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On the U.S.-Africa summit

By Editorial Board
03 January 2023   |   4:10 am
The much heralded U.S.-Africa Summit held in Washington DC on December 13-15, 2022 and what is left is a scrutiny of the outcome. In the last two decades, Africa has been the centre of attraction of the great powers as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries...

U.S.-Africa summit

The much heralded U.S.-Africa Summit held in Washington DC on December 13-15, 2022 and what is left is a scrutiny of the outcome. In the last two decades, Africa has been the centre of attraction of the great powers as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries up to the period of decolonisation in the late 1950s. There was the scramble for human beings as chattels. Secondly, the continent was the centre of colonial exploitation of raw materials and the market for finished goods, a phenomenon that rerouted the continent’s production orientation. Thirdly, colonialism birthed neocolonial exploitation in ways that ensured dependency on received policies from the metropolitan countries.

The totalising global exploitation of resources by the industrialised countries of the world has exhausted the global resources in ways that Africa, to borrow the words of Paul Collier, has become the last resource continent. According to Collier, “Africa is the last frontier for resource discovery, having long been relatively neglected by mining and other resource-extraction companies, owing to difficult political conditions. But rising commodity prices are overcoming reluctance, and prospecting is generating a multitude of new discoveries…Given that resource extraction per square kilometer in Africa is about 20 per cent of the OECD average, the total volume of extraction could easily grow fivefold.”

This is perhaps the latent function, in other words, the ulterior motive of the new scramble for Africa by the great powers, namely, Britain, China, Indian, Japan, Russia, Turkey and United States. In the thinking of the Americans, “Africa is a major geopolitical force. It’s one that has shaped our past, it’s shaping our present, and it will shape our future.” It seems an inadvertent admission of the role the continent has played as beast of burden for the rest of humanity. Ostensibly, the summit was meant to “ Strengthen ties with African partners based on principles of mutual respect and shared interests and values” and, in specific terms, “better foster new economic engagement; reinforce the U.S.-Africa commitment to democracy and human rights; mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and of future pandemics; work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health; promote food security; advance peace and security; respond to the climate crisis; and amplify diaspora ties.” This, to be precise, is the manifest function.

The praxis of the summit negated the above objectives. Apart from group ceremonials, the U.S. went into the usual divide-and-rule by signing bilateral agreements with individual country in ways that undermined any possible mutuality in the process. It should be noted that the invitation to African leaders was skewed; some African countries were not invited because of ideological difference and policy orientation. Countries such as Burkina-Faso, Eritrea, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Sudan and Western Sahara were not present in the summit. At the last count, there was a pledge of $55 billion to advance the so-called shared priorities in the next three years, out of which $15 billion will go into “two-way trade and investment commitments, deals and partnerships.”  Keen watchers of U.S.-Africa relations have noted that the realisation of some of the pledges would depend on the U.S. Congress disposition, and have called into questions the outcome of previous pledges under past administrations, namely, Obama’s Power Africa; Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); and Donald Trump’s Prosper Africa initiative.

On the whole, the summit was a deepening of neo-colonial relations. Some of the bilateral agreements that were endorsed by Africa leaders on the platform of the U.S.-Africa Business Forum left much to be desired. There was no common Africa position in ways that such meeting ought to be attended by a delegate of African leaders to be led by the AU chairman. Further scrutiny revealed that the agreements centred on resource extraction such as cobalt, copper and nickel mines in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania; construction contracts in Angola, Ford Car assemblies in South Africa and purchase of energy storage systems by Nigeria, the “crawling giant”. On its part, the U.S. will fund the export of goods and services to Africa. These deals, according to observers, were weighted in favour of the U.S. As always, African leaders inked them without painstaking perusal.

Besides, the summit gave away the ugly façade of the continent’s leadership. An incapacitated Camerounian leader, Paul Biya, in power for over 40 years, struggled to open his folder without success. The Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, whose country has already made herself a lily pad to U.S. military adventures in the continent, expressed open hatred of another African country, Burkina-Faso, over the latter’s choice to free herself from imperial strictures. Here is a leader whose founding President, Kwame Nkrumah, wrote the seminal work, Neocolonialism the Last Stage of Imperialism. 

It is to be noted that part of the latent function of the summit is geopolitics, in other words, who controls the continent? The inroad of China into the continent has made the West ill at ease. The Chinese inaugurated the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. After much propaganda on why Africa should be wary of china, the U.S. made a bid in 2014 to inaugurate the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. However, China has invested more in Africa, despite some contradictions of inequality in the relationship. On this subject, Qin Gang, the Chinese Ambassador to Washington has noted that China-Africa relations are at the bedrock of his country’s foreign policy.

It is not all a tale of woes, Africa must leverage on the Diaspora community in the United States. African-Americans share a common ancestry with the continent, and therefore, are part of Africa’s manifest destiny. The creation of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the U.S. (PAC-ADE) announced by Vice President Kamala Harris to enhance the dialogue between American officials and the African Diaspora is forward-looking and should be embraced. 

Africa must come off age and unite to disallow other countries to determine her future. As Paul Kagame, the Rwandese President has rightly noted, the rest of the world should come to Africa instead of the contrary. Africa must key into the new world order to be born of the old order under the “constructive destruction” by the Kremlin and other global social forces desirous of a new deal.

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