Those who fail to learn from history, they say, are condemned to repeat history’s mistakes. The first time I learnt of the Scramble and Partition of Africa (1884-1885), it was in Government Class in Senior Secondary School 1 and I can still almost picture the paragraphs and fonts of the Essential Government Textbook as it explained how European countries gathered in 1885 at the Berlin Conference to officially split African countries into colonies.
However, one thing the authors of the Essential Government textbook failed to mention, maybe out of sheer optimism or blissful ignorance is that the Scramble for Africa never ended, rather it has evolved. The struggle for a piece of Africa which was within the purview of European countries has had to welcome new players- of which China is the most prominent.
The reason for the unending scramble is simple: Africa is a rich continent, blessed with a strong, creative and teeming youth population, and almost inexhaustible natural resources. A cursory look at history will glaringly reveal that Africa’s destiny has always been dictated by Europe and a few greedy or clueless Africans; the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, colonization, neo-colonialism, undue interference in the internal matters of sovereign states, and now, the 21st century scramble for Africa.
Does Africa have a plan to become more than a continent that plays host to third world countries and corrupt head of governments who seek more to perpetuate themselves in power than they seek the welfare of the people? Donald Trump’s United States of America (USA) though pushing policies that put “America First” is still working to ensure that the US remains a relevant world power.
The reason for the unending scramble is simple: Africa is a rich continent, blessed with a strong, creative and teeming youth population, and almost inexhaustible natural resources
Through several interventions in Africa, the European Union is also working to make African countries adopt Europe friendly policies. As the Brexit comes to its point of culmination, the Great Britain is also giving more attention to the Commonwealth of Nations. The above listed nations have plans to remain relevant in spite of changing times but what is Africa’s plan?
All the foregoing and the seeming lack of strategy and political foresight displayed by most African governments makes me wonder if Africa has a future of her own beyond the one envisaged for her by others. Will Africa forever be a part of the dependent Global South? – that’s a question Africa needs to answer.
I am afraid for my continent and even more so, for my country Nigeria where leaders continuously accept unsustainable debt burdens. At the recently concluded Forum on Chinese-African Cooperation that had over 50 African delegations in attendance, China pledged $60 billion to African countries in form of loans and “development assistance” with the aim of ensuring the “common prosperity” of Africans and Chinese.
I hold the opinion that Africa does not need more loans but competent and ethical leaders that realize her potential and can effectively and efficiently work towards making Africa a better place for Africans
Though the Chinese President, Xi Jinping has stated that there are no “strings attached” to these billion dollar loans, with the recent 99-year lease of a Sri Lanka port to China over unpaid debt, one cannot help but wonder if African countries are not on the path to trading off all that’s left of Africa.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the current chair of the African Union, has dismissed such concerns, saying talks of “debt traps” is aimed at discouraging African-Chinese interaction. However, I hold the opinion that Africa does not need more loans but competent and ethical leaders that realize her potential and can effectively and efficiently work towards making Africa a better place for Africans. Contrary to popular opinion, Africa is not a poor continent! Instead of loans, what we need is an economically united Africa that is consciously working towards becoming less dependent on foreign economies.
It is no longer news that Africa gives so much to the world’s economy but earns so little in return. As a matter of economic survival, Africa need to stop exporting raw materials and start refining them here before exporting them! We need to build a united economic front if we must become an economically relevant continent. Africa is enough market for Africans! In the lines of what Samir Aamin called a “necessary disconnection” from the Global North, we must work to build an Africa that is self-sufficient. Certainly, it will not be easy at first but if African countries must become more than a continent to be scrambled for, it is a necessary bold step!
Photo : afriqueeducation.com