by Tunji Andrews
Africa Rising: the feel-good catch phrase that has been touted in recent years to make Africans believe that finally, they had been accepted into the exclusive club of global elite. Think it to be reality or farce, but Africa rising has continued to be the slogan of this decade. With Nigeria emerging as the largest economy in Africa after the recent GDP rebasing exercise and South Africa joining the BRICS, it is almost believable that Africa is indeed rising. China has paid more and more attention to the continent, replicating it’s resource for infrastructure all across subsaharan Africa.
Year after Year, African leaders gather in Beijing to hold the China-Africa summit, eager to hear what has been decided by Premier of China as trade with Africa. The US in similar fashion, has created its own version of this “African Relations” summit charade which is one of the most embarrassing spectacles of shamelessness I have witnessed yet.
I may never get over the fact that, the President of the United States of America, -apparently in a picture taking mood- made the leaders of an entire continent, stand in line to have their pictures taken with him and his wife.
Seeing the emergence of tough talking leaders like Li Keqiang of China, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and President Putin of Russia, amongst others, and recalling the likes of Fidel Castro; you get to realize that national significance isn’t a factor of size or economic vibrancy, but simply down to the size of the leader’s “balls”.
It isn’t the fact that the venue of the US-Africa summit was held in the US, or that the China-Africa version was held in Beijing (The mountain going to Mohammed); it is actually the fact that these leaders went with a cap-in-hand posture, hoping for hand outs, instead of establishing trade. Proof? Let’s look at the focus of the summit which was themed “Investing in the Next Generation.” As written on the official website of the white house, it reads, “The Summit, the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government, built on the President’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013 and aimed to strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing regions. Specifically, the August 4-6 Summit advanced the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlighted America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people. At the same time, it highlighted the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent, advanced our shared priorities, and enabled discussion of concrete ideas to deepen the partnership. At its core, the Summit was about fostering stronger ties between the United States and Africa.”
Right at the center of the world’s industrialization age, lies a huge demand for energy, via mineral resources. The demand across Europe, Asia and even America continues to swell, yearly as emerging economies acquire more and more toys and upgrade infrastructure. Right at heart of this demand is Africa (The world’s largest deposit of mineral resources), which alongside having a market that is over a billion strong, can not be ignored by any serious entity (government or corporation). Which explains the China-US scramble for Africa, each trying to out-do and out-woo each other in Africa.
The worrying factor is that as the world comes to the realization that it can not do without Africa, the continent is yet to mentally reprogram its mind into seeing that its value has quadrupled over the last decade and it is still to gain more influence over the next hundred years.
Fareed Zakaria, writing for the Washignton post had this to say about Putin. He wrote “When he (Putin) came to power in 2000, Putin seemed a tough, smart, competent manager, someone who was determined to bring stability to Russia — which was reeling from internal chaos, economic stagnation and a default in 1998. He sought to integrate Russia into the world and wanted good relations with the West, asking Washington for Russian membership in the World Trade Organization and even NATO. His administration had technocrats who were Western liberals, well versed in free markets and open trade.”
“Over time, however, Putin established order in the country while presiding over a booming economy as oil prices quadrupled under his watch. He began creating a repressive system of political, economic and social control to maintain his power. As he faced opposition, particularly in the parliamentary elections of 2011, Putin recognized that he needed more than just brute force to defeat his opponents. He needed an ideology of power and began articulating one in speeches, enacting legislation and using his office to convey adherence to a set of values.” He siad.
Putin has become the poster boy for standing up to the status quo in this decade. The crucial elements of Putinism (A recent coinage to describe his style of leadership) are nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western defined values and have different definitions for individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism and internationalism. The truth is this, just as many of us were indoctrinated into religious beliefs, we were also indoctrinated into the western definition of democracy and really do not feel all other methods are right.
The most popular topic in thinking today is trying to understand how systems that are not “Western”, not liberal, not liberal democracies and perhaps not even democracies can nevertheless make their nations successful.
We saw it in China and we are seeing it in Russia. Africa desperately needs to find its uniqueness and embrace it. Africa, needs to be PUTIN-IZED.
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