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:
- 25th Africa – France Summit held in Paris in June 2010
- 5th Forum on China and Africa Cooperation held in Beijing in July 2012
- 2nd Africa – Turkey Summit held in Istanbul in June 2013
- 5th Tokyo International Conference for African Development held in Japan in June 2013
- 3rd Arab – Africa Summit held in Kuwait in November 2013
- 4th Africa – EU Summit held in Brussels in April 2014
- 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!