A few basic facts about Africa indicate that this continent is the world’s most important and strategic place on earth—facts that only Africans are not aware of, disregard or both! Let’s look at the facts:

Between 2010 and 2014, African leaders were invited to at least seven Africa summits, organized by foreign governments, to discuss issues on peace and security, development, cooperation and partnerships in Africa. These are:

  1. 25th Africa – France Summit held in Paris in June 2010
  2. 5th Forum on China and Africa Cooperation held in Beijing in July 2012
  3. 2nd Africa – Turkey Summit held in Istanbul in June 2013
  4. 5th Tokyo International Conference for African Development held in Japan in June 2013
  5. 3rd Arab – Africa Summit held in Kuwait in November 2013
  6. 4th Africa – EU Summit held in Brussels in April 2014
  7. 1st US – Africa Summit held in Washington DC in August 2014

Africans are yet to ask: why is everyone calling us to their home to talk about Africa? Why are the meetings not held in Africa if indeed they are about the development of Africa? According to figures by the Brookings Institute, China overtook the US as Africa’s largest country trading partner in 2009. In 2013, US trade with Africa fell to 60 billion dollars, compared to China at 170 billion dollars, and the European Union at 200 billion dollars. These figures total about one half to one third of the trade between the US, EU and China, and growing.

Based on the IMF’s estimates, ten of the twenty countries with the highest projected compounded annual growth rate from 2013 through 2017 are found in Africa. Four of the ten countries that are expected to have the most economic growth in 2014, ranked from first to last by percentage of GDP growth, are in Africa, as the list shows:


Africa’s population is now estimated to be 1.033 billion with more than half of the population less than 25 years of age. This makes the continent the youngest population in the world. Africa is also the most centrally located place on earth, not to mention the fact that Africa is the world’s richest continent in terms of mineral resources—with the most arable land and waterpower in the world. In fact Africa is the most habitable place on earth given the limited occurrence of natural disasters compared to other parts of the world.

In light of the above revelations, is it any wonder that the whole world has always been in love with Africa? Since time immemorial, the world frantically engaged Africa and, indeed, the world always benefited more from Africa than vice versa. The Ancient Greeks found education, employment, food and protection from Africa. The Arabs and later the Europeans plundered resources from Africa in the form of slaves, raw materials and land, among others, through the use of violence and force. Through the present day, these trends continue, although in more peaceful, legalized and legitimized forms, including these summits and other so-called global institutions and processes created by Americans, Europeans and Arabs, and now the Chinese and Japanese, for the purposes of pursuing and protecting their interests.

Once again, only Africans have failed to create their own robust institutions and processes or to dominate these global institutions and processes for their own benefit. The world, however, has noticed the importance of Africa and has always engaged us on that score, albeit without our knowing or concern! Very soon, I am sure, the UK, Germany, Australia, Russia, Malaysia and Brazil, among other countries, will also begin to call for Africa summits to seek resources and trade from Africa or to protect their current areas of influence.

But how can Africans realize their own worth and importance in the comity of nations? Of course patriots like Kwame Nkrumah were long convinced and determined that Africa is important and must assert its relevance and importance primarily for the interest of Africans. Nkrumah had argued that for Africa to assert herself, serve the needs and aspirations of her people, ensure her security and become an equal and powerful player in the world, she must unite; otherwise Nkrumah emphatically noted that Africa shall perish! The signs and facts on the ground are now too clear to dispute.

Given the rising populations in most of the world, the world is fast changing and this change is clearly in the direction of violence for the control of the limited resources of the world. The West and Japan are already facing zero population growth rates, which naturally place demands on their countries to protect their resources and futures. A zero population growth rate indicates a dwindling economy because there will not be sufficient numbers of people to work the economy to meet the demands of society. Hence, in understanding the immigration policies of the West one should consider the fact that these societies are faced with a potential extinction. They cannot, therefore, allow a foreign set of people to come over to populate their societies more than dominant population. In light of the internal and external factors in these countries and around the world—such as the rising powers of China, Russia and Brazil among others—the demand for resources will be even more acute and painful.

What is even more poignant for the attention of Africans is the total disregard of principles of humanism, human rights and justice by particularly the big powers of the world. Thus the protection for anyone would ultimately rest on your own ability to physically protect yourself by the amount and quality of weaponry, strategy and power you accumulate from technology, economy and politics. No one should ever trust that there are good people around the world who are still guided by the values of morality, justice and humanity!

What all this means is that Africans are the only ones who are either not aware of our own importance or we simply disregard it. But even if we were aware of our importance, it would take more than what we are doing now to pursue and protect our interests. For example, to address our appalling conditions and assert our relevance, respect and importance, especially for ourselves, Africa needs to move towards one collective vision, objective, strategy and plan.

As part of this, Africa must democratize to ensure good governance, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law by, first and foremost, the State and citizens. To democratize is not just about holding regular free and fair elections and transfer of power; but such elections, which are critical, must serve as a means for the people to truly have voice beyond election day and be able to hold our governments and leaders accountable. The current cosmetic democracies littered all over the continent are non-starters. We need leadership that is visionary, honest, pragmatic and patriotic, leadership that places the continent on the path of industrialization. At present, these qualities are in serious short supply in the current leadership.

We also need intelligentsia who are pro-Africa in conception and performance and who would conceive of productive and relevant ideas to exploit and harness the incredible potential that exist in Africans and Africa. Certainly, we do not need intellectuals who are still steeped in colonial and slave mentality in terms of their worldview and approach to development. Such intellectuals who dream of privatization as the only means of effective and efficient service delivery and economic development, with the private sector as the engine of growth, are merely delaying our progress. Moreover, we do not need intellectuals whose conception of economic development champions foreign direct investment and taxes increases, while withdrawing the State from investing in the productive sectors. We do not need intellectuals and leaders whose perception and understanding of development is merely focused on economic growth rates as captured in GDP, without regard to human development.

Meanwhile, public institutions must be transparent and responsive to actually ensure that the rights and needs of the people are met. Basically people must enjoy free education, health care and social services and be able to develop our full human potential so that we can make meaningful contributions to our society.

Moving forward, Africa needs to step back from foreign-instigated summits, institutions and processes and begin to assess herself in terms of her current state of affairs—how and where we stand in the world. We need to understand the world itself: how and where it is going and how we can fit within this milieu for our survival and development. These foreign summits are intended for only one purpose, and that is to create space for the foreigners within Africa to obtain more resources and to send us more of their manufactured goods to buy and consume. For example, currently Africa is said to be the fastest growing mobile market, yet there is no major mobile company that is African! Not Apple, Samsung, Nokia or LG!

The fact that everyone is seeking to invite us to meet, talk and dine should be a wake up call that, indeed, we must have something quite valuable. What we have is out in the open, just that only Africans do not see it. We have the strategic location, the natural resources, and the population—three indispensable economic and political tools that can transform the lives of anyone who controls them.

Africans, let us control ourselves otherwise outsiders will continue to control, exploit and dominate us, for their own good!


  1. Another painful and straightforward account of the problem we face in this century. Africans need to become aware that we have the resources, the population and the location on this planet to become economically independent and advance the state of civilization in the rest of the world. That other nations are interested in Africa, especially her resources, is the proof. We need to wake up to face the fact that unless we develop our resources for our own sustenance and development, others will come in and only loot. This is the reality of the 21st century. Madi has unequivocally recounted the unpleasant and distressing reality in this stark presentation of our present and what our future can become. He calls for a new awakening. Or else!

  2. Hmmm, my brother Madi Jobarteh, you speak truth to power. You nail the issue. You nail a trend I have also spotted. Once I saw a map on CSPAN, an American Book TV, with a Neanderthal-looking man carving up Africa for Solar Power generation for the whole world. I got scared immediately and I wondered, where will we be while they come in and do all these things on our lands.?The first thing I will propose is that we put our Ancestral Lands under the auspices of the Traditional State, to which all members are fully registered. Any allocation of lands for projects, for lease to companies and so forth and so on, must be done by the majority vote of the people of the Traditional State. Of course with the oversight from a Federal Government. This was the state of our union before they forced us into a Capitalist Democracy (although they like to call is a Social Democracy). But the power must go back to the people. With 1 Billion people, that is trememdous power and the Federal Government must only learn to regulate the inter- and intra-workings of this power. Kudos to you Madi and your relentless effort to inform!

  3. I totally concur with you Mr. Jobarteh! “Certainly, we do not need intellectuals who are still steeped in colonial and slave mentality in terms of their worldview and approach to development. Such intellectuals who dream of privatization as the only means of effective and efficient service delivery and economic development, with the private sector as the engine of growth, are merely delaying our progress.”

    When you have a world economic system based on the dollar, which is just paper printed by a private corporation in the United States of America called the Federal Reserve, how can local companies compete with American companies? Western companies can just come to Gambia and buy everything up. And then what? Perhaps the first way we can level the playing field if at all privatization could work is to get rid of the Dollar. Why do we have to trade in the Petro-Dollar?

    I therefore agree with you 100 percent. African must follow her own path to success. Africa must follow her own destiny. Africa must keep her own resources for herself. Africa must not sell here resources to foreign companies in the name of privatization. That will not help anyone. Plus, this is not in the spirit of African traditions, customs and philosophy.

  4. As usual my friend and brother Madi Jobarteh nails it! In my view the number 1 problem we face as Africans is not neo-colonialsim, IMF/WB policies, America or Europe no it is a lack of an African-centered leadership. It is this lacuna in our leadership space that has made neo-colonialism, IMF policies US and European ( and now Chinese ) interests problem for us. I long for the day when African leaders will be impeached by the people. Until we make examples of our leaders we will never get them to respect our dignity and right to better standards of living.

    My only concern or point of disagreement with Madi is that he puts too much faith in State-owned companies/enterprises (SOEs). We need to find ways to TAKE power AWAY from the corrupt governments not find ways to increase those powers. Power belongs to the people and economic power is the key to political power. A prosperous and economically vibrant private sector grows economic power in the hands of the people against the corruption of a gargantuan State apparatus. The problem is not the private sector per se but who OWNS the economy: is it foreigners ( westerners) or Africans? The day Africans have economic power is the day politics will see a make-over in Africa!!

  5. I see my brother Atiga Atingdui! You and Madi Jobarteh are critiquing the same issue although different parts of the issue. Correct me if I am wrong in the ensuing statements. I think you are alluding to the fact that some elements in government, or the government, have always been in collusion with invaders (colonialists, slave traders, imperialists, American corporations, Turkish Corporations) to dupe, loot and even enslve the people. You believe if government can be fully controlled by the people (impeachment, full democratic participation, etc) that we can overcome the traitors in our land in order that we can gain full access to the potentials of our own resources. I agree. Madi is actually cautioning the ‘men’ who are already in government. In a way, I feel Madi thinks that government can change to affect the changes you want. That by pointing to the government the ridiculouness of its policies and the stupidity of its undertankings that both government and people might make the turnaround we need. Only you want the change to happen from out of the people and then through a government that empowers the people and even perhaps through the private enterprise of the people. Madi wants the government and the people to fully accept that the policies of the invaders are bad for us. Either way, both government, as they are right now, and the invaders are bad!! I have no respect for them. The question I guess is the approach. Your view is definitely a pragmatic one. Madi’s is the philosophy we need to inform the people to take the pragmatic step we need to change the government, how we are governed and how our resources are to be used. Please, feel free to correct me, you both!

  6. It is a worry that our leaders would travel around the world to hear what plans other countries have for our resources, populations, and lands. Thank you for bringing much-need attention to this issue and the insightful comments are also right on the point. The dollar should be shed and not accepted. And we have to go back to our traditional ways. Western democracies don’t work in Africa. The best leaders for the country have been “dictators” or one-party states that also cooperate with each ethnic group and traditional leaders. Our intelligentsia, intellectuals, and governments have to work together with the traditional village people to get our resources back in the hands of the people and not siphoned off to Western and other nations and their companies. If anything, we need partnerships with them that benefit us more but we do not need to be taken advantage of.

  7. Dade Afre Akufu you have put it succinctly! Madi Jobarteh and I are on the same page with regard to the problem at hand ( corrupt governments, mis-education, looting by government cronies and foreigners etc etc). Where we depart is in the form or nature of the solution in a sense. Madi believes that the State ought to play a central role by priming the ‘economic well’ if you like. I on the other hand think that government’s role in economics has been disastrous. It has been a way to strengthen the reliance we have on the government for everything from employment, education, health etc etc. This has further empowered the governments and entrenched their resistance to change as it provides huge economic benefits to the government elite.

    I am saying enough of empowering governments, now let’s empower the people; the African people. Our governments have used us as their toilets for far too long. They have connived with foreign business interests to make millions while the people wallow in inexcusable poverty. The politicians use or rather mis-use the poor for political gimmicks, for their rallies, as foot soldiers to kill and be killed to sustain the party in power. Nobody who runs a successful business would have time to be abused and mis-used for political ends. Such a person would have too much to lose if Ghana should not progress.

  8. I have to concur with Atiga Atingdui that we put too much faith in Government. Our faith in “State-owned companies/enterprises (SOEs)” is too dogmatic, even. So I think Atiga is correct in saying that “we need to find ways to TAKE power AWAY from the corrupt governments not find ways to increase those powers.” Although, Dade, this is the pragmatic thing to do, I feel it is also the philosophical approach. Lest we forget, our traditional systems were built this way as well. Africa has practiced this faith in government for centuries. Well, colonialism and the slave trade corrupted it. Most of the people we have in government, or the financiers of government, can trace a part of their ancestry to slave trading or Ghana’s natural resource trading to foreigners, while the people suffer! Enough is enough. Let us approach this a different way, that is get rid of government and start afresh from the people!

  9. Atiga Atingdui and Solomon Azumah-Gomez, your approach is well-meaning. I actually think it would work. However, I fear that that this approach does not build community in the long run. We need government to play a significant role in our cultural and spiritual aspirations. I understand that the structure has been corrupted. But why scrap it altogether? Why not renew it, purge the corrupt individuals from it using the people’s collective power and the communal volition of the state? I think there is something to gain from a truly responsible government. I believe it was through this structure that this land built the Pyramids and the Temples. Why not find a way to bring it back in style rather than diminish its existence in giving all power to the people? I fear this would breed individualism and ultimately, crony capitalism. Or?

  10. Indeed, let government operate where it is best suited. There is a place for government unfortunately economics is not such a place. I have no problem with government ensuring security, protection of rights and defending the sovereignty of the people. Government can also nudge the people in a cultural direction although I don’t think it should meddle in spiritual matters. Leave the people to determine their own Gods after all our ancestors never engaged in religious imperialism. When it comes to religion I proffer the notion of “to each his own”.

    • My beloved brother Atiga Atingdui, I fully comprehend your concerns and issues and by and large I think we are all on the same direction. I agree with you that we need to be careful in the way we empower the State. But am sure you will also agree that the role and position of the State in the life of society is fundamental. The State cannot be substituted and taken for granted. I am all for the private sector, i.e. local private sector. I am certainly not keen with foreign investment especially as the main path for development as we currently do. This is because foreign investors developed no nation. The reason why I insist on the full and active involvement of the State in investment and production is in response to our particular circumstances. When you take the Gambia as an example, the country does not yet have the private companies or rich individuals who can undertake commercial agriculture or manufacturing to a level that they can satisfy the needs of the market and the country. The private sector in the Gambia does not have the necessary capacity to invest in research and development as a means to develop or invent new tools. Without the State involvement to prop up our private sector, it means either Gambia will not be able to meets its needs or would have to bring in already well established private sector from abroad to produce, manufacture and invent. This is the disaster besetting Africa since independence. As I have been trying to argue, when one looks at the nature of the Industrial Revolution, and before it slavery and colonialism, one can see that the various monarchies in Europe gave the necessary legal, policy and financial backing to expeditions to venture out to the world. Cecil Rhodes or Frederick Lugard led teams under royal charters to invade Africa and other parts of the world to enslave, colonize and control the resources of the occupied. I am not saying Africa needs only SOEs, and no private sector as in the old misguided socialism of China or USSR or Cuba. No. I stand for property rights and the free and unfettered acquisition of private property and private enterprise by citizens. And the State must create the necessary and enabling environment to generate such development process. It is when the State has served to build the required foundations through developing various sectors and in partnership with private sector, that it can withdraw eventually from production but continue to focus on policy making and regulation to ensure a viable, competitive and just private sector space. We are living witness to how this is unfolding in the West. Many of their governments have had huge SOEs in both the productive and service sectors. Until today there are SOEs in UK, France or Germany among others. But increasingly we also see a gradual reduction or phase out of these SOEs so that the State now only becomes a regulator or stabilizer. See how much public resources were injected into the market by various Western governments in the wake of the financial crisis. How many private companies and industries have been bailed out by the State in US and Europe? But in Arica, our leaders are told that the State cannot bail out, or even serve as a guarantor for the private sector to obtain credit. Thus I do not think we must be frightened by the terrible experiences so far. Rather we must understand how and why since independence we were only able to produce weak leaders and inefficient and corrupt governments for the most part. I do not think government is inherently bad. Otherwise can we also suggest that we therefore privatize our governments so that we have private presidencies, private parliaments, and private judiciaries! LOL. Of course this is impossible. Therefore what must be emphasized is that we seek to build transparent, accountable and responsive governments. I agree with you when you indicated that our problem is not IMF and the West. Our problem has been the kind of leadership and intelligentsia we have that have served to only create ineffective and inefficient pubic sector. In that kind of situation, even without SOEs, the government will still stifle private enterprise, which can only become corrupt and inefficient, as is the case right now. I hope I am a bit more clear. Let the debate continue…

    • So Madi Jobarteh, you fear foreign direct investment will push out the potential for local industries to develop? Don’t you think the only reason why this foreign investment is suspect is because of the Petro-Dollar? In the same way that Cowries were collected from the Carribean by Slave Traders and brough to West Africa in exchange for slaves. Perhaps, we must get rid of the Petro-Dollar. If we do, and we Barter, then that Direct Foreign Investment would actually be in Real Currency – like Gold, like heavy machines, expertise, etc. Not what is happening today where American Corporations bring this Paper called the Dollar (a promisory note), which a private Company in the US just prints, by the way, and comes to Ghana, say, and takes away our Cocoa and Gold. With the promise that when we need something from them we can come back and get it later with that Dollar? Why not just Barter in the first place? If they need the Cocoa, they can give us 10 F15 Fighter jets. If they want the Gold, they can give us a Car Manufacturing Plant and train a few people here. I feel that trade is going to continue to be important. Without a strong private sector like Atiga is saying, it is going to be difficult for any one nation, like the Gambia, to find expertise or fund the industry necessary to supply Gambian demands. We are going to continue to live in a world where all nations have Comparative Advantage, if and only if, we can scrap the Petro-Dollar. Dollars are Cowries! Our economies are tied to these US/Western Promises and there’s nothing we can do but to wait for some Western nation to invest in our countries. Well, they need our Raw Materials, don’ they? We need their Machinery and expertise, don’t we? Why not Barter? This will tilt our trade balance with other nations into equilibrium and will strenghten the private sector and government as well. Win, win

  11. As long as outsiders are able to play the old Roman game of divide and rule amongst us, we will suffer in weakness. Africans need a realistically common and recent cultural origin in order to bond us above whatever nationalistic/ethnocentric influences may divide us in the present or future before we start thinking about anything else. The Europeans had Rome and Christianity as foundations for their (albiet foolish) cultural, social, political, judicial, military, and family structures, what have we got?

    ‘If we don’t have a Black Superpower in the next 50 years, we are done’ – Chinweizu Ibikwe

  12. Interesting Debate, I agree with your views but I also feel the focus should also be based on skills development. If we can teach our students to be innovative in our universities and be able to do something productive with our raw materials then Africa will be on the right path. Take for example of machinery, it is interesting enough to note that most heavy manufacturing machinery are manufactured in India, these people started somewhere and now the competition there is high but you find that us in Africa we still need outsider to come and show us even how to melt own zinc into a bolt and nut. But imagine if most engineers which graduate are equipped and supported into carry out some research and development, this would tilt some good developments in our societies. As it is now we train our students how to use the western machinery and call them engineers, we might as well call them operators. Of course we need assistance but the root is to educate the continent, challenge the youth with research. The good news in all this is that the western can not be without our Continent, and if we continue as it is, they will come and take and destroy our continent all because of a few greedy individuals in power. The African governments should be dynamic and not static, it should always be relevant with changing times and only an educated workforce can drive this change.


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