The challenges confronting Africans include:
a. The hostility of imperial forces that want to keep Africa perpetually dependent materially and most important intellectually
b. Continued manipulation by “conflict” and “peace” entrepreneurs to ensure that they are always in business. The business is first that of supplying arms to combatants who ensure chaos that facilitates resource exploitation without accountability to any authority. Second, the business is that of “making peace” through international organs and various “experts” on “conflict resolution” whose livelihood depends on the “peace industry.”
c. Activities of agents of external control in a country. These include the media, academics and intellectuals, Non-Governmental Organisations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Civil Society bodies. These tend to depend on imperial powers for guidance and resources and can be used, and have been used, against the interests of various countries.
d. Reviving the educational sector. Among the harmful advice that Africans received was to downplay university education and production of knowledge. Subsequently, many universities deteriorated and, with increased autocracy in governance, became commercialized ventures instead of centres of intellectual productivity. The belief appeared to be that whatever knowledge that Africans needed, it can always be produced for, and then exported to, Africa.
e. Balancing politics and economics at both local levels. Excesses on one at the expense of the other locally leads to problems. Those who concentrate on economics get frustrated by micro-political manipulators whose main interests are in grabbing political power and are, therefore, little concerned with economic issues. Similarly, those who concentrate on political manipulation and ignore macro-economic realities end up ruining their countries and making them excessively dependent on external controls in the form of “aid.”
f. Balancing domestic political economy with the realities of international politics. At the international level, mastering international politics is more important than economics because it is the politics that dictates relations which then take on the guise of economics, defense, ideological, and cultural projections. Failure to pay attention, and prepare strategies of response, to the political designs of other countries, especially if those countries are powerful, becomes a recipe for ruin. A well balanced domestic political economy can therefore be destroyed by ignoring international power play.
There are measures that African countries can take in preparation for a bright future either collectively or individually.
There is need, to start with, to have intensified interrogation, at the intellectual level, of the imperial discourse that is designed to justify various types of recolonisation in Africa. This discourse has been going on for roughly two decades and uses language that is very similar to the one used in the 19th Century, on the eve of territorial colonialism.
The place of history must be restored in Africa. In the 1980s, in particular, history tended to be presented as a subversive subject which people should not indulge in. Historical memory was suppressed partly because it might reflect negatively on the part of some rulers. Subsequently it was neglected and this seemed to fit in with the desires of those who would like to claim that Africans have no history. In itself, the claim that Africans are not part of history is based on two factors, either ignorance or mischief. If the claim is due to ignorance, whether natural or contrived, then the solution is simple because all that those people need to do is to read more widely and deeply than they have done so far. If it is out of mischief, then such intellectuals are genocidal. To assert that some people have no history or are not part of history is effectively to declare such people to be non-humans. As non-humans, they can then be wiped out without feeling guilty and that is genocide. Such genocidal people need to be countered at every opportunity.
There is need to ensure that those who acquire positions of responsibility know what the core values and interests are and also to know the difference between the core and the secondary interests. Failure to know the difference would compromise a given country. Those people should also have the confidence to protect core interests from both domestic and international mischief makers.
In protecting interests, it may become necessary to ignore, or reduce the relevance of, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund while concentrating on one’s agenda. This is because the guidance, often orders, from those institutions on what to do or not to do tend to mislead policy makers. When things go wrong, such policy makers are then left with unpleasant consequences of implementing advice from WB and IMF “officials” who have little interests in the well being of a particular country. It also noted that when a country seemingly succeeds in running its affairs without those organs, their “officials” tend to seek ways of “helping” the country to do what it wants.
Connected to the WB and IMF issue, is the need to make “Aid Peddlers” in general irrelevant. This can be done by ensuring delivery of service. Since “Aid” is big business, “Aid Racketeers” will fight back viciously and the country should be ready for protracted and often engineered crises, all in order to make “Aid Peddlers” relevant.
Those pushing for self-reliance and self-sufficiency mentally, materially, and in policy making should be ready for sabotage from various forces of control that are determined to undermine their effort. Such forces include noise making ambassadors and junior diplomats from Euro-powers who for some strange reason believe they have a right to give orders to the African countries of their accreditation. They also include globe trotting demonstrators who have no problems getting “visas” or might be involved in orchestrated violence that is aimed at making a specific country “ungovernable” so that it can be amenable to “advice.”
Africa's future is bright. More and more people than ever before, particularly the youth everywhere, are getting informed and they are therefore empowered to raise all sorts of questions regarding exploitation. This is happening in and out of Africa. With increased awareness, there is increased freedom at the political level which enables people to expose malpractices, to hold the state to account, and to demand proper protection and advancement of national interests.
There is intensified desire to reduce debilitating dependency. Reduction in dependency increases the amount of self-pride and ability to demand reciprocity in international dealings. It might help to reduce the amount of mistreatment that Africans, including cabinet ministers, receive from Euro-powers in the process of getting visas or even travelling to the West. Euro-powers receive benefits from Africa and in return Africans receive humiliation. This would change with reduction in dependency.
There is also increased resistance by African countries to some peculiar Euro-demands, itself a sign of growing independence on serious matters and proper assessment of Africa’s core interests. There is for instance the new US military command, AFRICOM, which is an indication of the rising value of African oil and other resources to American needs. The United States is struggling to present AFRICOM as a three-pronged “aid” package involving the Pentagon, the State Department, and USAID or the three “Ds” of defense, diplomacy, and development. Africans, however, see AFRICOM in the negative, as a potential organ of destabilizing neighbours especially with the possible use of “Private Security Companies.” The fact that it was proposed by President George W. Bush with his “Grand Strategy” of pre-emptive invasions of countries that he suspected, hardly any African country is willing to host such a command. This shows realistic evaluation of interests by African states.
There is increased people to people interaction with free regional movements of goods, services, and people. The East African Community that started as a three country affair has expanded to five countries with Rwanda and Burundi joining Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. There is a possibility that the new likely country of Southern Sudan would also want to join the community and even Congo might also want to be part of the Community. All these countries, at least, have Kiswahili as the common language. In addition, there other areas of fruitful collaboration such as the high level policy and defense training at Kenya’s National Defense College that brings together top military and civilian policy makers from Eastern and Southern African countries. This helps to reduce security tensions.
African countries have increasingly diversified their contacts and dealings with other continents. The diversification has attracted mainly the Chinese and the Latin Americans and the gains are visible in terms of elaborate infrastructure which eases communications and is likely to stimulate various economies. The increasing complaints by Euro-powers about the Chinese presence in Africa sounds like sour grapes given that since the colonial times, African dealings had been Euro-oriented and did not appear to be in Africa’s interests. Diversification gives some leverage to African countries whose interests apparently converged with those of China.
All in all, despite everything, there is optimism in the future of Africa.
By Prof. Macharia Munene
United States International University, Kenya.
A Panel Presentation on the topic: 50 Years of Independendence African: Review and Outlook in a forum organized by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in San Lorenzo del Escorial, Madrid, Spain.