IDA declare good roads, ports, water supply, and irrigation to be the “ifelines of a nation” underpinning production and “creating the channels vital to bringing goods to domestic and foreign markets”. Meanwhile, the IDB pronounces the development of infrastructure to be vital “in order to stimulate the flow of investments, especially from the private sector, and to make these investments more productive”. Thus, organisations which are essentially the aid agencies of the Western and Islamic worlds are advancing virtually identical parts of a development agenda for Africa. According to Choudhury, the emphasis is different: the Islamic formula looks to “an integrated co-operative socio-economic model of development as opposed to a neo-classical competitive equilibrium model”. Yet, Islamic economics upholds the market and assumes that the forces of supply and demand will give rise to a just price. Likewise, whilst monopolies are condemned “Muslim societies impose little tax upon profits”, which might, at first sight, appear to undermine redistributive policies. But Islamic banks have social welfare duties to perform, such as the payment of zakat on their deposits. The payment of zakat is a religious obligation for Muslims and the money is used to assist the poor and for other designated purposes.

The Islamic development agenda does not detach the countries of the South from the industrialised world. Instead, it demands that “international multilateral resource flows” - i.e., aid, concessionary lending, and grants - be “untied” from the West’s conditionality arrangements. These unconditional resources, together with indigenous resources, could be mobilised on the basis of shared interests and co-operation. Allegedly, this approach is different from IMF and World Bank strategies because it overrides the emphasis on the needs and requirements of the nation-state in favour of a “collective self-reliant integrated development of the South” as a whole. OAPEC countries would be expected to contribute more to the poorer areas of Africa. The difficulties with this model do not lie with its economic imprecision nor, indeed, with its predominantly theoretical basis. Instead they lie with its unwillingness to acknowledge that resources which flow from the Middle East to Africa are also conditional or “tied” to an Islamic political agenda.

Between 1975 and 1991, the IDB allocated 21.6 per cent of its budget to transport and communication works, which accounted for the highest level of expenditure in 1991. Tables 2 , 3and 4 show that the share of resources devoted to expenditure on transport and utilities has been increasing over the period. Monies were allocated for road-building to link the economies of West African countries such as Senegal, Niger, Mali, Guinea, and Burkino Faso. The IDB is attempting to promote intra-Islamic trade because it is “convinced of the role that intra-trade plays in consolidating economic co-operation and integration”. Loans are a mode of financing used by the IDB to finance infrastructure projects in member countries, particularly the least developed. Although interest-free, they nevertheless carry a service fee intended to cover the actual costs of administering them. The repayment period normally ranges from 15 to 25 years, including a grace period of 3 to 5 years. The mudarabah is a form of partnership where one party provides the funds while the other provides the expertise and management. The latter is referred to as the mudarib. Any profits accrued are shared between the two parties on a pre-agreed basis, while capital loss is borne by the partner providing the capital. Another Islamic financing technique, the musharakah, adopts “equity sharing” as a means of financing projects. Thus, it embraces different types of partnerships for sharing profit and loss. The partners (entrepreneurs, bankers, etc.) share both capital and management of a project so that profits will be distributed among them according to determined ratios of their equity participation.

Up to the end of 1992, total trade financing commitments had reached around US$8 million. Yet, Islamic economic processes have a tendency to stifle trade, in that prices fail to reflect real costs. Although the IDB is regarded as doing “good work”, it is felt it has not achieved its economic goals. (In a sense, the Bank is constricted by the economies of the Arab world which fail to generate high levels of resources over and above oil production. The agricultural sector, for example, has traditionally been weak in Arab states with poor levels of irrigation, and low levels of use in mechanisation, fertilisers and pesticides. Industrialisation and technological development have likewise been restricted. According to some economists, economic co-operation and integration among Islamic countries have now become urgent largely because of the deficiencies in the economies of individual nation states. Certainly the ratio of intra-trade between IDB member countries is disappointing.(Table 5) Also, as Table 6 illustrates, around 60 per cent of the Bank’s subscriptions come from only four countries: Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait and Iran - all nations with varied patterns of Islamic political expression.

Attention is now focusing on the role of “Islamic Investment Companies” (IICs) or “Islamic Finance Houses” (the translation from Arabic of Sharikat Tawzif Al-Amwal is “Capital Employment Companies”) which are thought to number around 104 in Egypt with an estimated deposit value of US$2.3 billion. They are, in fact, closed companies which attract savers either to deposit their savings in exchange for returns (without participation in the decision-making) or to own shares and stocks in the company. The companies utilise “Islamic” forms of investment such as those outlined above: mudarabah; musharaka, and murabaha. Such organisations, apart from siphoning money away from other institutions, can also convey political overtones: “The IICs are the economic symbol of rising Islamic tendencies in Egypt. The shift in the ideological make-up of Egyptians towards Islam has made them ready to deposit their money in the IICs. They use non-usurious concepts of economics and Islamic symbols. They open their speeches and their advertisements with Qur’anic verses.” Some IICs are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, but religious leaders and personalities are generally recruited as consultants. Islamic groups have “propagated the idea of an independent Islamic economy” and those companies play an important role From the perspective of Egypt and other countries with strong Islamic communities, the position is complex. Whilst the IMF and World Bank hand down strictures on privatisation and economic liberalisation, Islamic companies are organising alternative forms of economic exchange. When the Egyptian government passed Law 146 in 1988 legalising and regulating Islamic companies, a Muslim Brotherhood member of the People’s Assemblynamed Hasan al-Gamal condemned Law 146 as representing a “conspiracy against the Islamic solution and the Islamic movement” It is perhaps appropriate here not to lose sight of the fact that petro-dollars were invested in Western banks, suggesting that the adoption of “Islamic economics” has not always been entirely obligatory under sharia. Equally, a number of the Islamic investment companies have been criticised for resorting to “Islamic rhetoric to legitimise their activity”

African and Arab member states of the ICO do not lack the necessary resource base for a better future. As a group they command “a rich endowment of natural resources and minerals, a big market of around one billion consumers and a relatively important number of scientists and experts in various disciplines scattered all over the world”. Their relative underdevelopment results from technological backwardness and dependence: “most of the ICO countries lack the basic technologies that would be essential for the realisation of their industrial revolution”. Rafsanjani stated in 1994 that Iran’s “first priority” in foreign policy was to “develop further our relations with African states and Muslim nations in political and economic spheres”.

Muslim Clashes
Tension between Islamic groups is one of the recurring features of African politics in the 1990s and clashes have occurred in numerous countries, including member states of the ICO. In Guinea, the government launched an “offensive against Islamic fundamentalism” by sentencing Islamists for “violence and inflammatory speeches”. The leader of the group was allegedly trained in Algeria with the intention of starting a jihad or holy war. Imams (religious leaders) call for a return to Muslim values; “The wearing of the Islamic headscarf for women, a toughening up of the Friday prayer sermon, and above all, the appointment of young imams trained in Iran and Iraq.” These views have alarmed the secretary-general of the Islamic League who claims: “Extremism is dangerous, we shall fight it by all possible means.” Ninety per cent of Guineans are Muslims and the Islamic League fears that “extreme concepts may strike a chord with thousands of young people with time on their hands”. The government in Senegal deported two officials of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Sudan and Chad for alleged fundamentalist activities and later went on to close the local offices of five foreign Muslim charitable organisations claiming they were acting as cover for radical groups aiming “to destabilise the country”.

Demonstrators in Ethiopia called on the government to give full authority to sharia courts to ban the existing Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs. The president of the Central African Republic, Ange-Félix Patasse accused the Muslim community of engaging in acts of violence: “insecurity in the country is largely caused by the Islamic community”. The Azaouad Arab Islamic Front claimed responsibility for a violent outburst and the killings of civilians in Mali, and Islamic groups in Chad distributed leaflets calling on non-Muslim communities to convert to Islam without delay’ or to leave the country. The president of Somalia officially inaugurated an Islamic court to operate in accordance with “pure Islamic sharia”, claiming that “it was regrettable that the Somali people, who were historically of Islamic faith, had never been given the opportunity to rule themselves according to the Qur’an”. Iran’s Ayatolah Khomenei in 1993 announced that Muslims living in other regions should pay attention: “The Islamic struggle is like a traditional military battle. It is confrontation. You sit, think, show initiative and counter any move of the enemy.” Iran was the main force in advancing the Islamic revolution. Zambia’s United National Independence party was accused in 1993 of formulating a destabilisation plan funded by Iran, although Iran “strongly rejected” the allegations.

The interior minister of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania overtly stated that Islamic groups, especially the Islamic Movement in Mauritania (Hasan) were strongly linked with Islamic organisations in Algeria, Sudan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Various Islamic organisations and cultural centres were accused of attempting to “undermine Mauritanian security by threatening to kill innocent Muslims and creating a climate of fear among believers”. Hasan co-ordinated activities with other groups including the Call to Islam, the Cultural and Islamic Association of Mauritania, the Ben Masaoud Institute, Mis’ab Bin Umayr, and the Higher Institute for Islamic Philosophy with the intention of paralysing the government and destabilising the population. The infiltration of the NGOs was especially condemned: “They exploit the relief organisations residing in our country in order to obtain the necessary revenues to implement their plans, ignoring the rights of the poor and needy who are more entitled to such assistance”. NGOs were used as channels through which to funnel monies from overseas. Mauritania, a Muslim country, was deliberately being violated by extremist behaviour which “contravenes the teachings of true believers”. Hasan is alleged to have delineated its activities into four areas: planning principles, strategic planning, assessment principles and ways of communication. The aim was mobilisation and training in jihad guerrilla warfare inside cities and towns” with the objective of “overthrowing the authorities by every means”. Through a process of infiltration of the official media, NGOs, educational and cultural organisations, and a programme of training in military technique, Hasan intends to mobilise the organisation’s members and supporters. Charity NGOs in Mauritania, numbering over 200, carry out major social programmes aimed at the underprivileged living in shantytowns around the capital where large numbers of unemployed young people “are left to their own devices” and, consequently, have enormous potential to influence people’s views. In recognition of this potential, the Mauritanian government issued radio broadcasts specifically directed at young people warning them against the teachings of extreme Islamic groups. Yet, social and economic deprivation can lead to a radicalisation of belief.

Tensions clearly exist among Islamic groups within Muslim countries which are member of the ICO. These activities sit uneasily with claims made at ICO summit meetings that only in “non-Muslim countries” are the “basic human right of Muslims violated” and their places of worship undermined. Splits between Islamists deeply affect the lives of Muslims. Interestingly, the whole of the northern belt countries south of North Africa are regarded as “borderline states” by Sudan because of their close association with the Arab world and the possibility of their integration into the wider Muslim umma. The increase in Arab education and the Arabic language further promoted the possibility of integration and the formal establishment of Islamic statehood. Divisions between Islamist groups are largely a result of the Sunni-Shi’a split which was exacerbated by the Iran-Iraq war throughout the 1980s. Propaganda has been played out in the “borderline states” and Sudan accused of pursuing a policy of destabilisation in several countries in the Horn of Africa.


The term “third world” is probably no more illuminating than the terms which preceded it, such as “developing countries”, “underdeveloped countries” or “emergent countries”, but it has come into common usage for want of anything better. Robert Pinkney believes the third world was broadly delineated at the point at which the first and second worlds ended. Nigel Harris agrees: “It [the third world] identified not just a group of new states joined later by the older states of Latin America, nor the majority of the world’s poor, but a political alternative other than that presented by Washington and Moscow, the first and second worlds. Certainly, the third world’s identification with difficult social and economic circumstances, an unequal relationship with the “developed” world and often a recent emergence from colonial rule, determined and defined the term more clearly. Yet, from the beginning, it included nations with very different cultures, religions, societies, and economies and could always be regarded as a “dynamic arena, changeable and in constant flux”.

Nigel Harris’s assertion that the third world is disappearing is based not on the countries or their inhabitants but on the argument itself. A new set of economic determinants have created a complex global economy and supersedes the old simplicities of “First and Third Worlds, rich and poor, haves and have-nots, industrialised and non-industrialised” Whereas in the past the third world debate informed and instructed us of the differentials between the categories of first, second and third worlds, it is now time to change our perspective. In a sense, the third world has been seen as a static debilitating category: countries economically impoverished and politically unstable, harnessed to a world economy on a detrimental basis, often dependent on aid, unable to sustain civil society, and often linked together on the theoretical justification of Marxist-Leninist analysis. Some features are still apparent but manifestly not in every country as World Bank figures attest. Equally, the third world has occasioned a convoluted response from the West, in part confessional, a mea culpa for past colonial misdemeanours and in part a notion of “otherness”, to be pitied and patronised, aided and armed and expected to contort to Western interests or indifference. Modernisation and Dependency theories, Marxist and liberal analysis have failed to understand fully the “contradictory elements”, and complexities of other societies. It has been the inappropriateness of the Western intellectually based Marxist or Liberal Democratic models of development that has given rise to a general mood that not only renders the category third world problematic but also requires that ideas of political life should be re-examined. In this context Jean-François Bayart has successfully brought these views to the fore in employing the longue durée approach to attempt to understand change over a longer time period.

But how far is the relationship between the Middle East and Africa relevant within a third world context? To what extent does the amalgamation of the two regions into this category mask the complexities of a changing relationship? In attempting to understand more clearly the relationship, we must acknowledge that the historicity of African societies contains forms of Muslim leadership. In some instances, Islam completely transformed identities. The costal Swahili Muslims see themselves as the “rightful guardians of the true Islamic heritage in East Africa”, with a language based on Arabic while Islamists in Sudan claim their policies represent a return to “Afro-Islamic authenticity”. The degree to which many immigrants from Arabia were assimilated into Swahili society from the twelfth century has largely been underestimated. There is considerable strength and depth to the Islamic heritage of sub-Saharan Africa, yet there exist permutations in the manner in which Islamic beliefs spread and manifest themselves within different tribal settings. These “very strong cultural links” are sustained and enhanced by North African influences particularly from countries such as Egypt, Libya and Algeria.

The fact that the Islam in Africa Organisation has been established at the behest of the Islamic Conference Organisation with the stated objective of ensuring the appointment of Muslims to strategic posts and the ultimate replacement of Western legal systems with the sharia is significant. It may be, however, that the adoption of the longue durée perspective justifies the institution of sharia in sub-Saharan African states. Radical Islam has more recently adopted a liberating posture, presenting itself as religion that will wrest countries from their neo-colonial dependencies, but largely ignoring the fact that it too was a conquering and colonising force in Africa over the longue durée. In a sense, all societies are victims of domination but the farther back in time, the deeper the cultural impact of domination. Pre-colonial Africa was, in part, Islamic Africa.

So where does this Islamic agenda for sub-Saharan Africa fit into the postmodernism debate? According to Bryan Turner, Islamisation challenges the idea of a “grand narrative” of a single national homogenous identity, by undermining assumptions concerning the integration and ethnic coherence of the nation state.

Increasing fragmentation and cultural heterogeneity are the hallmarks of postmodernity. But does Islam conform to this interpretation? At first sight, it would appear not to. Islamic conversion follows a general process of homogenisation of religious belief and social practice. In fact there are few dynamics more homogenising than the concept of the umma. However, it is the continuing discourse surrounding the traditional-versus-dynamic dimensions of Islam which lies at the core of where to situate Islam in the post-modern debate. If Islam adapts to changing global politics, adopts strands of other ideologies and straddles the private and public sphere in its ability to inform an understanding of how society is run on social, economic and behavioural levels it surely must become a new ‘modernism’ or neo-modernist movement with its own “grand narrative”. It will also provide a formidable development strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. But if it assumes a retrogressive stance, continually seeking to re-enact past patterns of political organisation, it will become increasingly fragmented and incoherent; a movement driven by its own divisions and constantly challenged in its “nervous discourses”. It will therefore become a post-modern reality. One aspect , however, is clear: the relationship between sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East has been masked by the common category of the third world and is no longer preserved in the aspic of anti-imperialist sentiment. It is in the sphere of Islamic revivalism and economic strategy that a future relationship will be played out.

Endnotes and bibliography for this paper are to be found in the book The Middle Eastern Environment

Table 1 BADEA financing in African countries, 1975-93 (in $m)

Angola 19.2
Benin 39.6
Botswana 48.2
Burkina Faso 60.6
Burundi 31.6
Cameroon 29.0
Cape Verde 30.4
Central African Republic 8.5
Chad 26.0
Comoros Islands 11.2
Congo 24.1
Equatorial Guinea 10.1
Gabon 8.8
Gambia 11.8
Ghana 68.4
Guinea 57.4
Guinea Bissau 22.0
Ivory Coast 3.3
Kenya 23.7
Lesotho 24.0
Liberia 7.0
Madagascar 48.5
Mali 51.3
Mauritius 27.6
Mozambique 44.6
Namibia 0.175
Niger 38.7
Rwanda 46.5
São Tome and Principe Islands 10.4
Senegal 68.6
Seychelles Islands 5.3
Sierra leone 6.5
Tanzania 12.4
Togo 7.6
Uganda 39.4
Zaire 10.0
Zambia 17.9
Zimbabwe 73.5

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Table 2 Sectoral breakdown of BADEA annual commitments, 1975-93 (in $m)
Infrastructure Agriculture Industry Energy Special Programme Technical Assistance Total
Year Amount% Amount% Amount% Amount% Amount% Amount% Amount%
1975-87 345.28150.4 181.31446.5 77.61611.3 63.7049.3 14.6002.1 2.3140.4 684.829100
1988 29.50047.3 22.60036.2 -- -- -- 0.3200.5 62.420100
1989 16.30028.6 31.15054.6 -- 10.00017.5 -- 0.5500.9 58.000100
1990 28.73043.325.61048.2------1.9990.356.339100
1991 41.53862.410.40015.63.5005.28.82013.2--2.3803.666.638100
1992 44.16059.627.65037.3------2.2163.174.026100
1993 45.59460.819.18025.67.2009.6----2.975474.949100
1975-93 561.10352.0317.90429.788.3168.282.5247.714.6001.312.7541.11077.201100
Percentages are rounded to one decimal place

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Table 3 Sub-sectoral breakdown of BADEA annual commitments, 1975-93 (in $m)
Sector1975-871988 19891990 19911992 1993Totals
Roads174.72639.500 16.30028.730 21.58028.160 21.400330.396
Railways23.196- -- -- -23.196
River transport4.600- -- -9.000 3.93417.534
Air transport41.746- -- -- -41.746
Telecommunications19.301- -- -- 10.00029.301
Water supply and drainage2.864- -- 19.9587.000 -29.822
Dams/bridges32.037- -- -- 10.26042.297
Public services46.811- -- -- -46.811
Sub-total345.28139.500 16.30028.730 41.53844.160 45.594561.103
Rural development34.02021.600 21.750- -- 8.28085.650
Food production85.964- -25.610 10.40027.650 -149.624
Livestock and poultry12.271- -- -- 3.50015.771
Fishing33.565- -- -- -33.565
Agro-industry11.7491.000 -- -- 7.40020.149
Forestry3.745- 9.400- -- -13.145
Sub-total181.31422.600 31.15025.610 10.40027.650 19.180317.904
Building materials industry31.406- -- -- -31.406
Chemical industry6.982- -- -- -6.982
Small and medium industries39.228- -- 3.500- 7.20049.928
Sub-total77.616- -- 3.500- 7.20088.316
Electric power: infrastructure and production63.704- 10.000- 8.820- -82.524
Special programme-- -- -- --
Emergency aid14.600- -- -- -14.600
Technical assistance2.3140.320 0.5501.999 2.3802.216 2.97512.754
Sub-total80.6180.320 10.5501.999 11.2002.216 2.975109.878
Total684.82962.420 58.00056.339 66.63874.026 74.9491077.201

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Table 4 Sectoral distribution of ordinary operations*(ID million)
Agriculture and Agro-Industry 30.2518.3358.1933.0439.6618.26374.2216.59
Industry and Mining 48.2029.2153.8530.5743.2819.93682.9530.28
Transport and Communication 26.9816.3520.3611.5659.0427.18487.9821.64
Utilities 18.3911.1427.4715.6030.9714.26387.8317.20
Social sectors 34.9621.1912.887.3144.2620.38286.1312.69
Others** 6.243.783.381.92-0.0036.291.61
Total 165.02100.00176.13100.00217.21100.002255.40100.00
* including only project financing and technical assistance. Cancelled projects are excluded from all figures
** includes mainly approved amounts for Islamic Banks
Percentages are rounded to two decimal places

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Table 5 Country-wise periodic change in the ration of intra-trade of IDB member countries (percentages)
Country19801986-90Exports Change1980-51986-90Imports
Afghanistan 12.0 2.2 - 3.5 2.5 -
Algeria 0.6 2.4 + 2.1 4.8 +
Bahrain 33.4 23.4 - 56.9 46.4 -
Bangladesh 19.6 10.0 - 17.2 11.7 -
Benin 4.0 9.0 + 7.8 3.7 -
Brunei 0.5 0.1 - 4.7 6.1 +
Burkina Faso 3.6 4.4 + 1.9 2.6 +
Cameroon 2.8 4.2 + 6.5 6.1 =
Chad 9.2 11.2 + 11.8 13.3 +
Comoros n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Djibouti 75.7a 80.5b + 13.4a 23.4b +
Egypt 5.0 6.3 + 2.7 5.1 +
Gabon 2.3 2.3 = 3.4 5.7 +
Gambia 11.4 5.2 - 5.9 3.3 -
Guinea 7.3 8.6 + 4.1 4.8 =
Guinea Bissau 6.0 3.6 - 4.7 5.5 +
Indonesia 1.6 3.8 + 7.1 7.0 =
Iran n.a. 9.6f n.a. n.a. 10.6f n.a.
Iraq 15.1 17.6 + 13.2 20.5 +
Jordan 47.6 38.1 - 20.6 25.9 +
Kuwait 16.9 15.8 = 6.6 12.5 +
Lebanon 55.1 45.8 - 15.2 16.4 +
Libya 5.2 4.0 - 4.0 6.7 +
Malaysia 4.4 5.1 + 6.7 3.7 -
Maldives 4.8d 1.5b - 1.8 1.6b =
Mali 4.8 21.5 + 9.3 6.5 -
Mauritania 1.1 4.4 + 11.5 12.6 =
Morocco 10.4 9.4 - 21.7 10.8 -
Niger 4.4 1.5 - 5.4 2.9 -
Oman 0.6 1.1 = 20.7 25.8b +
Pakistan 27.4 16.5 - 33.6 22.4 -
Qatar 4.9 8.7 + 7.1 11.6 +
Saudi Arabia 10.9 11.1 = 5.3 7.3 +
Senegal 9.1 10.9 + 8.8 5.3 -
Sierra Leone 1.5c 0.3 - 4.3 1.3 -
Somalia 75.8 62.5 - 22.1 16.0 -
Sudan 31.6 30.8 = 23.1 25.3 +
Syria 13.3 15.2 + 18.3 13.9 -
Tunisia 6.7 11.8 + 7.9 8.6 =
Turkey 30.8 27.0 - 27.1 16.1 -
Uganda 5.1 4.3 - 3.3 7.0 +
United Arab Emirates 6.3 9.0 + 12.7 12.1 =
Yemen Rep. n.a. 10.2e n.a. n.a. 23.1e n.a.
Notes: a) data for 1982-5; b) 1986-9; c) 1981-5; d) 1983-5; e) 1988-9; f) 1988-90;
- sign indicates decline; + sign denotes an increase, whereas = sign presents no significant change.
Source: Figures are based on the data provided in the previous issues of the IBD’s Annual Report.

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Table 6 Subscription to IDB share capital as on 29th Dhul Hijah 1412H (June 30, 1992)
Subscribed amount (ID million)Percentage
Afghanistan 2.50 0.12
Algeria 63.10 3.11
Bahrain 7.00 0.35
Bangladesh 25.00 1.23
Benin 2.50 0.12
Brunei 6.30 0.31
Burkina Faso 6.30 0.31
Cameroon 6.30 0.31
Chad 2.50 0.12
Comoros Islands 2.50 0.12
Djibouti 2.50 0.12
Egypt 25.00 1.23
Gabon 7.50 0.37
Gambia 2.50 0.12
Guinea 6.30 0.31
Guinea Bissau 2.50 0.12
Indonesia 63.10 3.11
Iran 13.05 0.64
Iraq 177.50 8.75
Jordan 10.10 0.50
Kuwait 252.20 12.43
Lebanon 2.50 0.12
Libya 315.30 15.54
Malaysia 40.40 1.99
Maldives 2.50 0.12
Mali 2.50 0.12
Mauritania 2.50 0.12
Morocco 12.60 0.62
Niger 6.30 0.31
Oman 7.00 0.35
Pakistan 63.10 3.11
Palestine 5.00 0.25
Qatar 25.00 1.23
Saudi Arabia 506.37 24.96
Senegal 6.30 0.31
Sierra Leone 2.50 0.12
Somalia 2.50 0.12
Sudan 10.00 0.49
Syria 2.50 0.12
Tunisia 5.00 0.25
Turkey 160.00 7.89
Uganda 6.30 0.31
United Arab Emirates 143.72 7.08
Yemen Rep. 12.60 0.62
Total 2028.74 100.00
Percentages are rounded to two decimal places

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