US-Africa August 2014 Meet: A Review

Published on 27th May 2014

This is in response to Melvin P Foote, President of The Constituency for Africa's post  US-Africa Meet: What Africa Must Do  

Since Africa's wealth and resources have emerged as the primary supply for the World’s Emerging Market, it is just right that Africa formalize a Responsible Partnership with United State to forge for a more serious constructive, sustainable and credible Institutionalized progressive Development entrepreneurship Plan of Action…A chapter that shall provide a Legacy to African historical values.

To maximize the opportunity for a successful Summit, African Diaspora need to be fully incorporated and be involved in the business planning with executions.

African Leadership Summit to Washington In August is a “Rare Golden Opportunity of a Life Time” for people of African Descent with Specific Agenda for Africa/USA Partnership for sustainable Development between USA and Africa.  If well planned, Africa shall engage profitably with a focus on “The Emerging Markets resource supply” that comes from Africa which is the reason for the scramble for Africa which is impacting Africa negatively.

Diaspora members from the group of “African Forward” share many points of convergences between the Mr Foote's associates on one hand, with members of our committee on the other.  We observe that, there are crucial African opinions that need to be addressed and attitudes that have been expressed towards the forthcoming White House African Presidential Summit notwithstanding. As Advocates for “Africa Forward,” we are obligated to share with Mr. Mel Foote and his colleagues the following points of convergence:

1. Considering the historical significance of this summit, and since President Barak Hussein Obama is the first from African descent to serve as U.S. President, it is certainly necessary and significant for him to organize a rare summit. Historically speaking, it was President John Fitzgerald Kennedy who took the initiative to invite the leaders of the emerging African countries soon after Ghana’s independence.  President Kwame Nkrumah’s first visit to the United States of America with President Kennedy, was historically significant to the African people. Because of this meeting, President Kennedy benefitted from his pre-presidential contacts with the emerging leaders of Africa who went to Ghana during the early times of Africa’s independence from their colonial masters. It should be noted also that, Vice President Richard Nixon representing U.S.A at that moment, gave the Kennedys an opportunity to make friends in Africa and as well influence people. Consequently, at that first African conference of national liberation movement for African leaders, the Kennedys’ sought African cooperation as a result, their overtures proved beneficial in their Africa policy. 

Mr. Tom Mboya of Kenya, who chaired that meeting in Accra in 1958, later spoke to Senator Kennedy before his election and inauguration.  The relevance of that historical moment is evident in the Late Tom Mboya memoirs contained in his now widely quoted book, Freedom and After (1964). As we now speak of a new deal between the United States of America and the African continent, it is appropriate to remind our readers about the now forgotten call for a Marshall Plan for Africa by Tom Mboya. Not only did he cooperate with the Kennedys in the implementation of the Great Airlift for Kenyan students, but he himself also contributed a personal check of five thousand dollars at the time from his family foundation.  The Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation contributed $100,000 for that venture.

In connecting the dots, it is definitely relevant to state it here and categorically that, when the late Senator Ted Kennedy is now celebrated as the Last Lion of the Kennedy Family who endorsed Senator Obama at American University to run for the US Presidency, history was again running full circle. This White House Summit on Africa Leadership to USA, is another indispensable history in the making between USA with Africa and where, history between USA with Africa shall present intrinsic phenomenon to both Mel Foote with us standing together on familiar ground that which is related to Africa’s progressive values.

2. Taking historical values into perspective, diversity of opinions are truly healthy and in principle; we hold dear to historical consideration that gives direction from where we are coming to where we are going, giving capacity meaning to real virtue of African lifestyle.  For example, if we take into consideration how the Late Tom Mboya politically collaborated with African Freedom fighters and engaged internationally to bring Independence to Africa and Kenya. It is significant that he planted seeds of continuity. It all started sometimes in 1958 at All-Africa Peoples Conference convened by Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana.  Tom Mboya was elected as the Conference Chairman at an early age of 28. 

When Kenya got independence in 1963, Tom Mboya became the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, a position he utilized to shape the future of Independent Kenya.  In 1964, Kenya became Independent with Tom Mboya being appointed the Minister of Economic Planning and Development. Because of Tom Mboya, Kenya presently has a remarkable American school known as “Kenya Starehe Centre” which is instrumental for positive change and development in the Kenya/American Partnership which also followed with National Youth Services in Kenya.  Kenya Starehe Center was founded in 1959 by an American called Geoffrey William Griffin and Patrick David Shaw “The Crime Buster,” “Teaching Beyond Teaching.” The late Tom Mboya became an African philanthropist hero from his Charismatic Pan-Africanist, Freedom Fighter, A Trade Unionist, Politician and the Greatest President Kenya Never had.  The late Tom Mboya was instrumental with the help of JF Kennedy in the Air Lift of the first US students from Kenya to America, where Obama Snr. Was amongst those students airlifted to USA.  This is African/American history President Obama became part of, which in our opinion is a historical value for African Diaspora.

3. The other point of convergence is the common realization on changed climate of opinions in the world, this no longer is overwhelmed by the dictates of the Cold War, but are seriously challenged by the demands of the time, e.g. fight against poverty, against famine, safety and security which includes, Social, Political and Economic collapse with insecurity.  It is therefore critical for Africa and United States to come up with new ideas that have meaningful purpose which are necessary to provide meaningful cooperation in the 21st. century.

It is imperative for all of us to press for a new dialogue, between African leaders and their counterparts in the United States of America. Such a dialogue can only take place when we start with what we know and build on what we have. Both Mr Foote and the advocates for Africa Forward agree on the urgency for a new deal on American-African relations. Unlike the old order dictated by the thoughts and practices of the Cold War, those of us who call for a new day must identify the new building blocks for social and economic change in Africa.

What are these stones for the creation of an African edifice? They are the peoples of the 47 countries invited to the White House Summit on Africa. Being represented at the United Nations and other specialized agencies, and being very serious about their claims for sovereignty, the leaders of the African Union and the specialized regional entities must look at the political geography of the continent and the historical demands from members of their Diasporas. This turn of events in world history is the result of the new processes of modernization and globalization. If Africa is to play a more effective role in world affairs, her leaders as well as her citizens abroad must construct the structures of peace-making at home and the development of engagement strategies between their peoples and others in the world.

4. The fourth point of convergence centers on the urgency for dialogue between the leaders of the African countries and their African Diaspora. Not only must they bring better results from their continental and regional ties, but they must also draw from the tools of modernity and globalization to feed on the benefits of social media and the creativities of their young people. Here the role and place of labor and finances in the service of Africa comes to play. Again, the role and place of the women beg for attention.  But while focusing on the points of convergence between the Constituency for Africa and those of us advocating for Africa Forward, we should simultaneously underscore the points of divergence between us that calls for immediate attention as follows:

a) First, let us remind Mr. Foote and his colleagues that the New Climate of Global Opinions tells us not to overplay our Americanism at the expense of American diplomatic engagement with Africans and others beyond.   By playing politics with the Map of Africa and by wrapping it under the shadows of the American Flag; we unconsciously expose ourselves to ridicule and political jingoism from radical African nationalists who are most likely vulnerable to the ideological propaganda of the emerging foes of America in these new days of economic and political rivalry. Remember, South Africa is a part of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

b) The second point of divergence between us and Mr. Foote rests on his call for a dialogue with the members of the Cooperate Council for Africa.  The Diaspora must be involved in setting up these things, as presently the Bloomberg and Chamber of Commerce are not involving African Diaspora  in what they are doing.  There is nothing wrong with such advocacy, but rather, we feel the proposition is inadequate because it is not collectively inclusive with all leadership of African Diaspora.  It is dangerous and unwise to call for their participation without making definite arrangements for members of the continental African business communities.  There are African counterparts of the members of the Corporate Council for Africa. In order to do justice to the members of the African Chambers of Commerce, it is imperative for all of us to create room for the wider African Diaspora groups. Time is running fast and without deliberate acts on our part, the summons of history will be missed.

c) The Constituency for Africa and the advocates for Africa Forward are not clear in the inclusion of the African Diaspora participation and dialogue. Our proposal here is historical and we feel it should not be left behind to be forgotten. Not only do we join all interested parties in making this event success, but we look forward to the post Obama era. By thinking carefully and critically, we may be able to point to new directions for what we are beginning to call Obama’s New Ark. Like the Prophet Noah, who save his people and believing in generations of his humankind, our President metaphorically could begin to lay the foundations of re-inventing African Recovery from self-denegation, self-humiliation through the chains of economic poverty and political slavery, and self-denial from crass materialism, political instability and the lack of good governance and transparency.

d) By avoiding the burning issues that confront the African leadership, and by not bringing these issues to the attention of the American people and their leaders, those of us now calling for a New Deal between America and Africa must now talk about African resources and African humanity. With respect to African resources we must pay close attention to what is happening to these African assets and what African leaders are doing with them. Caught in the growing rivalry between developed and the undeveloped nations of the world, it is important for us to give meaning to this summit by reminding each other how African resources constitute major bones of contention at the summit. Water, Energy, Agriculture, Health, Education, Security, Innovation and Industrialization transfers are important items in our list. Africa could play a big role in this day and age. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could become the trillion dollar nation with respect to water. Water and Energy, should be the new mantra for those who think and feel New Africa require a facelift. President Obama and his team must bring about the spirit of the African Diaspora to heart with the thinking how advocates shall provide for green consciousness in America/Africa relations and beyond.  Through this new consciousness, the people of the DRC and the rest of the continent will make adequate use of their resources such as water falling from the heavens and the mineral resources that keep our air force over the earth and the forests that give the Japanese their tooth –pick. These obvious examples which beg for immediate attention.

e) Another bone of contention between us and the rest in this debate revolves around the role and place of remittances in this whole equation. In our view, Africa is caught in a paradoxical situation. How is this so?  Truth be told, the African Diaspora, according to World Bank figures, contribute more than the total direct foreign investment on the continent. As a result of these statistics, it is imperative for the advocates for Africa Forward to include the ideas about remittances at the table. By urging the leaders of the African Union as well as the leaders of the numerous non-governmental organization from across the continent to think about new strategies for the making greater uses of remittances in Africa. Through such a summit and through future planning on the part of the President and his supporters later after his presidency, the New Ark of the Obama era should mobilize Americans in the engagement of African leaders for social and economic changes on the continent.  Water is a new demand and President Obama could play a big role in educating Americans, Africans and other human communities the imperatives for better water treatment to humanity that Water is Life.
Confederation Council Foundation for Africa have constantly petitioned President Obama that he make a declaration on USA/Africa Partnership, where, Africa is facing negative Global Business Interest in the Scramble to Africa, a challenge that has greatly affected its sustainability to face mutual fair Development prospects.  It is why African leadership must work equally along the Diaspora investment interest in Africa through USA/AFRICA Partnership, to resolve unfair adverse impacts that have caused great loses instead of gains in the continent. 

We also demanded that President Obama provide an enabling platform between Diaspora and African Leadership Forum to urgently energize good politics that are conducive to good business practices with favorable infrastructure that shall enable investments to take place in an organized institutionalized well-functioning system. This calls for trained Civil Society with organized Social Welfare that in return, shall offer reliable trust that are harmonious and as well, shall motivate mutual trust and good-will for International business community, the local stakeholders of Africa and the Diaspora community on the other hand.

By Judy Miriga

The author is Diaspora Spokesperson and  Executive Director, Confederation Council Foundation for Africa Inc., USA.

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