The African continent is growing richer in development deals - from Yokohama, Beijing, Ankara, Delhi, Seoul and Brussels, to Washington declarations among others. Piles of agreements continue to grow. The just concluded Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) led to a Yokohama Declaration complete with Action Plan 2013 – 2017. Last year, the Chinese too concluded with Beijing Action Plan 2013 – 2015. The dizzying pace at which the deals are being signed in exchange for development should alarm African thinkers.
The good news is that the foreign cities stretching their arms out to Africa do not hide their self interest – to grow their businesses and global market share. The bad news is that the act of Africans negotiating the deals with a broad view to attain development is analogous to asking foreigners to develop Africa. The best that Africa can get from this approach are monuments that depict the mindset of the foreigners’ sense of development.
Emerging and developed nations negotiate with a view to grow opportunities for their business initiatives. The continent is stuck in pride in its raw materials – Africa’s position shows little effort to transform the continent into an “headquarter economy.” It is in headquarter economies that knowledge driven initiatives take off. Without African knowledge initiatives, the continent risks loosing its sense of balance and future.
While we appreciate the great platforms that offer Africa an opportunity to make development deals; Africans should reflect deeply on their value proposition to the world. We welcome super deals – but the responsibility is on the African side to position their interests beyond monuments of development.