Scrabble for Africa Reborn?
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.
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.
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?
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
Nigerian-Born Ayomide Idogun On Creating Impact
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.
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.
Prof. Remi Duyile on Nigeria 2023 election and advice to the youths
Prof. Remi Duyile, Founder Legacy Premier Foundation
As Nigerians are gearing up and campaigning for the 2023 election begins, Business Africa Online asked Prof. Remi Duyile share her thoughts on what this election means to her and why everyone must be involved, why we cannot afford to get it wrong this time around, and advice to the youths. Excerpts.
I held a political role in Nigeria a few years ago, which provided me with a good understanding of the country’s political institutions. As we approach another year in the political chapters of Nigerian history, we must not only look forward with expectations but also reflect on our previous experiences in order to identify and choose the right leaders for our future.
We’ve all heard the saying “,those who fail to learn from history are likely to repeat it.” With elections approaching, it is critical that we look back and critically examine not only the people, but also the patterns that have led us here. We cannot build the Nigeria we want without learning from the past and making the necessary adjustments while preparing for the future. It takes time for change to occur, just like Rome did not rise overnight. Nevertheless, now is the time to lay the foundation for the Nigeria we seek to build, tomorrow.
There may be a question in your mind as to what these foundations are. There is first of all a sense of worth and worthiness in life. For any nation to fully develop, it must place a high value on the lives of its residents. As we prepare for the next elections, we must question which of these candidates prioritizes the worth of life and a sense of being Nigerian citizens. This includes: freedom of speech, equality and democratic processes at all levels. This is a priority because unless the worth of life and a sense of self are prioritized above all else, even the best-looking prospects will ultimately become unyielding and dictatorial.
Secondly, there is the growth of human capital and socioeconomic empowerment. It is common knowledge that every industrialized country prioritizes these two factors. No nation is more powerful than its economic potential. Our leaders must be intentional about this. Being a producing nation is one way to successfully enforce this. Nigeria is a great country, yet we are unable to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
All human capacities that can help to improve our economy include the capacity to create, invent, strategize, and engage. To think for ourselves, to maximize the potential of our teeming young people, to generate opportunities and employment, all of these are vital for progress and must be prioritized if we are to see any change in our nation.
Tapping into African Diaspora
By: Nchimunya Muvwende (Photo: ADN)
In a famous quote, an author penned down the words “No matter where you go, always remember the road that will lead you home.” There are many Africans that left their countries in search of green pastures in the diaspora but it seems that they have become so comfortable with developing the already advanced countries and do not seem to remember their roots. While foreign investors are rushing to invest in the opportunities present in Africa, very few foreign based Africans do the same but rather focus on helping family members through remittances that have no sustainable impact. This status quo is not helpful and there is a need to harness a working relationship between nations and their people that live abroad in order to have inclusive development.
Harnessing diaspora resources
Many African countries are highly indebted and much of this debt arises from the ambitious development projects that governments are undertaking to improve the livelihoods of their people. Most projects cost more money than countries can manage to mobilize domestically and so, the countries are forced to depend on external aid and loans that are sometimes tied to adverse conditions.
On the flip side, there are many diaspora based Africans who have raised enough resources which when invested back in their countries, the rising debt crises could be mitigated. To do this, there is a need to provide specific incentives for the foreign based Africans so as to attract their resources to be invested in their home countries. Doing so will come with many benefits such as reduced dependency on borrowing, money remaining within countries hence stabilizing exchange rates, employment creation, economic growth and basically improved wellbeing of the people. It should be noted that no one will prioritise the development of Africa except its people regardless of where they are based and so, measures need to be taken to engage the children of the African soil.
Nations need to appeal to their people to remember those they left back home and think of ways of improving their livelihoods. It goes without saying that it is important to look strategically, systematically and critically at the diaspora’s role in the African development matrix and engage the huge reservoir of human and financial capital found in the large African diaspora.
Investment not remittances
When you give a child fish, they would still come back for more but if you build them a fish pond, teach them how to earn an income, the dependence syndrome reduces. There are many Africans that are in the diaspora that earn decent incomes and have to always remit funds to their families back home. However, this has created a continued financial dependence that has not necessarily improved livelihoods as it is not a sustainable source of income for the people back home.
The World Bank statistics show that remittances from the diaspora are estimated at about $87 billion annually and these amounts actually exceed official development assistance to Africa. Why always beg for help when Africans in the diaspora have more resources? It is time that the many Africans domiciled across the world begin to think of how they can reinvest their incomes into building businesses that will benefit not only their families but their countries as a whole. When critically analyzing cost factors, it would be cheaper to set up a business in an African country than in western countries.
This is because the cost of labor, availability of ready market and investment incentives are more pronounced in many African jurisdictions. It should be a source of concern that foreigners find it easier to invest in Africa than it is for the Africans who left the continent for greener pastures to think of taking back the resources to their roots. Imagine if every diaspora based African thought establishing at least one business in their home countries using mobilized resources and using the skills and knowledge gained, the development of Africa will be more pronounced. It is time to convert remittances into Foreign Direct Investments in order to grow African economies and deal with pressing challenges.
Most of the western countries have advanced skills and knowledge and attract the best minds around the world, inclusive of the many diaspora based Africans. There is a need to create effective diaspora networks that can help replicate, transfer and build the knowledge to actualize Africa’s potential. There is a need for building capacity in the management of businesses. Financial prudency, sourcing financing among other skills in the people in Africa and this is a role the African diaspora could take up when effectively engaged. In addition, they can help create opportunities for Africans to acquire skills and knowledge from the best schools and experts and use this to develop Africa. The networks could help create market linkages for the many products produced in their home countries.
The abundance of natural resources and wildlife make Africa a good and attractive tourist destination but the lack of effective advertisement and expensive costs have hindered reaping benefits. The African diaspora needs to be engaged more in marketing their home countries, and this could come at almost no cost because word of mouth advertisement is rated the best.
African Governments should not look at the African diaspora as deserters of their continent but rather as ambassadors that could be instrumental in dealing with the many challenges faced in their home countries. This calls for effective engagement with the African diaspora. In the same vein, the African diaspora should be reminded to remember the road that leads to their roots and that if they do not take part in uplifting the lives of their people, financial burdens will keep falling on them. Therefore, working on a win-win situation will be the best way to achieve a prosperous African continent.
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