« The trouble with Africa » is the title of a famous essay ( Robert Calderisi, 2007) about what is going wrong in Africa ; « why foreign aid is not working« . Fifteen years later, much more is to come.
In a recent interview given to Al Jazeera (16-12-2022), Afrikana Chihombori, former ambassador of Zimbabwe and former ambassador of the African Organization for Unity ( UAO) gave consistant and passionate answers to this question.
The trouble is not so much with Africa and the Africans themselves. The trouble is mainly with the Western World and with these western members of international institutions, from the World bank to the IMF and sio many NGO’s who know so well what is good for Africa, what Africans have to do, the rules they must comply with, and the patterns they have to replicate.The recent US-African summit in Washington DC gave an excellent opportunity to the former zimbabwean ambassador to put some light of these desastrous behaviours. No one from the Biden administration discussed the agenda with their african counterparts previously to the meeting ; and no one asked for what issues to be raised, concerns to be adressed, and african priorities to be set by Africans for Africa. Instead, the summit will follow the US agenda for Africa, focus on the US concerns and issues about Africa, and gave an excellent opportunity to the US democrats to lecture African leaders three days long about what they should do. One of the main input was to fund the rebuilding of the safari industry. Your US friends knew what is good for you, dont ask, just do what you are told to do – business as usual – with the tremendous results we know in Libya, in Syria, in Irak and so on. At the end of the meeting, on the Biden’s side, they surely congratulate themselves ; they did a lot for Africa !
It is clearly not the way to achieve something. There is deep feeling of disrespect not only for african leaders, but for average citizens of African countries, and contempt for Africa as a whole. These people in Washington are the anywhere lecturing the somewhere. There is more than ignorance, there is absolutely no concern for local, regional and ethno-social conditions in Africa – in each part of Africa, so diverse and so huge. I remember these days when Malagachy central bankers discovered that a consulting mission of German advisors paid for by the Millenium Challenge to help create a private sector used the same presentation and charts built twelve years before for the mass privatizations… in Poland ! For those in command from Washington, all these backwarded, empoverished, and behind people are the same, were they 90’s Polish or Russians, 20’s Bambara or Merina ! For those coming from international Western organizations, no matter where it is, what is the history and the collective patterns of the country receiving help ; no matter the problem, they have the solution. No matter the question, they have the answers. Why discuss an agenda, why asking their leaders to put their issues and concerns on the table ?
Is it any other trouble with Africa than those the West created ? The answer is obviously « no ». Through wrigged elections, ethnic preferences and unlimited greed, African leaders are the first suspects – but there is a little difference between bad decisions coming from yourselves, and bad decisions imposed from the outside – and Robert Mugabe is still an icon for millions of Africans. Here is the trouble. Not with Africa ; with the anywhere aiming to take control of Africa. Localism is another word for national sovereignty, and localism is speaking clear and loud in Africa. You foreigners have better to keep of ! The somewhere are the only legitimate political actors – because they keep their ground. Those who have the world for them have no legitimacy to take part in any national or local decision. The somewhere only could enforce this kind of territorial responsability that is the key of a resilient and inclusive society.
Two major issues will solve the trouble with Africa. Stop lecturing african leaders. And stop the aid to development – in fact, the aid no to develop. The global result of foreign aid is terrific ; the share of Africa in the world trade has been divided by two since the 70’s ! African countries are not on a bad path, there are not on their path, but on the path international institutions, Washington and London, order them to follow and designed for them. And they use their financial power to interfere deeply in internal affairs, from the LGBTQ agenda to the abortion rights. Very few could be achieved on this way, because lack of trust is the true consequence of disrespect, ingerence and brutal unilateralism. No outcome could be expected, except a growing interest for China, Russia, and other well intentioned partners for Africa. Because Chine has moved its behaviour from some kind of arrogance to equal partnerships ; of course, they have the money, the tech and the people, but they listen to theur african counterparts, they set up agendas with them, they answer their concerns and they share the list of issues to adress. And they have no pretention to fight for the good, the right and the law – they just follow their interests. Last week, a bright Greek MEP, Maria Arena, lectured a Bangla Deshi parlementarian delegation about the correct implementation of human rights – how dares she, when the problem for Bangla Desh is to eat and survive an environmental crisis provoked by the West?
The Chinese never want African to be Chinese like them ; and this makes a huge difference. In fact, no African is to become a Chinese citizen. There is no more reasons for so many fruitful meetings with China, and the increase dependency of African governements to their new China’s friends an allies. Of course, a lot of disappontments could occur. Of course, some Chinese businessmen are still lecturing africans, and behave badly when out of control. And, of course, racism is also a key factor in African-Chinese relations. But these are flaws in a working system. The West brings some benefits in a flawed system.
What to say about France and the EU ? A very interesting paper, published last week by Leslie Varene for Iveris ( iveris.eu/list/notes/553), focused on the global picture of the Sahel – and announced the birth of a new islamic caliphate in the region, de facto on the way. Inconsistent, arrogant, ignorant, and out of touch, are the most indulgent words about French and European « help » to the Sahel. Since the victorious and well managed « Serval », what a mess, what a shame, what a disaster ! No less than 18 different international agencies have competed to help ; so many, for such results ! So much money, so many dead civilians, so many words, for so bad results !
Arrogance, of course ; and inconsistency. Some African Presidents no more take any call from Emmanuel Macron. The key factor for this miserable failure is the disrespect for local people, local conditions and local reality. With nobody taking into account the terrific conditions of daily life far from the capital city, nobody improving working and living conditions of the minorities and giving some hope for the youngest, with food, water, education and opportunities for jobs to make a living, nothing will be achieved. But who knows, who cares, who understands ? Who remember the multisecular conflict between nomads and farmers, cattle ranchers and land workers ? Who remember the immomerial hate between the slave owners from the desert, and the black population from the South ? There will be no military victory in Sahel – or it will be a genocide. Is Wagner up to the task ? To call any armed opponent « a terrorist » is the way to understand nothing in such a very complex situation ; if the Islamic State, driven by foreign fighters, is clearly a terror organization and deserves a special attention, what is the word for the JNIM, mainly an ethnic based armed organization fighting the illegal discrimination by the Army, the administration and the governement and defending the rights of the Peuhl minority ?
From the US African summit to the explosive Sahel, the same trends play strongly. And they open wide the door to others. We are not only loosing ground in Africa. We are loosing Africa, what is more. Because we lost our friendship with Africans, we lost this kind of companionship coming from a long, difficult and passionate history. And this is the hidden truth ; a generation ago, the average french citizen had a far better unterstanding of Affrican country than any diplomat now. Because they are Christians. Because they respected Africans as they are, in their ethno-social structures, their own faith and their own way of life. Africa is just a collateral victim of globalization, trapped by this stupid idea that Western values are to be imposed everywhere, to anybody, at any price. Who says ; « Ubris » ?
The European Localists !