Home » General » Africa@52 – a Time for Introspection [opinion]

Yesterday was Africa Day and there were so many celebrations across the globe. Africa Day is one of those days now considered as a pan-Africanist moment to shine.

Plaudits to black heroes all the way from Marcus Garvey through Kwame Nkrumah all the way to living ones like Robert Mugabe are sung.

In this week’s piece we examine our inner thoughts and feelings in African solidarity.

Introspection and reflection when done honestly often generates uncomfortable questions and equally embarrassing answers.

As an uncomfortable exercise, a lot avoid it because of the uneasiness provoked by political candour and lack of self-awareness.

Self-awareness is not indulging in narcissistic chest pumping ego inflations.

Neither is it engaging in an exercise of self-loathing or pretence self-deprecation.

It is acknowledging own frailties and citing areas of improvement and those in which a complete change of direction is needed.

It is 52 years since the foundation of the Organisation of African Union in 1963 the forerunner to the African Union. One of the greatest resolutions to come out of that meeting was to respect the borders as delineated by the colonialists.

This was a great resolution because going by the evidence of a penchant for conflicts and petty squabbling, if Africa had chosen to redraw its borders according to ethnic and anthropological history there probably would have been wars between Zimbabwe and Mozambique with the latter claiming that a big part of Zimbabwe up to Marondera is its territory.

Maybe Zimbabwe would have been counter-arguing that the whole Manica Province in Mozambique is also part of Manicaland. Another conflict would be between Zimbabwe and South Africa, after all the Vendas in Beitbridge were divided from their cousins in Musina and the Kalangas in Plumtree and the Ramokgwebana border area were divided from their cousins in Botswana all the way to Francistown and Masunga or even farther.

This division of ethnically linked people and nationalising them into different countries has seen some people in Chapoto and Kanyemba villages in the Dande Valley paying deference to traditional leadership across the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This state of affairs has obtained across most post-colonial border and ethnography.

So the founding fathers were probably right to maintain this relic of the 1884-5 Berlin Conference.

Other than that they fought colonialism and by 1994 they had won that battle.

By 2002 the OAU was changed to the African Union with a new thrust on integration as well as peace and prosperity.

It is in these areas where there is evidence that there is a lot more to do.

How can a continent integrate when there are those who countenance xenophobia as was witnessed in the earlier part of this year?

What was witnessed and the toxic sentiment that followed just turned the notion of full continental integration into a fantasist’s pipe dream. For if people who are ethnically linked and can understand each linguistically like the Zulus of South Africa and the Ndebele of Zimbabwe turn on each other just because of artificial colonial borders how are the Tswana of Botswana and Luo of Kenya likely to integrate?

How about the Yoruba of Nigeria and the Chewa of Malawi? The xenophobia witnessed might have been a result of socio-economic disparities but there are snobbery explanations to it.

For how can people discount those when one president made a speech in which he said: ” We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We are in Johannesburg. This is Johannesburg. This is not some national road in Malawi.” And God! Did the audience not go wildly into fits of laughter!

And a few months later that attitude cascaded to the deprived job seeking people and sensing tacit approval from high office they attacked “Africans”, for they themselves had listened to that speech which was later to be wittily dubbed, ” I am not an African”. What a way to bastardise Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” 1996 speech.

Total political and economic integration of the African people and the African Diaspora can only be achieved when those nations that are smarting from superiority complexes and hang-ups manage to overcome their prejudices.

While the West has a lot to atone for when it comes to Africa, hatred of other races and failure to embrace other ideas except when it comes to luxuries is like intellectual inbreeding. The African leadership has shown a lot of double standards. Their houses and every facet of their lives are full of Western indulgencies which their people are so deprived of.

But if one wants to see how much they fight like raging bulls, one should make a suggestion that since they have chosen to embrace the Western standards of lifestyle in their personal lives, can they do the same in their governance style. African renaissance can only have meaning to the African people when the political independence from political bondage translates into economic independence. Of course, this has now turned into a clicheacute.

But it still has to be said.

So many African lives are perishing in the Sahara Desert when African young people trudge in that trying terrain leaving countries pregnant with resources while they try to get to Europe seeking better lives.

Those that survive the desert are very unlikely to survive the Mediterranean. How does the African leadership feel when the eccentric London mayor Boris Johnson distastefully suggests sending the British Special Air Services (SAS) to stop African migrants from attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. If this is not an indictment on African leadership then what is it?

Four hundred years ago African lives were perishing in the seas after being abducted to go and work in plantations. Today they voluntarily get on the treacherous sea and perish in their thousands and the leaders of those countries where these nationalities would have come from bat no eyelids, and Africa celebrates Africa Day?

Celebrate yes, Africa should. But a lot of soul-searching is still called for. When Africa frowns upon exploitative relationships in the name of sovereignty and liberty, one relationship that needs to be redefined is Africa’s relationship with China. Trade between Africa and China is over $200 billion a year. Mostly that relationship is extractive.

China gets an African country money for infrastractural project funding at usurious rates, China charges five times what it would charge a Western country for doing the same job. The African country is burdened with the debt overhang owed to the Chinese financial institutions that by the time they finish paying, the infrastructure they are paying for is disintegrating. The Chinese have been good political friends to Africa.

In 2008 they together with Russia vetoed the sanctions against Zimbabwe in the United Nations Security Council. For such actions Africa should always be grateful. In the Chinese it has an all- weather friend. There is no questioning of their politics with Africa. But it is the economic transactions for which this generation will be condemned by the next if no scrutiny is applied. The way they construct HS2 project in Britain shouldn’t be different from the way they do any other project in Africa. But sadly it is.

In order not to have this dependence on the Chinese when it comes to the United Nations Security Council curtailed, it is germane to have an African country as a permanent member of the Security Council.

But to have a country that sees other African countries as inferior would result in the outcome of March 2011 when Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa allowed the bombing of Libya by NATO and the subsequent murder of Muammar Gaddafi.

Maybe in the whole reform of the UN, the AU as an institution should have a permanent seat carrying out collective resolutions of the whole continent.

This still sounds like a pie in the sky proposition if consideration is taken of the fact that the AU is mainly funded by the West therefore it is easy to arm twist so it ends serving parochial interests of its funders.

If this state of affairs continues then unfortunately some will continue to view the celebration of Africa Day as the celebration of pseudo-independence. The fund gap needs to be closed so that there is less reliance on the West.

Africa has very fertile agricultural land, an increasingly educated population but not much funding in research and development. This has led to Africa being made into a consumer market for Western goods. The West is where it is today because it supported its scientists to spend time in their laboratories inventing things.

Until African countries take a similar pathway there will be continued use of archaic technology or handed down inappropriate technology. The failure by the AU to fight hunger and disease on its own has turned all anti-west rhetoric into vain bubbling. For how could it not, when Africa blames the West for its developmental retardation and yet turn to the West to help with every Crisis on its own shores?

The instability in Burundi, and the failure by the East African Community to take decisive action like Sadc did in Madagascar shows what some would call collusion and connivance when they perform their governance peer review. Year after year the AU cannot continue to be accused of institutional ineffectiveness. It would be poignant if the relevance of this piece ends this year. If in five years time the contents of this op-ed are as relevant as it is today, it would be fair to conclude that there is a failure of leadership in Africa.

Source : The Herald