In the last four years, the world witnessed the consequences of the “America First” policy of the Donald Trump administration. For the first time, America was withdrawing from the world stage in almost all spheres of life. Despite the fact that they had not aided much development in Africa before the advent of the Trump administration, a number of African countries, notably Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Ghana, look up to America as a moral compass and economic blueprint worthy of copying. We here even adopted their political system of governance. But by abdicating its world leadership roles, other nations, notably from Europe and China, decided to fill the void.
I had feared that, if the far-right movement in the United States of America should seize power like they almost did weeks ago, the rest of the global community would look down towards the continent of Africa as a source of raw materials and labour for their second wave of industrialisation, which is the world they had always wanted, with no one to challenge them. That was the world of Adolf Hitler some 70 years ago.
They would have very little difficulty with such a bid to take over Africa because, with the American firewall gone, the only challenge they may have would be the United Nations, which the fascists in such an emergent America would abolish with a stroke of the pen, sending them parking from New York in observance of another travel ban. I dare say that such a warning is still pertinent for us Africans to heed as the conditions that made Trump possible in America still exist to this day. In other words, we must remain vigilant.
Another worthy contender for the purchase of Africa is elusive but powerful China.
China, through careful planning and diligence, has emerged as the second most powerful nation on the planet. Their new-found wealth is being turned into working capital in the field of improved global trade and commerce, space exploration, military build-up, and economic assistance to poor nations eager to engage in needed nation-building.
These, on the surface, are laudable goals that would endear China to other nations like the badly governed ones in Africa. This is especially so as China, through the ages, has professed non-interference in the affairs of other nations and a dislike to colonisation.
Yet, surreptitiously, the Chinese have been very patient with their own brand of colonialism and, unknown to many, they have been around for a very long time taking their time and adapting to doing business in most African countries, Francophone or Anglophone, Spanish or Portuguese-speaking Africa.
They have been busy building infrastructures all over the continent with grants and soft loans that have tied most African states to Chinese banks and institutions despite the language difficulty. They also started buying into Africa and at the same time opening Chinese markets to Africans.
The last time I visited China, I was very surprised to find out that some schools, colleges and even universities are now teaching some African languages. I was shocked to observe that the escort that was provided to me by the Chinese Academy of Science, which I visited as part of my research works into desertification, and who accompanied me to the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing to report on my arrival, knew everybody in the embassy and spoke with many Nigerians in Hausa or Yoruba. I also learnt he had never been to Nigeria. Although institutions in Nigeria teach foreign languages, apart from the obvious ones, I would not imagine our local students learning Mandarin, Hindi or Swedish languages. But the Chinese had a purpose and an end goal that we do not know about. In the last few decades, they have been building and occupying a remarkable presence in almost every economic development in the continent.
A careful examination of the economic assistance given to African nations in the areas of infrastructure development and other financial services related to trading will reveal that China is carefully engaged in another form of economic lordship over these corrupt African nations. Whereas the terms of the loans extended by China are generous, on repayment defaults, the countries are required to turn over those infrastructures and other collaterals for the loan to Chinese management for a number of years most often left at their discretion.
The consequence of this is that the Chinese will be running a parallel government within a sovereign African state. The next logical question then is: “How long will it take before they actually take over complete control of power by proxy or direct means?”
I say, just watch, and bid farewell for the much-vaunted Chinese abhorrence to colonisation.
The continent of Africa as we know it today is politically unstable, financially bankrupt, continuously misguided and religiously confused. It is the only continent in the world where you cannot move by land from north to south and east to west because we have failed to tame the Sahara. In any other continents of the world, the Sahara would have been ‘bridged’ by now. I have written and published books on the subjects of bridging the Sahara. In the last few decades, most of the North African countries bordering the Sahara have experienced severe changes in climate, in desert encroachment and desertification.
East and central Africa have likewise experienced severe drought and famine of some sort due to global warming. The political structures in most of these countries have rendered them as failed states. It is becoming truly clear that the democracy we practice is not well understood and lacks the civil and legal structures that will act as guardrails to wannabe despots and fantastically corrupt officials.
Some decades ago, Egypt and Libya showed so much promise and offered the rest of Africa some leadership, probably because of their proximity to Europe. They obviously took a little bit from them, but look at what has become of those two countries today. Libya is fractured and cannot be a country anymore because they have been in an endless war for years. Egypt, a proud and ancient civilization in the continent, is gradually becoming a martial law country in the throes of Islamic fundamentalists who desire to strangle life out of the country in a my-way-or-the-highway struggle for power.
Africans are in the unique position for having acquired knowledge, experience and different perspectives from all these invaders. We know so much now that we can dictate our terms to those who come to invest here. We should not be afraid to call the terms. They need our market. We also need their expertise. But we should not be intimidated into falling for their bluff. Without our markets, they will also lose prosperity. We must learn to negotiate fairly, firmly and with our national, patriotic interests at heart. There is enough for everyone, if we play fair and square. We drift into want when we steal. Stealing leads to mismanagement.
We need to move away from those issues that divide us and embrace issues that will make for transparency, good governance, the rule of law and fair play that will remove massive corruption while also reducing widening gap between the haves and the have nots.