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Africa: the collapse of dignity

After a “successful” first US-Africa Lea-ders’ Summit last week, attended by as many as 50 presidents and prime ministers, my interest is purely as usual…

After a “successful” first US-Africa Lea-ders’ Summit last week, attended by as many as 50 presidents and prime ministers, my interest is purely as usual academic. According to the host, President Barack Obama, the summit was premised on “a new model of partnership between America and Africa — a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to expand opportunity and strengthen democ-racy and promote security and peace”.
With such “partnership of equals” in which one partner (read, United States of America) could confidently host and almost talk at as  many as 50 partner-countries of Africa, the world certainly needs a redefinition of equality/partnership equation in which one equals fifty. Certainly, Africa (sorry, 50 presidents and prime ministers from Africa) needs urgently a new “Idiot’s Guide to (In)equality”. And that Guide can certainly not come from United States of America. For one America is the most unequal country on earth. Studies indicate the richest 1 per cent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent.  Indeed, in recent times economic inequality has reportedly worsened significantly in the United States and some other countries.
Thus USA cannot offer what it does not have at home (equality) which perhaps explains why its president, Barack Obama, joyfully equated one country of his to 50 African countries.
It is also instructive that three or so African countries were not invited to the Washington historic summit. The countries inclu-ded predictably Zimbabwe and Sudan whose presidents are far from being partners of America, anyway, even if America has not said they are enemies to it either. At least America, in line with the principle of transparency and accountability guiding any partnership, should have made it known that the concluded summit was with Africa minus those countries not invited; in which case it would be clear to an alien from the outer space that this “partnership” was with some countries in Africa not necessarily with the Africa union! Also observers of global events wonder aloud why did the first “historic” summit between Africa and US hold in Washington and not on the African soil?  Of course, President Obama had an answer when he said it was “the largest gathering any American President has ever hosted with African heads of state and government”.  Certainly, what we had was a gathering of un-equals rather than a summit of partners.
The US meeting undoubtedly went the way of the familiar “summits” in which African heads of states were summoned to Beijing (Africa/China summit) and Ankara (Africa/Turkish summit). This year marks the 57th anniversary of the independence of Ghana from British colonial rule as well as 51st anniversary of the formation of OAU/AU. It is certainly a collapse of dignity that Africa would be literally shut down by its leaders for a summit in far-away Washington. The promise of independence is that those who would engage with Africa must engage with it on the African soil.
It is debatable if the likes of Kwame Nkrumah and late Nelson Mandela were to be alive any foreign power (sorry, partner) would have dared to “gather” for an engagement outside the continent as our contemporary Africans uncritically did last week. Certainly, everybody knows that there is no free lunch in Washington. But that African leaders were treated to free square meals for a week further created the bad impression of dependence, which the struggle for independence once put an end to. The devils are in the details of the benefits of the concluded summit some of which included some promissory notes of billions of dollars worth of investment. Some of these details further reinforce the dependency of Africa which in a “partnership” keeps on receiving rather than giving – or better still a dependency in which Africa through capital flight, corruption and now uncritically unidirectional visits of its presidents and prime ministers.
By the way, it was refreshing that President Obama promised to hold the next YALI (Young African Leaders Institute) on African soil next year. He also changed YALI to Nelson Mandela Young Leaders Institute. But must African young leaders discover Nelson Mandela in Washington instead of Abuja or Cape Town and Cairo?

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