Hillary Clinton, Goldman Sachs and ‘African Development’

Hillary Clinton is still refusing to release the transcripts of three paid speeches she gave in 2013 at Goldman Sachs, “an investment bank notorious for using its ties to public officials to influence policy.” The speeches collectively netted her $675,000.

We came across a video of a speech she gave to Goldman Sachs at the headquarters of the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2014. On this occasion, the investment firm was celebrating its 10,000 Women initiative, an anti-poverty campaign that invests in entrepreneurial women (and entrepreneurial women only) in low-income countries. In the speech, Clinton has some fun at Africa’s expense.

First, some background: The 10,000 Women program argues that women in poor countries are best positioned to fix the global economy, because of their inherently female tendency to reinvest most of their earnings in their families and communities. As poor women are liberated from the yoke of tradition, culture and other patriarchal norms that might stifle their private sector potential, they are free to access credit, grow businesses and solve poverty once and for all. Indeed, Goldman Sachs’ chiefs and allies assure you that overcoming the credit gap will empower women to take up their “rightful role in helping to change the face of the global economy.”

The Clintons have long been entangled with this corporate development agenda, so it wasn’t surprising that Hillary took to the stage at the 2014 event and hailed Goldman Sachs’ work with a boilerplate about “extraordinary commitment.” She declared “the credit gap [one] of the biggest problems we face in the global economy,” but neglected to mention that, on the whole, micro-lending programs have had disappointing results. At times, the results have been tragic. Instead Hillary offered an anecdote about a trip to Africa she made some 20 years ago.

About 6:35 into the video, Clinton begins talking about unnamed African economists she met somewhere (undisclosed) in Africa. To her horror and amusement, the economists were utterly oblivious to the contributions women were making to their communities. Clinton asked them how they calculated women’s work and they told her, “we don’t.” She then lectured them on their apparent sexism.

Yet, as resident AIAC economist, Grieve Chelwa, recently reminded us on this site, “women’s contribution to, for instance, agriculture in most African countries are [actually] relatively well captured in agricultural surveys. And agriculture is not an insignificant part of total output on the continent.” Furthermore, “women’s domestic work is hardly reflected in GDP statistics even in the U.S.”

One of the obvious problems with Clinton’s admiration and approval of Goldman Sachs’ approach, is that it paints, at best, an incomplete picture of how free-market capitalism actually works, and that it promotes the idea that poor women and rich banks, rather than states, are responsible for fixing economic problems.

In reality, as long as US and other multinationals keep sucking billions of dollars out of the continent every year – through tax evasion and trade mispricing practices – the potential for African women entrepreneurs and their respective countries to prosper is limited.

Clinton knows this all too well and so the video exposes not only her cozy connections with Wall Street oligarchs, but also her avowed establishment perspective on global development.

*For more on Hillary’s Africa agenda, see previously on AIAC, and in-depth coverage in other media here, here, here, here and here.

Maria Hengeveld

Maria Hengeveld is a graduate student at Columbia University. Previously she lived in Cape Town, South Africa.

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©Africa is a Country, 2016