2013: A Special Year for Africa
A Ghanaian AC Milan midfielder, Kevin-Prince Boateng’s reaction to racial insults directed at him on Thursday (January 3, 2013) captures the spirit that Africans should embrace in 2013. The midfielder dramatically tore his shirt and walked off the field and was later joined by the rest of the players and officials. As majority of African countries join the jubilee year since independence; elites and the population in general must take courage to salvage the continent from centuries of abuse.
|Boateng protests against racist remarks P. courtesy|
The revelation by the African Union Chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, that over 97% of the programmes in the continental body are funded by foreign donors points at the urgent need to reconstruct Africans’ dignity. The surrender of the continent’s strategy-making to foreigners explains in part why independence nationalist sentiments evaporated. Ms. Dlamini-Zuma’s shock should awaken intellectual discourse and action on the continent so as to make 2013 the year to plant the seed to recapture Africa for Africans.
The re-election of President Barrack Obama and change of guard in the People’s Republic of China is unlikely to change the status quo where translational financial interests control major decisions on the continent. The onset of multiple growth centres namely the West and Asia, will amplify confusion on the continent. The year 2013 will simply spur the emerging and developed markets to reach out for Africa’s vast natural resources and virgin markets.
The United States of America’s support for Africa will be informed by its national security interests and the quest to tame China’s influence on the continent. It will pay more attention on food security, health and to Africa’s youthful population aged 15 – 35 years that comprise of the continent’s over 1 billion people. The Europeans will be keen on effects of climate change in Africa as a trigger of conflict, migration and possible burden to their overstretched and ageing economies.
The new leadership in China is unlikely to deviate from the now institutionalised Forum on China – Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). China is likely to stick to the FOCAC Beijing Action Plan 2013 – 2015 that sets a wide range of goals that include democratization of international institutions and multilateral trading system. Embedded in the Chinese deals will be the possibility of further Chinese migration into Africa. India is likely to tap heavily into its Diaspora in Africa estimated at 2.5 million to leverage its presence on the continent.
Africa’s faith in international benevolence compromises its ability to evolve effective strategies to leverage on existing natural resources and markets to access the global economy. The continent remains an object of international intervention and humanitarian concern spurred on by rampant corruption and incompetent politicians. The vast natural resource wealth breeds instability and provides motivation for elites to invest in and sustain weak state structures for purposes of plunder.
The last 50 years of independent Africa bred weak state – governance systems that served the interests of both local and international elites. The essence of government and governance draws its credibility from the institutionalised international notion of sovereignty that recognizes national borders instituted by colonialists. Unfortunately, this notion has provided little impetus for Africans to invest in a culture of diversity and ethnic inclusion in nation-state affairs. To an African rural dweller whose jigger infested hands cannot allow him to register as a voter, elective politics is simply a ventilation ritual for political elites.
The surrender of nation-state building and promotion of institutional capacity to foreigners is an indicator of the use of nationalism to simply plunder resources by the continent’s elites. The continent urgently needs mechanisms to deal with peace and security; communicable and non-communicable diseases; environmental degradation and quality governance that promote human dignity. Most African countries are just beginning their second half of the century as independent states, but there is little evidence of effective state building as witnessed in the surge in secessionist tendencies.
North African countries such as Egypt and Tunisia which had exhibited aspects of diversified economies were engulfed in the “Arab Spring” movement that exposed the weakness of state structures. The shooting of 34 miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana South Africa rudely reminded Africans of the double operating systems prevailing on the continent – the elites sucking on the tits of the global market system breeding a middle class detached from African reality.
Kenya’s middle class wallow in opulence in urban centres while their counterparts in arid north (Turkana, Samburu, Pokot) slaughter each other over cattle and access to water and pasture. Nigerians in Lagos celebrate growth and their counterparts suffer the fate of Boko Haram movement born in Maiduguri village. Africans will not achieve stability and human dignity if they continue to ignore the plunder of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The heart of Africa’s stability is in DR Congo.
According to the African Development Bank, the continent’s middle class hit 313 million, close to 34% of the continent’s population. Will Africa’s middle class shift the continent’s value system away from surrender to foreigners as decried by Ms. Dlamini-Zuma? The African Union, African regional economic blocs and African nation-states must actively seek to give more value to the citizenry. Disregard for human dignity and acts by nation-states that show little regard to their citizen’s wellbeing de-motivate the citizenry.
The growing middle class on the continent offers an opportunity for revival and it is equally a threat that will simply position the continent as a consumer entity. It is therefore extremely urgent that the middle class be re-educated on the importance of their role in building legitimate nation-states on the continent. Emphasis on high consumption at the expense of production of value creates a weak taxation base that is much needed to support state governments and continental institutions. The middle class’ fascination with Information and Communication Technology should be utilized as a platform in 2013 to discuss the future of Africa.
Kevin-Prince Boateng’s action was a loud cry for dignified engagement with countries interested in the value that Africa has to offer. Africans must evaluate their value and price it well globally. It is important that the continent evolve strategies to positively engage and tap into Diaspora Africa; grow dynamic indigenous private sector and develop policies to address peasantry. Proactive policies on peasants and focus on long term goals will not only salvage the continent from poverty but also prevent environmental degradation. A productive population will provide the much needed revenue base to help finance activities at national, regional and continental level.
By James Shikwati,
The author firstname.lastname@example.org is Director of Inter Region Economic Network and Publisher of The African Executive online magazine.
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