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Scrabble for Africa Reborn?

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Kamala Harris, U.S Vice President (Image: Reuters)

In a speech presented to a group of women entrepreneurs in Dakar, Senegal early this year, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that the United States had come as a partner to help Africa realize its massive economic potential. Arguably, Africa has long been a continent of interest to Western countries, and in recent years, their influence has been growing at an unprecedented rate. Whether it is through economic investments, military partnerships, or cultural exchanges, Western nations have been making significant strides in establishing themselves as key players on the African continent. It appears that most developed countries are trying to grow their influence on the African continent in what appears like the rebirth of the scrabble for Africa of the 19th century, albeit not through direct colonization but other different forms of control and influence. 

Unprecedented Visits

Could it be coincidental that nearly all world power countries are visiting Africa at intervals not seen in the recent past? The first quarter of 2023  witnessed the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, the visit of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa, the visit of China’s foreign Minister Qin Gang to Ethiopia, Egypt, Gabon, Angola and Benin, the visit of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to South Africa, Botswana and Angola and the visit of France President Emmanuel Macron to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Angola and the Republic of Congo. Each of these high-level visitors has argued that their visits are aimed at creating meaningful partnerships with African countries with France acknowledging that foreign powers are jostling for influence in Africa.

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The French President added that Africa is a theatre of competition and advanced countries are seeking long term partnerships. In an interview at the white house after her recent trip to Africa, US vice President Kamala Harris argued that by 2050, one in four people occupying space of earth will be in Africa and as such, this presented a lot of opportunities in terms of the future and since Africa has a median age, the demographics have an impact on the entire globe. It appears the leaders from advanced countries are seeing the potential that Africa has and are each trying to clinch partnerships in the continent but can the same be said of African leaders? How many African leaders have taken time to visit each other to discuss the opportunities in their nations and work on actualising them? 

The real question that African leaders should ask is, why is Africa becoming a theatre of Competition for foreign nations when it can be a centre of cooperation for the advancement of the continent? Is it not true that when elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers and in this case the grass will be Africa?

Trade potential

Africa is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of mineral resources such as diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, and iron ore, among others. Undoubtedly, Africa is the richest continent and therefore, its untapped trade potential is very attractive. It is no wonder that developed countries are competing to foster relations with African countries. However, it should be noted that the competition for Africa’s resources has a long history, dating back to colonial times when European powers scrambled for control of Africa’s land and resources. Today, the scramble for Africa is driven by a range of factors, which include the growing demand for natural resources, and Africa’s emergence as a key market for consumer goods and services.

The trade potential that each country in Africa has, if well exploited would be sufficient to end some of the major challenges faced. However, the focus has mostly been on external trade with developed countries rather than intra-Africa trade hence unfavourable outcomes. Trade with developed countries has mostly been unfair due to factors such as developed countries using their economic and political power to negotiate trade deals that favour their own interests at the expense of African countries.

Further, African countries often lack the bargaining power in trade negotiations due to being small compared to their trading partners and may be forced to accept unfavourable terms in order to access advanced markets. It is interesting that the pricing of commodities predominantly found in Africa is determined by the developed countries and Africa has no control whatsoever. The question remains, what voice do African countries have to decide on what and who to trade with as they seek to actualise their potential?

African countries should come to a realisation that their strengths lies in their numbers and the ability to work together. Why should Zambia order fuel from far countries and incur huge transport costs instead of importing from Angola, its neighbour? Africa will be respected on the global stage when economic decisions such as trade focus on inward solutions rather than continued dependency. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which should be the world’s largest single market is a key weapon to boost Africa’s economic freedom. Africa should not come to the trade table as beggars but rather equal partners because the World needs what Africa has and not only the other way round. 

Working in partnership with other countries is not the problem, but having only one partner benefiting is. While it is true that scrabble for Africa is history, its reoccurrence in the form of control, power and cultural change should be questioned. It’s a call for leaders, investors, Africans and interested stakeholders to ensure that African interests and viewpoints are prioritised by all in working towards bettering people’s lives. Africa has potential to be its own redeemer instead of being ripped apart in the fierce struggle resembling the scrabble for Africa. In the context of globalisation, Africa should seek meaningful and mutually beneficial deals that are only possible when it comes to the negotiating tables as equal partners, not as directionless people who need deliverance.

By: Nchimunya Muvwende

Economist- Zambia

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Africa speaks

Unstoppable Africa 2023: Shaping a Future of Prosperity and Innovation

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Unstoppable Africa 2023 has concluded, leaving a profound mark on the African continent. The two-day Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI) event aims to boost Africa’s standing in the global economy and establish the continent as the foremost destination for business, trade, and investment. This transformative gathering on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly has not only chartered the course for economic growth but has also solidified GABI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for change and progress.

On the second day of the event, Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence Ventures, emphasized the importance of authentically portraying African narratives. She highlighted that the continent’s rich heritage has traditionally been expressed through its unique storytelling methods. Wanga stated, “In discussing Africa, it’s vital to engage in genuine dialogue. We’ve celebrated our heritage through our distinct method of storytelling, which the world is longing for now more than ever. As the overseer of Essence Ventures and other platforms, I am committed to ensuring our tales are told from a position of strength and authenticity.”

The final day of the Unstoppable Africa 2023 featured a chorus of leading private sector voices. Notably, leaders from the business and media world such as Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer; Niraj Varia, CEO of iProcure Ventures; Lakeshia Ford, Founder of Ford Communications; Claudia Kwarteng–Lumor, Founder of Kollage Media, producers of GLITZ AFRICA Magazine and Somachi Chris-Asoluka, CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). 

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Complementing these luminaries were esteemed figures from government and international organizations, including President Masisi, H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Adebayo Olawale Edun, Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy for Nigeria, Joy Basu, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs at the US Department of State.

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Unstoppable Africa: Igniting Transformation and Bold Collaborations

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Unstoppable Africa Conference: Dr. Akinwuni Adesina and H.E. William Ruto (Image: Supplied)

Leaders from global business, investment, government, sports, and the arts gathered in New York on Thursday, 21st September to mark the commencement of “Unstoppable Africa”. The event by the Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI) seeks to elevate Africa’s prominence in the global economy and position the continent as the premier destination for business, trade, and investment.

The two-day event is co-convened by the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohamed and the Chairperson of the African Union H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. GABI, coordinated by the UN Global Compact, serves as a pivotal forum for Heads of State and Government, CEOs, investors, policymakers, industry experts, and U.N. leaders to discuss and strategize the way forward for Africa’s dynamic business landscape. “Unstoppable Africa” is a powerful affirmation of GABI’s unwavering commitment to redefining Africa’s economic narrative.

On day one, the flagship event attracted an impressive array of speakers and participants, including the Presidents of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Kenya, H.E. William Samoe Ruto, Senegal, H.E Macky Sall Poland H.E Andrzej Duda and H.E Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. In addition to government ministers, “Unstoppable Africa” welcomed a who’s who of renowned business titans such as Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-British businessman and philanthropist, Phumzile Langeni, Deputy Chairman of Imperial Logistics; Non-Executive Director of DP World Group, James Manyika, Senior Vice-President of Research, Technology and Society at Google-Alphabet, and Brad Smith, President of Microsoft among others. Senegalese artist Baaba Maal set the tone for the event with a captivating performance calling for peace and prosperity in Africa while actor Arsema Thomas engaged in an insightful interview conducted by the event’s host Folly Bah Thibault from Al Jazeera English.

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the two-day forum making a compelling call for the “delivery of justice” – a theme central to the continent’s sustainable development. The UN Secretary-General stated that “justice means reforming outdated, unfair and dysfunctional global financial systems and ensuring African representation at every multilateral table”.

H.E. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados emphasized the difference between ambition and meaningful action, in the context of Africa. Recognizing the emerging unity and collaborative efforts across the continent, she highlighted the imperative for accelerated progress in Africa. Her message underscored the urgency for nations to move from plans to concrete actions that catalyze transformative change on the continent.

During a major event announcement, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), announced a transformative partnership with Google, creating a Centre of Excellence for coding in Africa.

Other announcements on the day included The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) commitment to positioning the country high-up in the batteries and electric vehicles value chains, unveiling a new 1,000-hectare space in Kolwezi, with special economic zone status. DRC’s Minister of Industry, H.E. Julien Paluku, appealed to global investors to join these initiatives in addressing climate change while advancing economic growth. the launch of Ghana’s Energy Blue Zone Initiative, heralding a major stride in the country’s energy transition and investment plans.

The “Unstoppable Africa” event promises to continue its momentum into the second day, where further thought-provoking discussions, innovative solutions, and collaborative endeavors are set to shape Africa’s role in the global economy. Leaders from various sectors, including business, government, and civil society, will come together to exchange ideas, forge partnerships, and chart a course toward a more prosperous and sustainable future for Africa and the world.

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Nigerian-Born Ayomide Idogun On Creating Impact

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Ayomide Idogun is the co-founder at the New African Movement, an initiative aimed at ensuring Africa is conducive for Africans. Ayomide is a development strategist, policy analyst, and military historian with a major flair for transformative change through strategic thought, leadership, and empowerment.

Recently, he had the opportunity to be a delegate at the Arab Youth International Model United Nations Conference, now known as the Best Diplomats Conference, held in Dubai. Beyond the piquancy that came with meeting over 150 people from about 80 countries, and the experience of learning different cultures, the delegates were largely charged with proffering solutions to solving the global food crisis.  Ayomide represented the great people of Guatemala, who sadly are no strangers to this phenomenon, with 4.6 million people at the least, facing the hunger crisis, and suffering hugely from food insecurity.

This led him to come up with prospective solutions, to ensure farmer empowerment, and the mitigation of factors hindering food supply minimized to the barest minimum, so as to ensure Guatemala does not just become self-sustaining, but grows to the point of exporting food produce to other Nations. His efforts did not go unrewarded as he bagged the Outstanding Diplomat Award, in recognition of his outstanding negotiation, leadership, and overall performance during the course of the conference.

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He is a trainer and speaker with core area in leadership, capacity building and development. Some of his engagements amongst others, includes, training members of the African community in the United Arab Emirates, on capacity building and maximizing potentials, to ensure their time and resources are utilized to maximal effect. And at the maiden edition of DisruptHR Lagos, organized by OutsideinHR, where he spoke on the role COVID-19 played on priorities for humanity, and the ever-changing landscape of work.

Ayomide Idogun holds a degree in Policy and Strategic Studies from Covenant University, a second degree in History and Strategic Studies from the University of Lagos, and he is currently enrolled in the School of Politics, Policy and Governance, where he is undergoing the Public Leadership and Policy Programme.

 

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