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Despite his African heritage Barack Obama appears to have done little for his father's continent in his first term as US president.
He could not match George Bush's generous legacy of millions of dollars poured in into health in Africa. Besides, he could not be seen to be worrying about such a remote and ostensibly inconsequential continent (for Americans, anyway) while the US was under threat from Islamic militants and its economy was shedding jobs.
All US presidents, and uniquely this one (given his unconventional background) have to prove themselves to the American people in their first term. In his case Obama had to prove that he was not some liberal pacifist wimp of foreign parentage who couldn't use military might to punish America's enemies. He had to 'win' the war in Iraq, track down Bin Laden and kill him and send drones over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia to kill terrorists. That, by the way, may be a war crime under international law.
He also expended a huge amount of political capital getting his health scheme through Congress. It is still to be implemented. He has however been able to do little about America's declining economy and the subsequent decline in political power in the world. As campaigning gets under way for next November's election we will, I suspect, see little of the compassionate, intellectual man and more of warrior Obama.
If he wins a second term things will be different. He doesn't need to get re-elected. Consequently we may see Obama trying to straighten out Africa's bad politics. I am told he is ready for it. Contrary to appearances, he has remained quietly engaged with Africa throughout his first term, constantly phoning presidents and others - especially the Kenyans when there is tension. He has also had many of the Big Men to Washington for state visits. But it has been low profile.
Richard Dowden with President Jonathan in Nigeria
The paradox of Africa at the moment is that, at last, it is where the hot money is going. Trade is booming and Africa's economies are among the fastest growing on the planet. But the politics are as bad as ever and next year several countries, Kenya included, are facing elections which may spark violence and war. At this moment of economic opportunity there remains the great threat of disruption, and a dearth of leadership to guide countries around it or through it. There is no one like Olusegun Obasanjo, Thabo Mbeki or Nelson Mandela who could provide a continent-wide vision and summon other rulers to help deal with crises. The traditional Big Men - the South Africans and Nigerians - are inward looking, their leaders not confident of making the right calls and giving decisive leadership. They backed different horses in Cote d'Ivoire and, like almost all African governments, kept quiet about Libya.
So there is a role for Obama in his second term, maybe not too prominent, but as a consensus builder. US interests outside West African oil are almost purely concentrated on making Africa successful and secure. Future generations may wonder how on earth China managed to get every one of Africa's rulers to come and shake hands with the Chinese president and premier in 2006 while the United States never even bothered to invite them. If the US is going to continue to be sole or joint Top Nation, it surely needs a substantial engagement in Africa beyond aid money and fighting terrorism. Obama could provide that.
Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa: altered states, ordinary miracles
Africa is the world’s most profitable region, says Econometrix chief economist Azar Jammine. At a presentation in Johannesburg yesterday, he cited an analysis by the University of Oxford which showed that, adjusted for risk, Africa came out “way above” Asia and Latin America.
Jammine, with Frontier Advisory chief executive Martyn Davies, presented the findings of the MasterCard Worldwide Insights report, entitled Taking Stock: The State of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report shows growth in the region has not been dominated by mining. Between 2002 and 2007, the fastest growing sectors were hotels and restaurants, with annual growth of 8.7 percent; financial services at 8 percent; transport and communications at 7.8 percent; construction at 7.5 percent; and utilities at 7.3 percent.
“Services are just as important, if not more important, than resources, in terms of economic opportunities,” Jammine said, but noted manufacturing and agriculture lagged.
Jammine and Davies painted a convincing picture of the recent continental success story, after decades of lagging the world. Since 2000, when The Economist magazine labelled Africa “The Hopeless Continent” in a controversial cover story, the region has experienced the third-fastest economic growth in the world.
“Ironically this publication appears to have marked the turning point in perceptions of economic opportunities on the continent,” the report said, predicting Africa would take over from China and India as the world’s engine of growth.
The report showed sub-Saharan Africa was the only region in the world that saw an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) during the 2007/08 financial crisis and the global recession that followed.
The continent is vast – 30.3 million square kilometres – big enough to accommodate China, the US, western Europe, India and Argentina.
And it has the fastest growing population in the world, set to top 1 billion within the next six years, providing a major share of the world’s future workers, Jammine said. “We are talking about an increase of 700 million working age people over the next 40 years, bigger even than the 600 million increase we are looking for in Asia.” He contrasted it with western Europe, where there would be a 23 percent decline.
Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanising rapidly – with cities growing faster than in any other region. It has 52 cities with more than 1 million people, more than double the number in 1990.
This pattern of development created a massive demand for infrastructure, goods and services, Jammine said, “and offers immense opportunities to supply the requirements of an urbanising population”.
A resource that is still relatively untapped is land.
Jammine said Africa had 60 percent of available arable land and had the potential to be a bread basket to the world.
Only a third of arable land had been cultivated in Africa which meant there were “enormous possibilities if one can develop the farming acumen and acquire the technology within the continent to develop the agricultural resources”.
But there are challenges.
Davies pointed out an anomaly: despite its growth rate Africa is falling behind in terms of competitiveness. South Africa, which performs best, ranks only 54 out of 139 countries on the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness index. Davies warned that the region’s growth could stall and even decline without greater competitiveness. - Business Report
USA 5 : China 1 : Africa 0. It's Time to Get Our Game On
Team China has exactly one objective in Africa: the Chinese want to capture as much of the natural resource base as is possible to continue to fuel China's economic growth. Because the Chinese are singularly focused on this objective, they are incredibly efficient. Their development policy, their trade policy, their above board payments, and even their corruption are all perfectly aligned. They are a formidable opponent on this continental battlefield.
Team US is in disarray. Part of this stems from the fact that U.S. citizens are among the most generous people in the world. As a result, we have a multitude of agendas in Africa. We are interested in eliminating disease, decreasing poverty, improving education, and putting an end to child slavery. We are interested in ending the rape crisis in the Congo, saving the gorillas in Uganda, stopping the genocide in Somalia, and eradicating malaria across the continent.
We are interested in these things while simultaneously recognizing that we too can benefit from Africa's vast natural resources. Our cheap cell phones, our stunning diamonds, our superior Gibson guitars, not to mention some oil, are all made possible by the same natural resource base that China is trying to make away with.
In fact, US tops Germany and China by about 200 billion as the world's top exporter. Frankly, we simply don't have a domestic natural resource base that is large enough to maintain that level of production over the long term so we have to source the supplies from developing countries.
But, our interest in Africa isn't all work and no play. Have you ever been on a safari? It is fabulous. Mind blowing. Life changing. We want to visit Africa, spend our tourist dollars, photograph people, hunt wildlife, check off birds on our bird lists, buy souvenirs, and accrue fantastic stories. We spend billions of dollars to do these things.
Finally, we need an African continent that is reasonably stable because it has direct bearing on our own national security. The Department of Defense spends more than a few dollars in ensuring that poverty and disease don't translate into more terrorism training camps.
In summary, we have economic, development, philanthropic, recreational and security interests in Africa all of which are predicated on the same thing the Chinese want: the natural resources.
The problem is that while China has the singularly focused, narrowly honed strategy, we have absolutely no coherent policy on natural resource management whatsoever. Effectively, our right hand doesn't know what our left hand is doing. Sometimes our right hand doesn't even know there is a left hand.
For example, in Tanzania, the famed Serengeti generates over $1 billion in tourist dollars a year and employs 600,000 people. The Chinese are financing a road that will run right through the middle of the park threatening the tourism industry.
Simultaneously, Tanzania is in the middle of a drought and the Tanzanians are upping their development aid requests to the U.S. This 11th hour battle makes no sense: the Tanzanians are going to work with the Chinese to destroy one of their biggest revenue sources and then ask us for money to save their poor who are facing a seemingly interminable drought. What is especially mind blowing is that the Tanzanians have been asking for help to build a road, any road, for the last 14 years, but we couldn't get our act together to come up with a coordinated plan -- and we still can't.
Further afield, the South Pacific Tuna treaty collapsed last week because several businessmen were able to co-opt the playing field, and the natural resource management community was nowhere to be seen.
In short, Papua New Guinea wanted tuna to be more sustainably sourced because catch data shows a steep decline in the numbers of fish left. Bigeye Tuna catches, for example, are down over 50 percent.
A couple of U.S. businessmen, who own Taiwanese companies, thought it would be handy if they flew the U.S. flag on 25 of their Taiwanese vessels allowing them to dodge rules such as boats should be built in the U.S., vessels should carry U.S. crews, and tuna should be canned in the United States or U.S. territories.
While returning little value to the U.S. taxpayer and/or consumer, the businessmen benefited from treaty perks such as a $1600 per U.S. vessel cost to fish as compared to Japan's $6000. The treaty fell through because the conservation folks, Commerce, Department of Defense, and State Department have absolutely no idea what their position is and taxpayers are left with a fishery on the verge of collapse, 25 years of hard work in shambles, and millions of U.S. philanthropic and taxpayer dollars wasted.
What do we do about this quandary? Three things:
First we encourage the US Government to get organized. One way to do this is build a unit that coordinates efforts between departments. While this is a new idea as pertains to management of natural resources, it has precedents in different shapes and sizes. Such coordination in effort won't cost more, in fact, it will save money. Efforts to do this are underway and should be supported.
Second, civil society, including NGOs, foundations, and corporations, need to work across sectors to plan, implement, and monitor efforts. There are a lot of organizations trying to make a lot of good things happen. All it takes is one Chinese road through a project area to undermine the thousands, in some cases millions of dollars that are being invested. The only way to garner enough strength to stop the Chinese is to combine financial and technical resources and work together as a team.
Finally, we have to recognize that careful use of natural resources and smart economic planning are necessary to help developing countries climb their way out of poverty. This means listening to the needs and objectives of developing countries and ensuring that solutions are found that support the big picture. It is hard to see the big picture when your citizens are dying from famine, disease and drought. Our generosity and economic policies can help bridge the divide between the short term needs and long term goals that poor countries often face.
If we are going to play this game we have to play smarter and faster than the Chinese. These natural resources in Africa, and elsewhere, are finite. The solutions are there, the money is there, the technology is there, we just have to get our lineup in order.
Jamie Bechtel is an American citizen and the Co-Founder and CEO of NEW Course and is a highly regarded leader in international conservation. Her work has led to strategic advances in the fields of conservation, sustainable finance, and biology.
The value and worth of a currency is determined by the wealth of a nation. In this era of global capitalism, a wealth of nation goes beyond the conventional valuation based on the natural and human resources. A nation’s image, perception, security and stability also played an important role in the determination of a nation’s wealth. Therefore currency and its value become the bellwether and principal indicator of the economic status and financial wellbeing of a given nation. The principal factor in a currency regulation and determination is rooted on the forces of supply and demand, most especially nations that are exposed to global trade and currency transactions. Most currencies are not rigidly fixed but are allowed to float and checkmated by the forces of the market. The gold standard that was tied to a currency has been abandoned and determination of a currency was replaced by the forces of the market and the wealth of a nation. A currency is more than medium of exchange, for a currency is principally used as a settlement of debt both domestic and international. A wealth of a nation consist of its currency backed by the size of the economy (GDP) which includes of course the natural and human capital, credit worthiness and the debt of a nation. International Monetary Fund (IMF) an international elite organization is empowered by the member nations to be advisory regulatory of the financial wellbeing of the global market economy. In this case IMF becomes a watchdog to the financial and economic standing of nations, more or a less a financial policeman that can bark but sometimes it can also bite. The later became functional and operational when a nation seeks the aid of the Brentwood institute for a financial counsel and credit due to economic hardship. In this case a nation invites the financial entity and it will come and rearrange the financial house before it accept to help the host. Sometimes IMF can interject without invitation on the grounds of doing public good and protecting the world from financial and economic pandemonium that comes with great recession and sometimes depression. Never for one second believes and accepts the propagated notion that IMF is just only a financial institution devoid of politics, the whole truth is that IMF is also a political institution. Political economy is bedrock of economic evaluation and determination of a nation’s wealth. Advanced nations have more clout before IMF more than developing nations of south of the hemisphere especially countries of Africa. IMF bureaucrats can prescribe some conditions and criteria to African member nations and the implementation may cause unforeseen hardship but those policies will not be accepted by the more powerful economies of northern hemisphere. The less developed nations bear the brunt of IMF overwhelming control and intimidation. With this in mind, let’s reflect on Africa of 1980s that ran to IMF for financial bailout due to economic hardship and a laden-back breaking foreign debt caused by herculean mismanagement and corruption. Those were days of capital flights, military coups and political instabilities in Africa. The African dictators asked for credits from international financial institutions but they were directed to go through IMF. The ramifications of the emitted IMF’s austerity measures that come with currency devaluation on African nations brought economic collapse of the continent. There were massive unemployment and brain drains that decimated African economic outlook and prospect. Prices of essential commodities rose beyond the affordability of an average African. African producers and manufacturers import most of their raw materials with devalued currency and subsequently higher price of dollar makes it impossible to continue production. Literally and figuratively Africa was in mundane hell endowed with higher and rising inflation. The prices of cash crops produced by African countries nosedived because they were instructed to devalue their respective currencies. The once respected and dominant naira was so devalued that many companies went bankrupt with red financial balance sheet. These were the prescriptions given to powerless and poor nations of southern hemisphere. Most African nations were not producing materials and commodities for export but rely on one or two cash crops for making of small foreign exchange and these nations are receptors of donations from abroad donors to balance their budgets. Therefore what is the meaning and logic behind devaluing their already weak currencies that were streamlined by inflation and political instability? Instead of any gain, it brought about the crash of the currencies that brought stagnation and hyperinflation together with malnutrition and penury in Africa. The connected and acceptable African economists and government bureaucrats who were anointed by IMF elites were the mouth piece of the goodness of currency devaluation and austerity measures. The government was asked to reject welfare state, therefore to cut down on spending and to remove subsidies from the essential commodities that the poor needed for survival. The IMF Ivy league elites and their puppets have no meat in what is happening to Africa, it is all about policies and economic theories and experiments on Africans. Our leaders were intimidated to challenge those unproven economic theories; moreover African dictators do not want to rock the boat and asked about their democratic credentials. Can IMF point to any success story that came out of Africa as a result of their economic and financial pills it prescribed to Africa? Then comes Nigeria of 1980s, she has no business asking for help from IMF but she did and she paid dearly for it. Nigeria in 1980s could not acquire credit lines for international transactions due to her weakness in serving her debts and foreign obligations. Nigeria an oil-rich nation has no reason to fall behind in her financial obligations and payments of her foreign debts. But inertia, mismanagement and corruption had claimed a large chunk of her operational and financial integrity. Today’s Nigeria is the one that can say no to IMF and tell the global financial elites that they do not need them. The country’s economy is growing above 7 percent for more than two years. The country is relatively at peace with an economic expansion of 7.8 percent that is the envy of the whole world. This is not to say that Nigeria is perfect and has reached economic zenith but presently Nigerians are serious about building a strong and prosperous economy. Nigeria is committed to democracy and capitalism, with the successful concluded election the prospect for greatness is geometrically growing. Therefore for IMF to lately ask Nigeria to devalue her currency is just another gimmick to slow the country down and to control the destiny of the nation. Nigerians and Africans must refuse to be used as a Petri dish for IMF vexing theories. Therefore Nigerian financial actors at CBN and at ASO Rock have done the country well to tell IMF to leave naira alone.
The value and worth of a currency is determined by the wealth of a nation. In this era of global capitalism, a wealth of nation goes beyond the conventional valuation based on the natural and human resources. A nation’s image, perception, security and stability also played an important role in the determination of a nation’s wealth. Therefore currency and its value become the bellwether and principal indicator of the economic status and financial wellbeing of a given nation.
The principal factor in a currency regulation and determination is rooted on the forces of supply and demand, most especially nations that are exposed to global trade and currency transactions. Most currencies are not rigidly fixed but are allowed to float and checkmated by the forces of the market. The gold standard that was tied to a currency has been abandoned and determination of a currency was replaced by the forces of the market and the wealth of a nation. A currency is more than medium of exchange, for a currency is principally used as a settlement of debt both domestic and international.
A wealth of a nation consist of its currency backed by the size of the economy (GDP) which includes of course the natural and human capital, credit worthiness and the debt of a nation.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) an international elite organization is empowered by the member nations to be advisory regulatory of the financial wellbeing of the global market economy. In this case IMF becomes a watchdog to the financial and economic standing of nations, more or a less a financial policeman that can bark but sometimes it can also bite. The later became functional and operational when a nation seeks the aid of the Brentwood institute for a financial counsel and credit due to economic hardship. In this case a nation invites the financial entity and it will come and rearrange the financial house before it accept to help the host. Sometimes IMF can interject without invitation on the grounds of doing public good and protecting the world from financial and economic pandemonium that comes with great recession and sometimes depression.
Never for one second believes and accepts the propagated notion that IMF is just only a financial institution devoid of politics, the whole truth is that IMF is also a political institution. Political economy is bedrock of economic evaluation and determination of a nation’s wealth. Advanced nations have more clout before IMF more than developing nations of south of the hemisphere especially countries of Africa. IMF bureaucrats can prescribe some conditions and criteria to African member nations and the implementation may cause unforeseen hardship but those policies will not be accepted by the more powerful economies of northern hemisphere. The less developed nations bear the brunt of IMF overwhelming control and intimidation.
With this in mind, let’s reflect on Africa of 1980s that ran to IMF for financial bailout due to economic hardship and a laden-back breaking foreign debt caused by herculean mismanagement and corruption. Those were days of capital flights, military coups and political instabilities in Africa. The African dictators asked for credits from international financial institutions but they were directed to go through IMF. The ramifications of the emitted IMF’s austerity measures that come with currency devaluation on African nations brought economic collapse of the continent. There were massive unemployment and brain drains that decimated African economic outlook and prospect. Prices of essential commodities rose beyond the affordability of an average African.
African producers and manufacturers import most of their raw materials with devalued currency and subsequently higher price of dollar makes it impossible to continue production. Literally and figuratively Africa was in mundane hell endowed with higher and rising inflation. The prices of cash crops produced by African countries nosedived because they were instructed to devalue their respective currencies. The once respected and dominant naira was so devalued that many companies went bankrupt with red financial balance sheet. These were the prescriptions given to powerless and poor nations of southern hemisphere.
Most African nations were not producing materials and commodities for export but rely on one or two cash crops for making of small foreign exchange and these nations are receptors of donations from abroad donors to balance their budgets. Therefore what is the meaning and logic behind devaluing their already weak currencies that were streamlined by inflation and political instability? Instead of any gain, it brought about the crash of the currencies that brought stagnation and hyperinflation together with malnutrition and penury in Africa.
The connected and acceptable African economists and government bureaucrats who were anointed by IMF elites were the mouth piece of the goodness of currency devaluation and austerity measures. The government was asked to reject welfare state, therefore to cut down on spending and to remove subsidies from the essential commodities that the poor needed for survival. The IMF Ivy league elites and their puppets have no meat in what is happening to Africa, it is all about policies and economic theories and experiments on Africans. Our leaders were intimidated to challenge those unproven economic theories; moreover African dictators do not want to rock the boat and asked about their democratic credentials. Can IMF point to any success story that came out of Africa as a result of their economic and financial pills it prescribed to Africa?
Then comes Nigeria of 1980s, she has no business asking for help from IMF but she did and she paid dearly for it. Nigeria in 1980s could not acquire credit lines for international transactions due to her weakness in serving her debts and foreign obligations. Nigeria an oil-rich nation has no reason to fall behind in her financial obligations and payments of her foreign debts. But inertia, mismanagement and corruption had claimed a large chunk of her operational and financial integrity.
Today’s Nigeria is the one that can say no to IMF and tell the global financial elites that they do not need them. The country’s economy is growing above 7 percent for more than two years. The country is relatively at peace with an economic expansion of 7.8 percent that is the envy of the whole world. This is not to say that Nigeria is perfect and has reached economic zenith but presently Nigerians are serious about building a strong and prosperous economy. Nigeria is committed to democracy and capitalism, with the successful concluded election the prospect for greatness is geometrically growing.
Therefore for IMF to lately ask Nigeria to devalue her currency is just another gimmick to slow the country down and to control the destiny of the nation. Nigerians and Africans must refuse to be used as a Petri dish for IMF vexing theories. Therefore Nigerian financial actors at CBN and at ASO Rock have done the country well to tell IMF to leave naira alone.
The trend for fashion icons to be of indeterminate ethnic origin does not excuse Beyoncé's 'African Queen' photoshoot
Beyoncé, one of the most high-profile black women in the world, was recently asked to take part in a photo shoot celebrating the "African Queen", for the French publication L'Officiel. You'd imagine she would have been wary. For one thing, the fashion industry is still regularly accused of whitewashing. For another, French outlets are notorious for their inability to move past racial stereotypes – take the example of the French press questioning whether its team messed up the 2010 World Cup because it had too many black players.
Beyoncé would, perhaps, have sought to avoid the caricaturing of African culture into tribal prints, facepaint and black skin so beloved by the fashion industry. She would have contemplated the need to reconcile her usual appearance – long bleached blonde extensions and ever paler skin – with the fact that she also sees herself as an appropriate symbol of African pride. The fruits of this soul-searching would have been manifest in both the shoot and interviews that followed.
Now, I love Beyoncé, but when it comes to introspection she is capable of disappointing on a massive scale. Previous judgment lapses range from the decision of Destiny's Child, her former group, to endorse George Bush in the 2000 presidential election (not, apparently, on the basis of their shared political views but because he, like Destiny's Child, was from Texas), to her performances for Gaddafi's family, to her lucrative advertising contract as the much, much whiter-than-her-natural skin colour face of L'Oreal. Beyoncé also has form when it comes to blackface. In "Listen", the hugely popular song from the Dreamgirls film, she is filmed blacked-up and adorned with more fancy-dress "African" accessories.
Photos: Necole Bitchie
In light of all this, her latest photo shoot is perhaps not surprising. She has fallen into all the most predictable traps. Blackface? Check. Facepaint? Check. (We are helpfully educated on the authenticity of this by L'Officiel in a patronising statement which says "as for the artistic makeup, the inspiration came from several African rituals during which paint is used on the face. We find the images beautiful and inspiring.")
Good for you. Many Africans find their rituals beautiful and inspiring too, that is not the point. The point is that black people are for the most part unrepresented by the fashion industry, apart from when it decides to have a dalliance with Africa, following which we are subjected to a view of the world where Africans are people with one skin colour (dark) and one way of dressing (bright, exotic, tribal).
The further point is that Beyoncé – who many black people the world over embrace as one of their own – has shown an irrefutable tendency to develop continuously whiter skin. This is not, in my view, an attempt to reject the fact that she is black. It simply reflects a deeper and more alarming trend in global culture which requires mainstream female icons to be of indeterminate ethnic origin. Black women must be pale, slim but curvy, and have European features and have long straight hair. White women must be tanned, slim but curvy, and have long straight hair. There is no better example of this than Beautiful Liar, the video of Beyoncé and Shakira together in which the two women – despite the fact one is African American and the other Colombian – are almost indistinguishable from one another.
This trend is far bigger than any individual star – and to this extent I attribute only limited blame to Beyoncé herself for falling into the trap of becoming more ethnically ambiguous in her appearance. She is now a global, commercial brand; the look she has developed sells. For her this look is not antithetical to the African inspiration in her music and dancing, which is an inextricable part of her genre – black American music – and her individual style as an artist. But blacking herself up in the image of an "African Queen" as seen by French fashionistas? She really should know better.
Afua Hirsch is the Guardian's legal affairs correspondent. She has practised at the bar in criminal defence and public law and teaches constitutional and human rights law
February is widely celebrated as Black History Month in the United States.
As with most things American, the celebration transcends the domestic shores of its country of origin to gain widespread recognition and media coverage in other Western and non-Western hemispherical nations. Although termed Black History Month, the celebration in conceptual clarity always focuses on the achievements of the erstwhile enslaved people of black Africa in the United States. Dr Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves who went on to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard University, laid the foundation for the marking of Black History Month. After he noticed the absence of any form of history of black people in teaching and in academic discourse, Dr Carter made a case in 1926 for a Negro History Week, which later became the Black History Month.
The caption, Black History Month, is likely to confuse the historian out in search of authentic African history dating back millennia. However, it is commonly accepted in the United States that to utter the word ‘Black’ means strictly speaking, African-Americans. In essence, Black History Month celebrations are concerned with the exposition of the achievements of African-American former slaves within the ambit of their former colonial masters. Outside the coast of the United States this interpretation and celebration of Black History can therefore be adjudged a misnomer. This is because Black to most people around the world means African, and African history means the story of the people who lived in the continent in times past.
It is disconcerting and somewhat disturbing that the history of ‘Blackness’ in the world’s intellectual and media capital, the United States is associated with white domination, oppression, repression and slavery. It is a history, dictated by the West, one that late Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper of Oxford University would validate with his statement in 1965 that there is no African history, but only the history of Europeans in Africa, ‘the rest is darkness… and darkness is not a subject for history.’
The celebration of Black History Month without laying the major emphasis on pre-slavery, pre-colonial Africa, and on the myriad achievements of continental Africans/Blacks of that era indicates that most Black scholars and historians are still submerged in the Western historical point of view of history. His-story: The story of the white Caucasian male as told by him or from his point of view. His-story of enslavement of the Africans and dragging them to his territory. His-story of granting them freedom after only a certain number of years as slaves. His-story of the achievements he has so magnanimously allowed their most illustrious sons and daughters to accomplish, despite their lowly past. His-story of how the former slave has leveraged on the white man’s education to become the first ‘African-American’ to ride a car, a plane or train. In all, Black History Month allows Africans to tell their ‘his-story’ starting only from the period when they set foot on the enslaver’s soil and became subjected to his ‘civilising’ efforts.
Slavery was calculated to capture the memory of the enslaved, such that even after freedom has been granted, he is already inherently configured to think like a slave. The physical un-cuffing of chains did not in any way free the mind from the years of calculated and intense mental subjugation. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, alluding to colonialism, captures this so succinctly, when he writes: ‘but cultural subjugation is more dangerous, because it is more subtle and its effects, long lasting. Moreover, it can make a person who has lost his land, who feels the pangs of hunger, who carries flagellated flesh, to look at those experiences differently… he or she has been drained of historical memory of a different world.’ Rather than advancing the study of authentic Africa, Black History Month at the moment is bound by the myopia of African interaction with the West. Paulo Freire would argue that this form of history ‘is well suited to the purposes of the oppressors, whose tranquility rests on how well men fit the world the oppressors have created, and how little they question it.’
The same his-story is taught in African schools. Pupils in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are taught that Henry Morton Stanley was the first European to navigate the river’s length. Little is taught to the students about the powerful kingdom of the Kongo people, who lived, traded and travelled by the river for thousands of years before Henry Morton Stanley. DRC pupils know more about Belgium and King Leopold than the Manikongo and BaKongo. Such examples thrive all across formerly colonised black Africa.
Much more than fighting for the independence of India from the British, Mahatma Gandhi insisted on the mental decolonisation of the Indian. In his seminal work, ‘Towards New Education’, Gandhi asserts that ‘the curriculum and pedagogic ideas which form the fabric of modern education (in India) were imported from Oxford and Cambridge, Edinburgh and London. But they are essentially foreign, and till they are repudiated, there never can be national education.’ Education to be considered sound must be able to ensure continuity from one generation to another. No generation should, due to education, loose touch of the investments, knowledge bank and core values of its predecessors.
For Africa, decolonisation of the curriculum - with an emphasis on history – must be embarked upon. People of African descent, resident and in the diaspora must seek to know their age-old authentic history through conscientious research, archaeological excavations, cultural and linguistic analysis and a deconstruction of the his-story bequeathed by the racially motivated scholarship of the Victorian era.
As a matter of urgency, Black History Month, while duly acknowledging the innumerable contributions of people of African descent in the United States, must liberate itself from the territorial narrowness in which it is presently embedded. African history and contributions to ‘global civilisation’ – dating back as far as ancient Egypt – must be studied and disseminated to the rest of humanity.
Dreams, desires and innate expectations of men are founded on the memories they hold. The despicable political and economic situation of the black race – regardless of their place of abode – is founded on a lack of aspiration due to absence of positive consciousness. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o sums it up so brilliantly; ‘Black consciousness then becomes the right of black peoples to draw an image of themselves that negates and transcends the image of themselves that was drawn by those who would weaken them in their fight for and assertion of their humanity… It seeks to draw the image of a possible world, different and transcending the one drawn by the West by reconnecting itself to a different historical memory and dreams…’
For progress of any measure to be recorded among people of African descent within and outside the continent, they must begin to research, disseminate and identify with the past of Africa. Africa’s past is not darkness, it is only dark to those who do not see it. Creativity and innovation are products of a positive self-image, an attribute that the black man is inherently lacking. Positive self-image is an offshoot of knowledge. For Africans, knowledge of the positive, independent and unencumbered contributions of one’s forefathers to humanity, would definitely unleash the latent creative energies of the living protégés.
Chika Ezeanya is a PhD candidate in the Department of African Studies at Howard University in Washington DC. Her debut manuscript was shortlisted for the 2010 Penguin Publishers Prize for African Writing.
Analysis and Commentary
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's failure to understand the workings of communal democracy in Africa put him in a weak position to negotiate for peace in Côte d'Ivoir Okello Oculi.
The United Nations secretary general Mr Ban Ki-moon is a strange type of democrat. Speaking to the press at Addis Ababa outside the meeting of the African Union he spoke thus: 'I am concerned that differences of opinion are now surfacing among the African Union. This is not desirable at this time in preserving the integrity and fundamental principle of democracy'. His notion of democracy does not value 'differences of opinion'.
It stands at variance to Mwalimu Nyerere's view of the workings of communal democracy of Africa in which members of a community 'talk and talk and talk until we agree or agree to disagree'. That Ban Ki-moon has not imbibed this fundamental law of African democracy is not surprising since he is from Korea, with deeply ingrained memories of brutal dictatorship against his people by Japanese colonial rulers when Japan conquered and occupied his country. As a top official of the United Nations, however, he has no excuse not to acquaint himself with a core cultural value in African civilisation.
Ban Ki-moon has shown a rare haste to see Alassane Ouattara in power and Laurent Gbagbo out. He has been party to a gang known as the 'international community' to oust the constitutional order in Cote d'Ivoire in rude deviation from the principle of the 'rule of law'. The constitutional order spelt out steps that were not challenged before the election was conducted to the effect that the Electoral Commission conducts an election but the ultimate authority to affirm final and legitimate results is the Council of State.
That Ivorian formula held a precaution against the possibility of election malpractices being the determinant of election results. In his haste to support Ouattara, Ban Ki-moon has sided with the high possibility of election results contaminated by malpractices. That a UN secretary general finds himself in this position indicates that his unwholesome position is not a measure for defending a 'fundamental principle of democracy', but rather a matter of real politicks to please powerful groups behind the UN Security Council.
Africa is deeply indebted to the heroes of the freedom revolution in Tunisia and Egypt. They took the winds or nuclear fuel off the sails or engine of Ban Ki-moon's invasion of the electoral politics of Cote d'Ivoire by taking television cameras and salivating propagandists to the streets of Tunisian and Egyptian cities. What the threat of nuclear war between his native brothers in North Korea and South Korea could not achieve in pulling Ban Ki-moon to that region as a fire brigade chief, the angry youths of Tunisia and Egypt did with an enchanting if tragic drama in the deaths of those murdered by police and military guns.
Under the glow of those political fire storms, the African Union could meet in Addis Ababa and bluntly rebuke the French President Sarkozy and Ki-moon by telling them that Cote d'Ivoire is and African problem. The first salvo was shot out by Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the AU official negotiator, who declared that instead of salivating for blood in Cote d'Ivoire, the African Union must tell Ouattara to sit down and talk with Gbagbo.
Odinga's position was first hinted at in an earlier interview to a Kenyan journalist in his Karen residence in Nairobi when he said that Gbagbo and Ouattara are both seasoned politicians, not military generals. Political leaders work with words and not bullets and bombs as first tools of choice. Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, threw at Ban Ki-moon a view whose roots go back to his 1987 speech to the UN General Assembly.
In that speech he had argued that if even earthworms know what is food for them and crawl away from danger, why should the Cold War powers of the Capitalist West and the Communists, assume that African leaders have to be taught to realise that it is not acceptable that 96,000 children in Uganda die annually from preventable diseases. Ban Ki-moon should not have been too hasty to teach Africa's leaders the call for democracy in Cote d' Ivoire.
Ban Ki-moon is a puzzle to African observers. He heads an organisation that was created 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in out generation brought untold sorrow to mankind'. West Africa has suffered ' untold sorrow' in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the last two decades. Somalia is in the grip of ' untold sorrow'. Over 1.5 million people in Northern Uganda lived in filthy poverty-stricken camps to be ' protected' by their government from forced recruitment and death by LRA militias.
For twenty years over 40,000 children in these camps trekked daily to sleep on cold pavements in urban centres to escape from being captured by LRA's marauders'. Over 2 million peoples of Southern Sudan died from war, not to mention victims of Darfur. If Ban Ki-Moon finds that difficult to integrate into the historic mandate of the United Nations Organization, he should not expect African leaders to suffer from such racist amnesia. He should urgently abandon the hope of weeping crocodile tears over rivers of blood in Cote d'Ivoire in the name of a doubtful authenticity of an electoral 'democracy' in that country.
The freedom revolution currently ablaze in Tunisia and Egypt is anchored in the rejection of policies imposed on friends of the ' international community' countries that Ban Ki-moon listens to. Those policies blocked internal industrialisation and industrial expansion - including moving into the realm of use of information technology for industrial productivity.
It blocked the creation of jobs. The pains and humiliations of perpetual unemployment is the fuel that has exploded the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Because China stood independent of this Euro-American tyranny of unemployment, poverty, and wrath, the streets of China have been saved from the spectre of hundreds of millions protesting and burning down buildings. Due to a strange historic deafness, Ban Ki-moon wants to put in power Alassane Ouattara as a puppet that will take Cote d'Ivoire down that same route to destruction.
Ban Ki-moon also seems to be anxious to outdo one of his predecessors - Dag HammarskjÃƒÂ¶ld. That UN secretary general holds the notorious record of virulently hating and participating in the murder of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba had wanted Belgian troops driven out of his newly independent country.
He wanted the secession of Katanga province from Congo ended quickly before racist white mercenaries from South Africa, Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Belgium, France, and Britain helped it to become a fully separate country. He was ordered to assassinate Lumumba by President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States and by top officials of Belgium, Britain and France. Voices of African leaders, like Kwame Nkrumah and Gamal Nasser, who wished to advise Lumumba and build negotiations and dialogue between Congo's politicians, were ignored contemptuously. Africa must this time help Ki-moon to climb to a higher and historical legacy; one not soaked in African blood from Cote d'Ivoire and West Africa.
The freedom revolution in Tunisia and Egypt deserves a more glorifying form of honour by Ban Ki-moon. The African Union, however, needs to find a herbal cure for that obnoxious ideology of ' ivorite' (or only people whose parents are also born of ethnic groups from southern part of the country can hold leadership posts), that has poisoned politics in that country. The African has creative example to borrow from. One of them is Nigeria's ' federal character principle' and Kagame's civic education for youths against ' genocide ideology'.
Okello Oculi is executive director of Africa Vision 525 Initiative and currently a professor of Social and Economic Research at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria.
Full Text: China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation (5) VII. Giving Full Play to the Guidance Role of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
Founded in 2000 by China and Africa, FOCAC has formed dialogue and cooperation mechanisms at various levels such as ministerial conferences, senior official meetings and entrepreneurs' conferences. So far, four ministerial conferences and a summit have been held within this framework. Owing to the joint efforts of China and Africa, FOCAC has become an important platform for collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa. It enhances political mutual trust, leads to cooperation, especially economic and trade cooperation, and expands and deepens China-Africa relations, and raises the level of their relations.
Since the first FOCAC Ministerial Conference in 2000, the Chinese government, focusing on the challenges and opportunities facing China and Africa, has taken a series of steps to deepen China-Africa economic relations and trade on the basis of long-term cooperation, mutual respect and consultation on an equal footing. These steps, fitting the needs of Africa, represent the practical spirit and creative endeavors of the Chinese government.
At the first FOCAC Ministerial Conference China announced it would reduce or cancel African countries' debts to China, and encouraged Chinese companies to invest in Africa and train professionals for Africa. At the second FOCAC Ministerial Conference in 2003, China pledged to increase aid to Africa, enhance cooperation in the sphere of human resources development and give zero-tariff treatment to some of the exported products from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Africa with diplomatic ties with China.
At the Beijing Summit and third Ministerial Conference of FOCAC in 2006, China announced an eight-point plan for strengthening practical China-Africa cooperation and supporting the development of Africa, including increasing assistance; providing preferential loans; helping the African Union (AU) to build a convention center; raising the number of African export items to China eligible for zero-tariff treatment; setting up a China-Africa Development Fund; building overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in African countries; setting up demonstration centers of agricultural technology; and setting up malaria prevention and treatment centers. All the above-mentioned eight commitments were fully in place by the end of 2009 with the joint endeavors of China and Africa.
In 2009 China declared another eight-point plan at the fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference, covering agriculture, environmental protection, investment promotion, debt reduction and cancellation, wider market access, education, and medical care and public health. These eight commitments, focusing on improving the living standards of the African people, enhancing cooperation in agriculture and human resource development and raising Africa' s self-reliance capacity, aim to help African countries solve their current practical problems, realize sustainable growth, and further consolidate the foundation for economic and social development.
China's commitments offered through FOCAC help all African countries having diplomatic ties with China, and provide practical benefits to these countries and their peoples.
In future, based on the spirit of mutual benefit and progress, friendly consultation, pragmatism and high efficiency, the Chinese government will, together with African countries, continue to strengthen the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa within the FOCAC framework, and further develop a new-type of China-Africa strategic partnership. Conclusion
The world today is undergoing great changes and adjustments. The economic recession triggered by the international financial crisis hasn't come to an end yet. Global issues of food security, energy supply, climate change and prevention and control of epidemic diseases have become more prominent. And uncertain factors in the global economy are increasing. As developing countries, China and African countries now face good opportunities to boost their growth and also the challenges of complex global problems.
China and Africa enjoy complementarity. Their common interests are constantly expanding, and the future of their economic and trade cooperation is bright. On the principles of equality, mutual benefit and common development, China will continue to promote China-Africa economic exchanges within bilateral or multilateral frameworks, broaden the scope of cooperation, explore new methods of cooperation and share the fruits of development with the African countries.
As economic globalization progresses, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa will definitely gain momentum to reach a larger scale, broader scope and higher level with their joint endeavors, which can give new energy and vitality to overall China-Africa cooperation and make more contributions to building a world with long-lasting peace, common prosperity and harmony.
African dancers perform at a performing gala themed on "Ode to Friendship" staged to mark the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC
The Eight-Point Plan China Pledged at the FOCAC Beijing Summit
1. Increase assistance to African countries, and by 2009 double the size of its assistance to African countries in 2006.
2. Provide US$3 billion in preferential loans and US$2 billion in preferential export buyer' s credit to African countries in the next three years.
3. Set up the China-Africa Development Fund, the total amount of which will gradually reach US$5 billion, to give encouragement and support to Chinese companies investing in projects in Africa.
4. Help the African Union to build a convention center in order to support African countries in their efforts to strengthen themselves through unity and speed up African integration.
5. Cancel the repayment of interest-free government loans that had become due by the end of 2005 to China by Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Africa that have diplomatic ties with China.
6. Further open the Chinese market to Africa, and increase from 190 to over 440 the number of African export items to China eligible for zero-tariff treatment from the LDCs in Africa having diplomatic relations with China.
7. Set up three to five overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in African countries in the next three years.
Train 15,000 professionals for African countries in the next three years; send 100 senior experts in agricultural technology to Africa; set up in Africa 10 demonstration centers of agricultural technology with special features; assist African countries in building 30 hospitals and provide a grant of 300 million yuan to African countries that is used to buy anti-malaria drugs like artemisinin and build 30 centers for prevention and treatment of malaria; dispatch 300 young volunteers to African countries; help African countries set up 100 rural schools; increase the number of Chinese government scholarships for African students from the current 2,000 per year to 4,000 per year by the end of 2008. Appendix II
The New Eight-Point Plan China Pledged at the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference
1. China proposed the establishment of a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change and the holding of senior official consultations on a non-regular basis to strengthen cooperation in satellite weather monitoring, development and use of new energy, prevention and control of desertification, and urban environmental protection. The Chinese government has decided to assist African countries with 100 clean energy projects in the fields of solar energy, biogas and small hydro-power stations.
2. To intensify cooperation in science and technology, China pro-posed to launch the China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership Plan, carry out 100 joint research and demonstration projects, invite 100 African post-doctoral students to conduct scientific research in China and subsidize them when they return to their home countries to work.
3. In order to raise African countries' capacity in financing, the Chinese government will provide US$10 billion in preferential loans to African countries. China supports the establishment by Chinese financial institutions of a special loan of US$1 billion for the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. The Chinese government will cancel debts of interest-free government loans that will mature by the end of 2009 owed by all HIPCs and the LDCs in Africa having diplomatic relations with China.
4. China will further open its market to African countries. It will gradually give zero-tariff treatment to 95% of exports from the LDCs in Africa having diplomatic relations with China. As the first step, China grants zero-tariff treatment to 60% of the exported commodities from those countries in 2010.
5. In order to further strengthen agricultural cooperation and improve African countries' capacity for food security, China will in-crease to 20 the total number of agricultural technology demonstration centers built for African countries, send 50 agricultural technology teams to Africa and help train 2,000 agricultural technicians for African countries.
6. China will continue to deepen China-African cooperation in medical care and public health service. It will provide 500 million yuan worth of medical equipment and malaria-fighting materials to 30 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and treatment centers which have been built with China's assistance, and help African countries train a total of 3,000 doctors and nurses.
7. In order to further enhance cooperation in human resource development and education, the Chinese government will help African countries to build 50 China-Africa friendship schools and train 1,500 school headmasters and teachers; increase the number of Chinese government scholarships for African students to 5,500 by 2012; and train a total of 20,000 professionals in various sectors for African countries in the next three years.
8. To enlarge people-to-people exchanges, China proposed to implement a China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Plan to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between scholars and think tanks, which will also provide intellectual support for better policy-making regarding cooperation between the two sides.
Look no further than Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Sudan and our own backyard to get a glimpse of what’s to come
Africa has often been compared to a gun, with Nigeria as its trigger. On closer inspection of the colonially inspired map, South Africa would be the muzzle, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the barrel, Algeria the grip, and Sudan the bottom of the hammer.
If Afro-pessimists often depict the continent as a powder keg, Afro-realists recognise that the fate of these five countries will largely determine Africa's future. South Africa is the continent's largest economy, Nigeria its most populous nation, and Sudan, Algeria and the DRC its three geographically largest countries.
The five states are collectively rich in oil, gas, gold, copper and cobalt. And it is on these five pillars that our continent's future will rest. The national and regional leadership of these countries, their capacity to promote stability (or instability) and economic integration in their respective sub-regions, and the "crisis of youth" that afflicts them will all shape Africa's future.
South Africa's first two post-apartheid presidents, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, both attended Christian missionary schools and are Anglophile Xhosas who greatly admired British culture and institutions. But, where Mandela ruled like a patriarch, leaving policy details to his lieutenants, Mbeki was a policy wonk who revelled in the mechanics of governance. Where Mandela was charismatic and popular among the masses, Mbeki relied on political manoeuvring within the ANC.
During Mandela's presidency between 1994 and 1999, South Africa largely shunned a military role in Southern Africa for fear of arousing charges of hegemonic domination based on a sordid apartheid history of destabilisation.
Under Mbeki, South Africa led peacemaking efforts in the Congo, Burundi and Côte d'Ivoire. South African firms also fanned out across the continent to establish interests in mining, banking, retail, communications, arms and insurance. The country has been the largest single investor in the rest of Africa in recent years, and accounts for 80% of Southern Africa's economic might. South Africa must thus lead integration efforts within the Southern African Development Community.
In the area of youth, the country's commentariat has spilled much ink on the petulant behaviour of ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, whose organisation has traditionally played the role of king maker and will be closely watched at the next ANC leadership conference in 2012.
Nigeria has often been described as the "Giant of Africa" on account of its population of 140-million and large economic and human resources. The country is the world's sixth largest oil producer, a large exporter of gas and accounts for 75% of West Africa's economic strength.
But Nigeria has been dogged by massive corruption and visionless leadership. Elections in April 2011 must avoid the fraudulent practices of the past if West Africa is to achieve stability. Pax Nigeriana admirably led peacekeeping efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s and must continue to promote regional integration through the Economic Community of West African States.
But Nigeria's ability to continue to bankroll Ecowas and subregional peacekeeping has recently come under strain. Governance challenges also continue to bedevil West Africa's Gulliver and it is unclear whether Nigeria will be a source of stability or instability in future.
Nigeria's "crisis of youth" is evidenced by the armed militants in its oil-producing Niger Delta who have shut down a quarter of the country's oil production and engaged in increasingly wanton acts of domestic terrorism.
Sudan, Africa's geographically largest state with nine neighbours, is a microcosm of the continent's Afro-Arab diversity. But the country has been embroiled for five decades in a seemingly endless series of civil conflicts.
At the core of these crises lies a northern Sudanese elite, who sees itself as Arab and has, in recent times, adopted a jihadist ideology that has sought forcibly to Islamise other populations and subjugate them politically, militarily, culturally and economically. The simultaneous Islamisation and militarisation of society is reflected the military-religious alliance that seized power under General Omar al-Bashir in 1989.
Even as the war in South Sudan continued, rebellions also erupted over the government's oppressive policies in Darfur, southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Khartoum's atrocities against its own citizens included al-Bashir's jihad against the south in which at least 500000 people died. In the volatile Darfur region, about 300000 people have died since 2003.
A referendum next month will give the oil-rich south the chance to secede, which it is expected to seize, creating only the second new state in post-independence Africa since Eritrea in 1993. Unless cooperation between north and south is established, the potential of this conflict destabilising Eastern, Central and North Africa is extremely high.
Sudan's "crisis of youth" stems from the rebellions that have used young people to wage war, and two generations of Sudanese have lived with conflict amid a massive proliferation of arms.
The similarities between Sudan and another large former British territory, Nigeria, are striking. Nigeria also has a largely Muslim north and largely Christian and traditional south, which were ruled separately under colonialism. Christian missionaries were excluded from both northern Sudan and northern Nigeria.
The British Raj left the north of both countries with built-in political advantages. In both cases, the political systems of the newly born states soon collapsed into civil war under the weight of their historical contradictions. Sudanese politicians' use of murderous militias in Darfur and other provinces mirrors Nigerian politicians' use of militias in the volatile oil-producing Niger Delta - in both cases, cynical pseudo-scientists have created Frankenstein monsters that spiral out of their control and develop an independent life of their own.
In both Sudan and Nigeria, military messiahs and profligate politicians have squabbled over the spoils of office, using political power to acquire personal wealth, with the corruption fuelled by the discovery of oil. Ruling parties in both countries are effectively conglomerations of opportunistic local barons and godfathers with no ideological glue besides their incredible greed and lust for power seemingly holding them together.
Meanwhile, Africa's Great Lakes have become infested with ethnic crocodiles of the genocidal species. The conflict in the DRC since 1998 involved seven foreign armies and a myriad militias and mercenaries in a state that was destroyed by the kleptocratic 31-year misrule of the Western-backed Mobutu Sese Seko.
Mobutu sought to play the role of peacemaker in Angola in the 1980s despite having supported the psychopathic warlord, Jonas Savimbi, for more than a decade. About three million people have died in the DRC in the past 12 years.
A United Nations mission in the DRC has helped to stabilise the country (as the world body had done between 1960 and 1964), though instability continues in Orientale and Kivu provinces. But the potential of the Congo - based on its size, strategic location and natural resources - to play a leadership role in the Great Lakes region, as Nigeria has done in West Africa and South Africa in Burundi and the DRC, has been diminished by the state's decay into a carcass on which neighbouring vultures such as Uganda and Rwanda have feasted.
The Economic Community of Central African States has thus been unable to promote economic integration effectively, and the DRC joined SADC in 1997 instead of leading its own Central African subregion.
The DRC has also suffered a "lost generation" of youths used as cannon fodder by ruthless warlords. Nevertheless, the country's first election in 40 years in 2006 has brought some stability to large parts of the DRC. It, like Sudan, borders nine states, and peace on the continent will depend on stability in this huge country at the heart of Africa.
In North Africa, oil- and gas-rich Algeria has been prevented from assuming its role as the natural hegemon of the Maghreb because of a bloody civil war after its military annulled democratic elections that Islamists were poised to win in 1991, resulting in more than 100000 deaths. An estimated 70% of Algeria's population is now under 30 years old and the future will belong to its youth.
Algeria's septuagenarian leader, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has been dogged by reports of ill health and fraudulent elections, and many of his military supporters also represent an older generation.
Despite its domestic strife, Algeria has been an active peacemaker, hosting the end of the Ethiopia/Eritrea conflict in 2000. But the Arab Maghreb Union, created in 1989 to promote economic cooperation in North Africa, has become dormant because of the continuing friction in bilateral relations between Algeria and Morocco, particularly after the latter stole the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara in 1975, a theft condoned today by the United States and France.
Where to from here?
Africa's five pillars face enormous challenges in achieving durable peace and promoting economic integration on the continent. Though the decision to freeze the map of the continent in the 1960s may have been wise in a sovereignty-obsessed era of insecure, unconsolidated states, today's generation of Africans must muster the ingenuity to craft new regional arrangements centred around our five Gullivers.
Federations and regional trade blocs must be negotiated and territorial boundaries agreed on that in the long term better reflect the political, socioeconomic and cultural realities of a vast continent of 800-million citizens.
After detailed planning, African leaders and civil society activists must proceed to the ancient empire of Ethiopia - the seat of African diplomacy - and reverse the scandalous act of cartographic mischief inflicted by European statesmen who set the rules for carving up the continent at the Conference of Berlin 125 years ago.
Dr Adekeye Adebajo is the executive director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Cape Town, and the author of The Curse of Berlin: Africa after the Cold War (2010)
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-12-23-where-to-africa
Africa needs to progress by any means necessary
Ideas have consequences and Ideas are precursors of actions. The idea-packed, sizzling debate on Africa between Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Matt Ridley the author of new book, "The Rational Optimist," should be review by any serious African politician, bureaucrat or any person who has interest in Africa. On the pages of America’s Wall Street Journal both men duke it out on how to contribute and accelerate Africa’s progress in 21st century. It was interesting to see that there are individuals that really care about the welfare and wellbeing of Africa while few African leaders were busy abusing and looting the continent. Africa has made an enormous progress from being called the ‘Dark continent’ to an emerging democratic and enterprising landscape but her needs are numerous. A giant leap is what Africa needs to make a heightened quantifiable dent on poverty and to greatly ameliorate quality of life. The 21st century has been called the African century and she must take the bull by its horn to actualize it.
Africa has a bright economic outlook; free enterprise and democracy are taking hold in the continent. “Economic growth in Africa was expected to rise to 5% this year and could reach 7% in 2011, according to African Development Bank (AfDB) president Donald Kaberuka. Thus, as the global financial crisis abated and demand for commodities began to increase, Kaberuka said that Africa's economy was expected to grow between 4,5% and 5% this year, with the expansion likely to accelerate to 6,5% or 7% in 2011. South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya were highlighted as the three countries expected to help spur Africa's recovery on the back of improved global demand.” Nigeria, the second largest economy in Africa has the annual growth rate of 7.3% and expected to grow up to 10% in 2011.
On the pages of America's flagship newspaper on capitalism - The Wall Street Journal, Bill Gates and Matt Ridley showed genuine interest on how to improve Africa’s existential problems by either utilizing aid or unbridle capitalism. African problems at the dawn of 21st century are littered across the continent. The myriads problems stems from economic inadequacy of the second largest continent; ranging from AIDS to perennial poverty. Africa has a great potential; Africa is natural resources-rich, the soil is fertile and the weather for the moment is terrific, the emergence of global warming notwithstanding. But in spite of African natural and fledging human capital, together with the recent affirmative economic indices the continent has not realized her potential. In fact, Africa still has a long way before she will get to the promise land. Therefore this debate by these gentlemen is significant to Africa.
The essential thesis of Matt Ridley’s "The Rational Optimist,” on Africa is that "Aid doesn't work, hasn't worked and won't work,” and Africa needs trade and free enterprise. While Bill Gates essentially maintains that for the moment Africa needs aid. Both men are essentially right – Africa needs both trade and aid.
Bill Gates commented in his piece that, “In discussing Africa, Mr. Ridley relies on critics who say, essentially, "Aid doesn't work, hasn't worked and won't work." He cites studies, for instance, that show a lack of short-term economic benefit from aid, but he ignores the fact that health improvements, driven by aid, have been a major factor in slowing population growth, which has proven, in turn, to be critical to long-term economic growth. I may be biased toward aid because I spend my money on it and meet with lots of people who are alive because of it, but even if that were not the case, I would not be persuaded by such incomplete analysis.”
Photo Courtesy: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Source: “The 50 Most Generous American” Business Week
The most important point to be made crystal clear is that aid does work when it is judiciously administered and free of governmental red tape. But the way aid is administered is quite troubling, because so many strings are attached to the western aid given to African countries. By giving the aid directly from government to government opens door to corruption and manipulation of the African governments. Western governments can learn a lot from Bill and Melinda foundation that gives targeted aid to institution that really needs it, thereby curtailing corruption and bureaucratic red tape.
But at same time aid has its limitation on moving Africa forward. Africa needs aid, trade and debt remission to move forward and to savlage poor-development stricken continent. Of the $44 billion of official development aid given to Africa in 2008, majority of aid went to the donors through compulsory trade, servicing of foreign debt and bureaucratic shenanigans.
Bill Gates has been a great helping hand to the continent and his presence has been felt. With Bill and Melinda foundation, millions of dollars has been given to institutions in Africa to improve health mostly in AIDS and malaria patients. As for Mitt Ridley his contribution to the African debate cannot be easily write-off or devalued for with his pen he has summoned serious philanthropists including Bill Gates to weigh-in on the best ways to help the suffering masses of Africa.
But in reality both of these gentlemen have good ideas and Africa cannot take one direction and forgone another. The continent problem is circumventing therefore its solution should be comprehensive. Africa needs trade, aid and big ideas. All these are consistent and are not mutually exclusive; they can all co-exist for greater good of Africa.
Only one thing lacking in the debate is the absence of African participation. There are no African policy makers and bureaucrats participating on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. No matter how compassionate and passionate debates on Africa become, immediate stakeholders who are the inhabitants must be involved. In the problems of their continent, Africans must take the lead. No amount of help from outside will do the job Africans must do for themselves. That does not implies that Africa will be abandon to do the job alone and African friends including philanthropist Bill Gates should be acknowledged by Matt Ridley for his invaluable aid to Africa.
When Matt Ridley writes, “I am arguing that we should worry about real problems, including Africa's plight, but that we should do so in the knowledge that we have solved many such problems before and can do so again.” Ridley is quite carried away by thinking “we” are the people to save Africa. Ridley must understand that every continent has its own problems and Africa has men and women who can solve her problems. Only thing Africa needs is a logical helping hand to correct present and past injustices. And Bill Gates is a true friend of Africa who understood that healthy Africa is precursor for a wealthy Africa.
The most important question must be asked, what does Africa really needs? To answer the question, we must move beyond the limited scope of the discussion and expand the dialogue into the future of Africa. Africans have intelligent men and women of goodwill that can work with Bill gates and with Western governments to permanently improve African lots. Africa must take the lead by displaying intrinsic initiatives in order to move forward.
Beyond aid and debt remission, what does Africa really needs?
Empowerment to foster Freedom and Liberty:
Africans must live in the system of government that encourages freedom and justice. The respect for fundamental human rights must be instituted and adhered to; an environment that provides self-help, self-improvement and self-innovation must be encouraged. Only freedom can make these things possible and make free enterprise a reality, so that free people can create wealth and advance human dignity.
The West must encourage and support governance that accommodates checks and balances in Africa. This will in turn provide accountability and respect for the populace. What Africa needs mostly include, elimination of dictators and socialist regimes, establishment of virile/free political platform and economy, rule of law and respect for individual rights. All these things do border on fundamental issues which foreign aid alone cannot redress. Until these issues are properly put right, the story of the optimum utilization of these billions of dollars from foreign aid will always remain a mirage.
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 by 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."
Elimination of wars and Promotion of Peace and conflict resolutions:
The West can work with African union in finding solutions to the cessation of conflicts and wars. Wars (especially internal strife) are ubiquitous in the continent. Some African governments and warmongers commit their resources to executing endless wars. The West must frown upon the sell of arms to these parties by checkmating their native’s arms industries.
Fair and Balance Trade:
The West must encourage fair and equitable trade with Africa. The giving of aid must not be the only means to defeat poverty and alleviate quality of life in Africa. The promotion of trade can be possible when concessions are made to infant industries in Africa. The West can improve technological developments by investing in areas of science and technology that can sharpen the technical-know-how in the continent. The West must stand for fair trade at the World trade organization by conscientiously removing agricultural subsidies given to their own agricultural sectors that adversely affect the traffic of commodities from Africa. Only trade can be the panacea to poverty in Africa, this by and large booster a higher GDP and a decent standard of living.
Africa must embark on the area of trade specialization where she has the greatest comparative advantage. It seems that agriculture is the best possible for Africa. The Western World must take the initiative of reducing trade tariffs and removal of agricultural subsidies. By this, developing nations and poor countries especially in Africa can participate and compete favorably with the West. In practice, free trade must be made to work for every nation. World trade Organization must implement trade policies that are doable, workable and all-inclusive. Foreign aid is good and dandy, though on the contrary, history has always proven that aid has slightly or insignificantly improvement on recipient nations nor ameliorate the well-beings of the fabric of the needy class at the long run. Foreign aid can be given via reduction in prices of medicine, pharmaceutical equipment and of essential commodities needed for survival in the less technological nations. We cannot downplay the role of foreign aid when fully utilized, when it goes to the required projects that ought to impact the needy positively. But Africa core need is beyond these immediate measures.
Africa needs and appreciates aid given to her but Africans most realize one thing, her destiny and future is in her hands.
Mr. Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. 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.