Despite formal #Independence, the relations between #TheWest and #Africa*n countries have remained a one-way traffic
Africa is at the centre of seismic global processes that will certainly alter the current US-dominated world order. And America is in a panic.
Since the end of the Cold War, in which it became the sole Super Power, the United States has preferred to go alone, on many issues where multilateralism would have been better. America’s single-minded unilateralism has bred discontent across the globe.
For instance, the United States opted out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, it scampered efforts at tightening, the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, it refused to ratify the statutes of the International Criminal Court of Justice.
All these are issues that affect almost each country, albeit differently.
The American policy makers seem always surprised by the festering anti-Americanism; their standard practice is “why do they hate us”.
According to the Pew Research Global Attitude Project 16 March 2004, the United States ‘favorability ratings in France and Germany are somewhat lower than last year and there has been a larger decline in Great Britain (58% now, 70% last year). Young people in Great Britain, France, and Germany have more negative views of America than do people in other age groups.’ The survey also revealed, ‘Majorities in the Muslim nations surveyed hold negative views of the United States.’
To the Bush II administration, the growing anti- Americanism only increased its resolve to dig in. But his second term cowboy-slush and burn approach only succeeded in exacerbated the already perilous acute situation.
When he was first elected, President Obama was keen to improve America’s standing globally, by reaching out to the world – improving the relations with the United Nations, for which the Bush administration had utter disregard, reassuring Muslim countries that America-Muslims relation was ripe for rest.
In his Cairo speech 4 June 2009, ‘The New Beginning’ Obama acknowledged the rift between the United States and the Muslim world when he said, ‘We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate’ he added… ‘Tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.’
He offered, ‘I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.’
But Obama’s much heralded new beginning never materialised beyond the rhetorical flourish.
Against such background, China continues to record astonishing growth accompanied with increasing clout. Additionally, Africa, which customarily attracts bad headlines, has turned the corner.
Africa is Rising
After decades of malaise – famine, conflict and economic stagnation, over the last decade Africa has recorded impressive economic growth.
There are plenty of statistics that capture Africa’s recent economic growth: the African middle class (including lower middle and high middle) numbered about 313 million, or 34.3 per cent of Africans population, in 2010, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). This represents almost three times the number of people that were considered middle class in 1980.
Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are currently in Africa, with 70 per cent of the continent’s population living in countries which have enjoyed average GDP growth rates in excess of 4 per cent over the past decade.
Alongside this remarkable economic numbers, Africa is also urbanizing at a rapid pace. According to UN-HABITAT data, the proportion of Africans living in urban areas grew from 32 per cent in 1990 to 40 per cent in 2010, and is expected to rise to 47 per cent by 2025.
This remarkable Africa’s rise has had two effects; multiple countries and regions are courting Africa, and the continent is getting more confident regarding its place in the global political high table.
Enter the BRICS
Africa’s trade volume with India is projected to reach $70 billion by 2015. Agriculture, natural resources and pharmaceuticals form a huge chunk of India’s trade with Africa. Last year India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. bought a 10 per cent stake in a Mozambican offshore gas field from American company, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., for $2.64 billion.
Following his elections in 2002, president Lula De Silva argued that Brazil would forge an independent foreign policy. This involved deepening of the South-South relations. In this regard, from 2000 to 2011, Brazilian-African trade increased more than six fold, from $4.2 billion to $27.6 billion. In that time, Brazil opened 19 embassies across the continent, bringing the number of its African embassies to 37.
During his maiden Africa tour, Chinese premier Li Keqiang unveiled at least $12 billion in extra aid for Africa. It includes $10 billion in loans and $2 billion for the China-Africa Development Fund, which facilitates Chinese private investment in Africa. This brings total Chinese credit to Africa to $30 billion, with an additional $5 billion in development assistance.
He also signed a series multi-million dollar deals, especially infrastructure deals, with several African countries. The speed and the lack of conditionalities attached to the contracts – the lack of transparency aside – have emboldened many African countries to invoke ‘Facing East’ whenever they feel slighted by the West.
The central plank of these countries relations with Africa revolves around shared mutual respect, a history of colonialism as well as former aid recipients. This is unlike the West’s relations, which is based on exploitation.
Despite formal independence, the relations between the West and African countries have remained a one-way traffic – the West gets what it wants. The lack of alternative global power options, combined with their dire situation forced Africans to accept this one-sided arrangements. The emergence of China coupled with Africa’s economic growth has seen the relation being redefined. It is not uncommon to hear African countries saying, they shall ‘Face East’ when exasperated by the West.
The emergence of China has seen a sea change of Western attitudes towards Africa.
The sea change in the Africa-West relations, outside the counter-terrorism lens, which is the predominant prism, is seen when president Obama visited African in 2013. During his trip, Obama announced $7 Billion Africa power initiative which cover five African countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria.
This will be followed by the inaugural US-Africa Leaders Summit, with some fifty heads of state expected in Washington, DC, and extensive nongovernmental and private-sector events on the sidelines.
Outside the bilateral engagement, president Obama also initiated Young African Leaders Initiative 28 July 2014. During the announcement, the president also said tha [sic] the United States also intends to double the number of annual participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship to 1000 by the summer of 2016.
All these maneuvers are part of larger calculated efforts at countering the deepening South-South relations, especially China which is miles ahead of the West, in its engagement with Africa.
One of China’s vehicles is the BRICS initiative.
BRICS vs. The West
Goldam Sachs economist Jim O’Neil coined the acronym BRIC in a 2001 paper titled ‘The World Needs Better Economic BRICs.’ The distinguishing characteristics of these group of countries are promising emerging markets and potential economic growth and development.
However, at the political level, BRICS common denominator is to erode the West’s hegemonic influence globally. They view globalisation, which is hugely underwritten and aggressively pushed by the West as a threat to the concept of state sovereignty.
The preservation of state sovereignty therefore is the glue that holds these countries together. And the global symbol of globalization is the World Trade Organization. During the 2003 rounds of trade talks in Cancun, three BRICS (India, China and
Brazil), with the assistance of other emerging countries joined forces to scuttle the Doha round agreement that the Europeans and Americans had secretly prepared.
This blockade stemmed from these three countries’ refusal to ratify a reduction in American and European agricultural subsidies that was considered patently insufficient by emerging countries.
The New Development Bank
The Bretton woods institutions have been the conduit through which Western countries push their neoliberal policy agendas mostly disguised as the solution to Africa’s economic problems. However, the consequences of some of these policies have been severe economic consequences for Africa.
However, last month in Fortaleza, the five BRICS nations agreed to establish a development bank. They also set up a $100 billion swap line, a deal that gives each country’s central bank access to emergency supplies of foreign currency.
The new BRICS bank, which will fund infrastructure projects, will have initial capital of $50 billion, each country will pay in $10 billion, which gives each country an equal say. While the bank will be based in China, the presidency of bank will be rotational, this will be a clear departure from the post-war America led arrangement at the World Bank where the presidency has been reserved for Americans and the IMF where the European takes the presidency. This is at the exclusion of the rest. The voting rights at the bank are based on fixed countries contribution quotas. For instance, the BRICS nations account for more than a fifth of global output, have just 10.3 per cent of quota. European countries, by contrast, are allocated 27.5 per cent for just 18 per cent of output.
With a planned capital base of $50 billion, rising eventually to $100 billion, the New Development Bank will be small compared to the World Bank ($232 billion in capital) or the Asian Development Bank ($165 billion in capital). This effort, however modest will form part of the chain of efforts in countering the deeply flawed western-centric post 1944 world order.
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