“The United States must regard Africa not as a problem to be contained, but as an opportunity to be embraced by us and our partners on the continent. Recognizing that Africa’s road to stability and prosperity lies through a robust private sector economy, increased trade, and good governance, a Romney administration will encourage and assist African nations to adopt policies that create business-friendly environments and combat governmental corruption. Such policies will lift those nations and their people, boost economic ties to the United States, and provide greater certainty to U.S. and international investors. Greater market access across the continent for U.S. businesses will bolster job creation in Africa as well as in the United States.”
Mitt’s Plan as it was called was more of general outlook than a plan on Africa which was short on specifics; it reechoed, rehatched the issue of trade and commerce without giving the compass to its fulfillment. It may be good to travel to Africa to show his concern but a thoughtful and comprehensive plan is probably what Africans expected most in the Republican Presidential candidate.
President Barrack Obama laid down specifics on his policy on Africa during his 2008 presidential election. Then Senator Obama took a trip to Africa before he became the president. Since being elected the president of United States, Obama has traveled to Ghana on official visit while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been to many African countries including her most recent trip to the continent. Africans have not been fully satisfied but they knew for sure that Africa matters to Obama’s United Sates.
President Bush 43rd was generous to Africa, he budgeted $15 Billion to fight AIDS/HIV and the result speaks for itself, and the death caused by the dreadful disease has been significantly curtailed.
With the financial state of global economy, Africa is willing to trade not ask for handout. But for free trade to be possible there are still barriers that prevent Africa from fully participating in global trade and commerce. From subsidies that are dole out to Western farmers to high traffic on African agricultural products.
The contemporary Africa is not your grandfather’s Africa. Many countries in Africa including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and others are now classified as emerging economies. While the rest of world are mired in recession and anemic economic growth, Africa economy has been growing over 5 percent and Africa’s contribution to global trade is steadily increasing not shrinking as have been experienced by many countries in the global trade arena.
Nigeria an African frontline state has its economy growing over 6.5 percent for more than three years. The economies of West African countries are laying the foundation for a common market that will attract investments and capitals. This is the market that American investors and traders will need to expand American trade; thereby spurring and increasing demand for American goods and services.
An online magazine, This is Africa, a publication from the Financial Times, stated in its global Africa’s perspective that:
“A number of economies in West Africa are expected to exceed the 7 percent mark. Nigeria, the most important economy in the region, will grow at 6.6 percent. Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia are expected to post growth of 7.3 percent, 8.5 percent and 9.4 percent respectively. Sierra Leone is forecast to grow by 51.4 percent in 2012 as major iron ore projects begin operations.
East Africa's dominant economy, Kenya, will grow by 6.1 percent. The same figure is forecast for Tanzania, with Rwanda set to be the fastest growing economy in the region at 6.8 percent. Ethiopia and Uganda are both predicted to post growth of 5.5 percent. The Southern African region is led by Angola, Africa's second largest oil producer, with growth of 10.8 percent, with Zambia and Mozambique forecast to grow at 6.7 and 7.5 percent respectively. South Africa, the regional giant, continues to struggle to breach the 4 percent growth mark, and is expected to hit 3.6 percent in 2012 “
With African population fast approaching one billion and with increasing middle class, Africa market is getting the attention of the world. That is not to say that poverty has been defeated but increasingly, poverty has been receiving a resourceful blow from women and men of Africa. African people are no longer waiting on their corrupt and inefficient governments but are pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Go to the major cities and towns of Africa including Lagos, Onitsha, Jonesburg, Accra and others the myriad and number of private businesses are overwhelming. Africans especially Nigerians have money to spend and they are spending it in Africa, London, Dubai etc.
Africa is natural resources-rich continent and can rightly be called the raw materials depository storage of the world. When it comes to African oil consumption, United States of America is importing more crude oil from sub-Sahara Africa than Saudi Arabia. At the moment United States gets its 16 percent of oil from sub-Sahara Africa and it is expected to reach up to 25 percent by 2015.
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stated that, “Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the fastest growing oil sectors in the world. Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville are all expanding their output and Chad, Cameroon and Sudan are in the race to catch up. A US Government think-tank, the National Intelligence Council, has estimated that in just over a decade, West African oil exports to the US will constitute about 25% of US oil import requirements from the current level of 16%.”
With all the insecurity arising from Middle East, United States will have Africa to turn to for its oil needs. Moreover, in spite of the proximity of Africa’s oil to the American market, the oil coming from Bight of Guinea has the least sulfur content and therefore cheaper to refine.
Writing in Slate On-Line Magazine, Dr. John Ghazvinian supported this assertion:”To begin with, one of the more attractive attributes of Africa's oil boom is the quality of the oil itself. The variety of crude found in the Gulf of Guinea is known in industry parlance as "light" and "sweet," meaning it is viscous and low in sulfur, and therefore easier and cheaper to refine than, say, Middle Eastern crude, which tends to be lacking in lower hydrocarbons and is therefore very "sticky." This is particularly appealing to American and European refineries, which have to contend with strict environmental regulations that make it difficult to refine heavier and sourer varieties of crude without running up costs that make the entire proposition worthless”
Africa can be called a reliable friend of America. But that is not the whole story, United States interest in Africa is beyond human rights, the trade ties between Africa and America have been growing tremendously since the end of cold war and inception of globalization. It is significant because Africa is fast becoming a landscape that is attractive to so many parts of the world. China for instance is taking Africa very serious and has been steadily solidifying its trade ties with Africa by increasing its investments in the African emerging economies.
This is not to say that Africa existential problems have evaporated. Africa still has many challenges that she must defeated. The problem of religious intolerance manifested with violent eruptions in Nigeria, Sudan and Mali cannot be allowed to threaten the national unity of these respective nations while weakening their economies.
The embryonic democratic dispensation on African soil has not taken root. The Big man syndrome with weak democratic infrastructures has come to define Africa’s nascent democracy. It is essential that African leadership to be cautious about interference and meddling with democracy with regards to rigging of elections while truncating freedom of gathering and expression.
The problems of diseases, food shortages, global warming, poor governance, corruption and capital fight must be confronted head-on by the leadership and people of Africa. The good news coming from Africa is that Africans are no longer folding their hands and waiting for a hero on a shining horse to bail them out.
African people and in few cases the leadership are slowly but steadily rising to the occasion and doing things to mitigate those problems. This is not to say that African leadership has completely turned away from their bad ways of exploiting African resources for selfish gain.
This is where friends like America will come in and support the continent but not to do for Africa what she must do for herself. Africa must lead and that is exactly what she is struggling to do and a help from America will go a long way.
Mr. Emeka Chiakwelu is the principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org firstname.lastname@example.org