Globalisation threatens to "exploit, denigrate and humiliate" Africa like slavery and colonialism once did, outgoing Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa said on Wednesday.
In a speech at the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Mkapa said current world trade rules were based on colonial beliefs that Africans were inferior people.
He also criticised African leaders for paying lip service to the trade crisis - the continent's global share is just 2 percent - without taking any real action.
"We suffered during the slave trade, and we suffered during the colonial period, which ushered us into a global trading regime, not as equal players but as appendages of metropolitan powers," Mkapa, who leaves office in two months, said.
He added: "We have little flexibility to wrestle ourselves out of the grip of the multinationals that profit from our position of weakness.
"What is worse, governments in rich countries - perhaps unintentionally - make it difficult for us to break free by charging us escalating tariffs when we try to process our agricultural products before exporting them."
Mkapa said monumental agricultural subsidies of over US $300 billion each year that European countries gave to their farming sector made it difficult, if not impossible, for Africa - whose competitive advantage lies in the agricultural sector - to benefit from the existing regime and process of globalisation.
He added that current trade rules meant that Africa, the world's poorest continent, faced massive tariffs when it tried to export processed goods, keeping it at the mercy of fickle commodity prices and erratic weather.
Two thirds of Africa's exports are primary goods like cocoa and coffee.
The European Union imposed a tariff of 7.3 percent on unprocessed coffee, he said, while final processed beans incurred a 30 percent tariff. He noted that a Tanzanian farmer selling cashew nuts would get $0.5 a kilo, while the final consumer price was 50 times that.
"The sad thing is that the greatest activists for the needs of our countries regarding matters such as aid, trade and debt are not African civil society but civil society in rich countries," he said.
He added: "I urge African leaders to think afresh about the place of our continent in a rapidly globalising world."