While Africa has been rag tagged as the dark continent for decades, it is only now that the world is reckoning with how powerful the continent is- or can be except the United States.
The African continent has suffered decades of abuse from greedy leaders who have impoverished the nations they lead, probably even worse than their colonial masters did.
But, there is a new kid on the block and the aid story is now dying with many African countries going for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). The ease of doing business on the continent is improving with some countries recording an acceleration while those still focused on protectionism lagging behind.
But, enter the Chinese and their presence has painted the continent red except for Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy.
The tiny country between Mozambique and South Africa reverted to its pre-colonial name- eSwatini which means “land of the Swazis” in April this year. It is the only country on the African continent which prefers doing business with Taiwan in a relationship stretching back 50 years.
In Kenya however, the story is different.
The country has subtly been ‘dropping’ its former development partners, among them Britain the former colony, for the Chinese.
Many Kenyans have argued that the relationship with Britain, France and the US among other countries have been oppressive with nothing to show for the many years of the so-called ‘friendships’.
In the country that saw little tangible development for decades under former President Daniel Moi, seeing the relationship with China translate into good roads and other infrastructural projects is almost a miracle.
An opinion appearing in the Washington Post on June 6 by Salih Booker, the executive director of the Center for International Policy and Ari Rickman a research fellow at the Center are spot on saying that the United States is not prepared for Africa which is the future.
As close as the “Beginning in 2035, the number of young people reaching working age in Africa will exceed that of the rest of the world combined, and will continue every year for the rest of the century.”
The opinion adds: “By 2050, one in every four humans will be African. At the end of the century, nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population will be African. Yet, instead of preparing to build a relationship that can grow with the continent, based upon diplomatic cooperation, the United States is doubling down on more than a decade of reliance on its military as the primary vehicle of engaging with Africa. The consequences, as one might expect, are overwhelmingly negative.”
China is seemingly ahead in this game as its development strategy comes with a ‘don’t show don’t tell’ approach as it endears itself to the resource-rich continent.
Just recently, U.S. President Donald Trump referred to African countries in a derogatory term which led to Botswana demanding an apology. The apology may not have come but the effects of this will be felt in a few years to come.
Africa has been rising for such a long time that sometimes the Africans themselves started questioning this rise. Today, China has shown the rest of the world what it takes to successfully embed on the continent.
Booker and Rickman add, “The impending demographic dividend will only add to Africa’s economic importance.”
It is an open secret that the highest annual growth rates have been in Africa since 2000.
Booker and Rickman rightly say that military cannot be the foundation of U.S. relations with a rising Africa.
“The Pentagon may be able to provide weapons, training and vehicles to African militaries, but it can’t offer trade deals, infrastructure projects or advice on agriculture.”
“Many other countries have taken note of both the potential and the challenges in Africa’s anticipated transformation, and have mostly decided to increase their engagement.
China’s growing presence in Africa has jolted some countries out of their comfort zones and with the European Union also deepening links to the continent, the U.S. may be late to the party where even India, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, and the Gulf states seem to have been invited themselves to.
As the continent heads into an uncharted territory where everyone will be seeking its hand in development marriage, the U.S. may have no place at the table since the umpteenth time scramble for Africa is now fully on course.