After the successful completion of US-Africa Summit, the news was dominated by Ebola explosion that ferociously and perilously stole the thunder from the rosy aftermath analysis of the summit. But wait a second; I still have some reflections on the historic summit:
When I read on the pages of New York Times on President Obama summoning his African counterparts for the US-Africa Summit in Washington DC; my first reaction was purely based on cost analysis, specifically on the venue of the summit. Why is it necessary for all the leaders to gather in Washington DC to see President Obama? Is it not more logical to hold the convention in Africa in the deference to the opportunity cost of logistic and travelling cost?
My perspective was perfected due to the accrued cost of transportation, accommodation and traveling expenses, for it should be more commonsensical to hold the summit in African soil. Moreover, a tele/video conference is just as good as a face-to-face summit. My thinking was based on the money, for cost of traveling could be better utilize to provide a health clinic and running water in a remote village in Africa.
But when I put on my diplomatic and international politics cap, it dawned on me that it made more political sense for the summit to hold in United States. The Washington DC was appropriate for two principal reasons. First and foremost, the proximity to the American business community is utmost important. It makes American business, diplomatic and political community more accessible to the visiting African leaders. Secondly, the publicity and dissemination of the news on the significance of the summit can be in the better hands of American news machine.
Next time, if there is going to be another Africa-US Summit; Africa is the most appropriate venue especially in Abuja, Addis Abba or Pretoria. Please do not me why I pick those venues in Africa, the reason is self-evident. Abuja is capital of Nigeria, which is the most populous and largest economy in Africa, Addis Abba is the headquarter of African Union while Pretoria, capital of South Africa, is the second largest economy and perhaps the most developed economy with modern infrastructures in the continent.
Africa is richly endowed with both human capital and natural resources that can make it competitive with rest of other continents, but intellectual lethargy and psychological set-down made Africa to become independent to other exterior economies. Take for instance Nigeria has more resources than Britain and France combined yet Nigeria has a lesser GDP than Britain and France respectively. Britain has a population of 60 million with GDP of 2.435 trillion USD, and French population 65.7 million with GDP 2.613 trillion USD; Nigeria has a population of 170 million with over half trillion GDP. Nigeria with more resources and with more engineers and technologists would have been richer, but rather she recorded lower GDP and income capita per head. And “If Britain were to join the United States, it would be the second-poorest state, behind Alabama and ahead of Mississippi,” while Nigeria with a well managed economy will fare better.
The US-Africa Summit is a significant development for it introduced a dynamic and equal relationship between Africa and United States. But the reality and factuality is that Africa has all it need to develop its economy and emerged as industrial and rich continent. Africa must first and foremost realize that her destiny is in her hands and not in the galaxy and Milken way.
United States should encourage elimination of corruption in Africa and beyond the shores of the continent. The responsibility of fighting corruption is too complex and gigantic to be left for one party. Both Africa and West must partake in the fight against corruption. The West must enact banking laws that will fish out bankers that accept laundered money and tainted wealth from corrupt African leaders and bureaucrats. Ill-gotten wealth must be returned to Africa without much ado, while the culprits must be exposed and prosecuted.
The West must work together with African governments on the war against corruption and bribery. Corporations and Transnational companies operating in Africa must not induce politicians and bureaucrats with bribes in their quest for contracts.
“African Union estimates that the continent loses as much as $148 billion a year to corruption. This money is rarely invested in Africa but finds its way into the international banking system and often into western banks. The proceeds of corrupt practices in Africa, (which the African experts group recommended in 2002 should be classified as a ‘crime against humanity’ because of its impact on ordinary people), are often laundered and made respectable by some of the most well-known banks in the City of London or the discreet personal bankers of Geneva and Zurich," including secret Swiss and off-shore accounts
Swiss traders’ alleged corruption on the buying of Nigeria and Africa’s crude oil without transparency and accountability was reported by SWISSAID:
“In Nigeria, Swiss companies bought oil worth $37 billion over the three years, an amount equal to more than 18 percent of the national government’s revenues. Payments of this scale that affect the development prospects of poor countries require public oversight, which has been largely missing in most of the scenarios described in this report. Transparency provides citizens with a tool to hold their government to account for the management of their country’s most valuable asset. To achieve transparency, we recommend the following: • Oil-producing governments and NOCs should adopt rules and practices that encourage integrity in the selection of buyers and determination of the selling price, including detailed public disclosures on how the state’s share of production is allocated and sold.
Switzerland should accept its responsibility as the world’s leading commodity trading hub and pass regulation that requires Swiss companies producing or trading in natural resources to disclose all payments made to governments and state-owned companies, including payments associated with trading activities. In a 25 June 2014 report, the Swiss federal government indicated a preference to exclude trading-related payments from future regulation of this kind. If that position holds, the payments described in this report would remain secret.”
US-Africa Summit is a good start for better relationship for trade and commerce, but Africa must not think that America must do for her what she must do for her-self. Africa must stand up and be counted lest the voices of the prophets of doom will proclaim her irrelevancy and subsidiarity.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at AFRIPOL. His works have appeared in Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Forbes and many other important journals around the world. His writings have also been cited in many economic books, publications and many institutions of higher learning including tagteam Harvard Education. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.