August 3, 2014
By Henry OLAMIJU
I hear our President Jonathan Goodluck is going to the United States today for a meeting tagged US-African Leaders’ Summit. The proposed meet is scheduled to focus on trade, investment and security while highlighting the need for commitment to democracy by the African leaders.
It was a plan made public during President Obama’s three-nation tour last year. The bottom-line of the visit and this summit is that America fears that China is making more inroads into African economies than the US has made (compare China’s $200 billion investments in Africa to US’ $85 billion). In short, this Summit is essentially of more benefit to the United States than to the African nations invited. It stands to reason that US wants to play a larger role in Africa than it currently holds and needs more African allies hence the need for the summit.
First things first.
The United States (as well as other world ‘powers’) should know that Africa is NOT a country! You cannot call a meeting that adequately meets the needs of Africa as a whole because there is nothing that holds these African countries together any more than US and Mexico are held together. They are all sovereign states and the issues they face, though generically similar, require different approaches for long-lasting sustainable solutions. The best economic arrangement ever seen between African countries was ECOWAS which is currently functionally comatose. There is no United African Force that enforces anything across borders. This summit promises NO face-to-face time with President Obama (definitely no handshake-in-the-Oval Office photographs either) so African leaders will have to be satisfied with him giving his lecture and that’s all.
The question that begs for an answer is why the Summit had to be held in US. The United States is one powerful country in global issues but it is still ONE country; Africa is a continent of fifty-four sovereign states. During his speech to the Ghanaian Parliament during the African tour, President Obama said:
“So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And that is what I want to speak with you about today.”
Where is mutual respect when the American president will summon fifty African leaders to his ‘office’ to give them a talk what they need to do in Africa? Does the West think that the citizens in those countries don’t think (even if their leaders are a bunch of nincompoops?). A few months ago, the French President also summoned the African leaders to Paris; the Chinese have their own annual conference for African leaders in Beijing. Where is the mutual respect? The blame does not lie with the countries that summon them, it rests squarely on the shoulders of the Washington-crazy, White House-hungry, photo-starved African leaders who drag the dignity of their citizens and that of the whole of Africa in the mud by junketing to these charade in the name of attracting foreign investments and all the euphemistic Summits that only benefit the countries visited. These countries have African leaders at their beck –and-call and dangle dry bones they can’t present to British or Chinese dogs. I can only imagine the Mephistophelian gleam in the eyes of the Western (and Chinese) powers when they see the African sheep gathered in front of them.
What will this one achieve?
China has had five conferences with African leaders over the past five years; yes, investments have more than doubled and there seems to be some boom in certain aspects of industry on the African continent but the truth remains that developmentally, Africa is stunted because most of these investments benefit the cronies of the incumbent government in the respective countries. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high. There’s nothing America will tell us that we did not know before. Invest in the young people; they are the future of Africa’s tomorrow. Give priority to education and make sure there is a benefit for those that attend and complete certain levels of education. Do this consistently for a period of ten years and see what happens to the foreign direct investments into the economies.
This summit will probably not achieve much. Out of the fifty countries invited, only fourteen leaders have signaled intention of making the summit. Will the attending leaders go and enforce American will in the absent countries? Let’s even talk about true democracy; the summit invite was extended to countries like Angola, Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Gambia and Uganda whose leaders have been in power since forever. Presidents Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola and President Teodoro Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea have been in power since 1979! Will the summit prevail on them to step down? Paul Biya of Cameroun has been there since 1982. Will he suddenly have a change of heart and leave? The presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will not be attending because of the Ebola outbreak in their countries. These three deserve some credit for deciding to stay back to contain the issues of far more importance to their people rather than grandstanding with African charlatans in the name of a summit. There is a country that even if bombs went off behind his backyard, the president will still travel for a handshake in the White House.
Even if this new US-African alliance directly improves the GDP of the countries attending over the next two or more years, can you please ask Nigerians on the street about the practical implications of improved GDP in a developing country in Sub-Saharan Africa? They will tell you it means drawing fine castles in the air, in short, it is absolutely meaningless!
The Ebola Outbreak
Due to the outbreak and rapid transmission of the Ebola Virus Disease in parts of West Africa, the United States has said the delegations from areas even remotely connected will be screened for the disease before being allowed in the US. That statement, as sincere and citizen-protective as it may sound, is very condescending if it means that for example, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan will be subjected to such screening in view of the fact that there’s no outbreak in Nigeria and even if there was, the suggestion of transmission of the virus to someone as high up as the president is not only ludicrous, it is highly insulting.
I would not want a foreign government to poke my president with a needle for any reason. Conspiracy theory or not, the legend that we read from novels weren’t just manufactured, they did happen to someone. Any screening that is invasive is a no-no.
The only reason President Goodluck Jonathan should have to attend the summit is if there is a guarantee that as the leader of Africa’s fastest growing and largest economy, he will have a one-on-one time with President Obama. If not, he and President Jacob Zuma should abstain from the Summit. What will be left when Africa’s largest and second largest economies don’t attend the summit? Nothing.
African leaders should host the meet and have it somewhere in Africa, whether in Addis Ababa, Lagos or Johannesburg, it doesn’t matter. Have a one week Summit, give the Chinese two days for their presentation, two days to the Americans, one day for the rest of the world and round up the Summit after two more days. That’s the way to go for Africa if it has to start pulling its weights in World affairs. Of course, that’s after they have settled the issues they have internally: corruption, youth unemployment, sectarian violence, human rights abuses etc.
African citizens have to wake up; the youth, as the largest demographic in most African countries, have to create the future they envision for themselves. Promotion, peace and progress does not come from outside the boundaries of countries; throughout history, countries have grown by making hard decisions, looking inwards and growing organically (from the inside out).
Developing the next generation of leaders will take more than a three-day summit, it will require us to be “selectively extravagant and be prudently frugal” over the haul until the fruits begin to bloom in a few years, maybe a decade but when the results come, each country will stand as a real sovereign state and not just as a number among many.
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