Is Malawi's AU Snub about Justice or Aid?

Published on 20th June 2012

Malawi's refusal to host the African Union Summit brings into sharp focus the crucial decisions made by Africa's leaders. While President Joyce Banda attributed the snub to the continental body's refusal to bar Sudan's President Bashir from taking part in the event, the move was greatly motivated by the country's fear to lose foreign aid. Donors contribute up to 40% of Malawi's development budget.

Apart from Africa hosting developed nation-generated prescriptions, the continent is signatory to international political and economic agreements that have ramifications on individual citizenry's wellbeing. African universities witness shift of focus from one theme to another: population, desertification, climate change and water. Peasant farmers find themselves tossed from one solution-fit all: hybrid seeds, fertilizer, genetically modified materials and food aid. Political leaders are made to dance to good governance back and forth. The business class oscillates between comparative advantage, free trade and investment environment. International NGOs take charge of African poverty send Africans to slumber.  When shall Africans drive their own development narrative?

Malawi's move is illustrative of the continent's predicament in the international arena. Did African governments reflect on the Rome Statute when they signed on it? Or were they simply signing onto it in order to receive foreign aid at the expense of their national interests? Better still: which side of justice are African leaders?

While Joyce Banda is entitled to her opinion, her move is a wake-up call to Africa's citizenry to probe decisions made by their respective country leaders with a view of ascertaining whose interest they address. Since he who pays the piper dictates the tune, Malawi's predicament is a call to the continent to invest in productivity to avoid being manipulated by the donor community.  The wellbeing of Africa's citizenry ought to be at the heart of any governance, developmental and partnership agenda.

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