The Third Partition of Africa

Published on 13th February 2007

The World is setting the stage for the third partition of Africa. Listen to Hillary Benn, the United Kingdom Secretary of State and International Development: "China should act more responsibly in dealing with Africa and form a partnership with the West in trying to tackle issues like corruption, poverty, good governance and respect for human rights." Fast re-wind, any idea what prompted the first Berlin Conference that curved up present
African countries?

It is reminiscent of exactly what happened in the pre-colonial era. First, were the explorers looking innocent and simply posturing as seekers for mountains and river sources. Second were the 'value-soldiers' spreading religious beliefs and humane ideas who were in turn followed by the 'Flag.' Behind all this movement were business interests and the quest for dominance which finally witnessed a re-birth of a new continent Africa. The architects of the original partition for Africa must have felt that they were ordained by destiny to divide Africa among themselves in order to 'civilize' it. Do you see where Hillary Benn is coming from?

The Cold War partition followed. African Nation-States found themselves taking part on the frontline rivalry of either capitalist or communist/socialist ideologies. Each side, driven by a desire to dominate, camouflaged their activities under making Africa prosperous. At that point in time, exploitation of sub-surface wealth did not feature much. History is dotted with consequences of these activities that range from regular political coups, shrank political and economic freedoms, and increased poverty.

Fast forward; enter China; the West has opted to take cover under 'VALUES'; human rights, corruption, poverty and good governance. The West has been in Africa for over 100 years, do they still feel strongly that they still are ordained by destiny to 'civilize' Africa? Listen to the Chinese: "China has never imposed its will or unequal practices on other countries and will never do so in future." A Chinese expert on Sino-African relations argued that China will not export its value system to Africa, and that seems to be their strategy to penetrate an otherwise Western dominated continent.

The result of 'value-garbage' domination from the West and 'value-free' domination from the emerging powers is the quest for another conference of convenience by the rivaling powers to ensure a 'peaceful' way of 'interacting' with Africa. Hillary Benn proposes the formation of a 'partnership.' The Western countries are well ahead with another organization popularly referred to as 'Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.' We in Africa are staring in the face of another land-mark partition headed our way!

Why is Africa unable to counter these repeated onslaughts? In the pre-colonial days, African leaders suffered the fate that met the Inca King in Cajamarca. An estimated 200 Spanish soldiers led by Pizarro captured King Atahuallpa in a matter of hours despite having had an 80,000 strong Army. Pizarro had the advantage of superior weapons, an urbanized team and hence had an easy time tricking Atahuallpa. Most chunks of Africa were seized by few elite Europeans. The point here is, Africa has failed to learn from their interaction with Western cultures on how best to counter further onslaughts, like the Incas, our troops were scattered and have never regrouped! 

Robert Ringer in 'Looking for Number one' aptly describes a character who suffers from the inability to perceive facts correctly. Inability to perceive facts correctly and in a broader context has made it difficult for Africans to be in touch with global realities. The African individuals are therefore socialized to believe strongly that politicians are better placed than he/she to determine their fate and destiny. To make matters worse, the majority of Africans believe that other people will always act in Africa's best interest rather than their own. As a result African intellectuals are busy re-aligning their loyalties to China, the old West, India and Brazil. Nobody is keen to figure out what the modern day Pizarro's are up to.

African elites must be able to learn from the past and ensure that they promote business thinking among their populations for purposes of ensuring a profitable relationship with whoever might want to exploit resources in the continent. The point here ought not to be to fight China, but to exploit the Western Worlds discomfort about China in order to develop a better bargaining power. Surely, China, India, Brazil and the West, share one thing in common: hypocrisy! 

Africans must exploit the essence of 'African-ness' that is a resultant effect of colonization and push for a common continental approach to issues. This is the time African people can critically evaluate Western value system and determine how best such systems help in maximizing the realization of individual talent in the continent. This can only happen if the continent got rid of the 'big-man' mentality and instilled the discipline of structures and institutions. Africans should push towards competition other than alignment. Finally, to turn the continent into a fine garden of resources, sound leadership is required to prevent do-gooders such as Hillary Benn from hiding under the veil of values to launch the third onslaught on Africa. 

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