If you have not heard, Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of States was in Senegal on her official 11-day African trip that will take her to Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana and maybe Nigeria. In capital city of Dakar she addressed Senegalese policy makers, scholars, politicians and bureaucrats at University of Cheikh Anta Diop Dakar. When she gets to Ghana she will attend the burial ceremony of late Ghanaian President Atta Mills.
From what we were gathering from the media she will be laying greater emphasis on the sustaining of democracy and on China strong influence in Africa. I will return to China later.
Therefore it is not a leisure nor safari driven trip but policy orientated. But why is it necessary to fly to Africa to remind Africans that democracy is important? America has made the spread of democracy the centerpiece of its foreign policy and Africa is no stranger to democratic doctrine of United States of America. Many African countries have accepted democracy in principle but not in practice. With weak democratic institutions and strong men the promise of true democracy is still a mirage in Africa.
Africa is endowed with natural resources and it is potentially rich but the reality is that it is underdeveloped with inferior, shanty and dilapidated infrastructures; struggling with many earthly problems including food shortage, poor governance, poverty and diseases.
As a U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton is the principal facilitator of America’s foreign policy and visibly the face of Obama’s foreign policy. President Obama is almost completing his first term in office and his policy has not changed from his predecessors who are also emphasizing democracy and peace in Africa.
The much difference is unlike former presidents of America, President Obama is not doling out cash to Africa neither he has a special project that is ongoing in the continent that requires funds infusion.
Former President George Bush (43) made available $15 Billion to fight AIDS/HIV in Africa and the result was affirmatively overwhelming, cutting down the numbers of Africans dying of the dreadful disease. It was one of the most successful programs in Africa financed by United States. Africa is thankful to former President George Bush for his humanitarian gesture to the continent.
Africa in spite of her natural resources needs fund to develop these resources and at this point in time United States, a credible and reliable friend of Africa is not in the position to dole out cash to Africa.
United States at this time has its share of problems – the slow growth of the economy, mind blowing deficits and $15 trillion debt. America cannot afford to be giving out foreign aids as it does in the past. Americans are asking their government to look inward and solve their internal pressing needs that requires lots of money.
China has come to aid of the continent and has been financing many projects in Africa without asking questions about misrule and lack of human rights in Africa. China does not run a charity based enterprise and Chinese are not in Africa for zero-sum game.
China has a massive industrial empire that needs natural resources to administer. China recognized quite well that her growth will not continues without finding new markets to trade with. China has a mammoth population of over 1.2 billion living and breathing citizens that must be feed and cloth. Chinese capitalists and investors are now investing in farming and farm lands in Africa. Food produced from those farming places in Africa can be exported to China.
Clinton may not succeed in convincing Africans to be at lookout in their relationship with China. It is becoming clear, if not self-evident that Africa and China are beginning to understand each other interest. Initially, the relationship may be little rough but with time and frequent interactions the rough edges will be made less frictional.
Africa and China are having reciprocal ventures and mutual relationship: Africa has natural resources and China has cash to dole out. As each of them keeps their eyes on their respective interest, the economic and commercial ties become manageable and sustainable.
But what does Africa really need from United States and West?
Encouragement and Empowerment to foster Freedom and Liberty: Africans must live in the system of government that encourages freedom and justice. The respect for fundamental human rights must be instituted and adhered to; an environment that provides self-help, self-improvement and self-innovation must be encouraged. Only freedom can make these things possible and make free enterprise a reality, so that free people can create wealth and advance human dignity.
The United States should encourage and support governance that accommodates checks and balances in Africa. This will in turn provide accountability and respect for the populace. What Africa needs mostly include elimination of dictators and socialist regimes, establishment of virile/free political platform and economy, rule of law and respect for individual rights. All these things do border on fundamental issues which foreign aid alone cannot redress. Until these issues are properly put right, the story of the optimum utilization of these billions of dollars from foreign aid will always remain a mirage.
Anti-corruption legislation: The responsibility of fighting corruption is too complex and gigantic to be left for one party. Both Africa and West must partake in the fight against corruption. The West must enact banking laws that will fish out bankers that accept laundered money and tainted wealth from corrupt African leaders and bureaucrats. Ill-gotten wealth must be returned to Africa without much ado, while the culprits must be exposed and prosecuted.
The West must work together with African governments on the war against corruption and bribery. Corporations and Transnational companies operating in Africa must not induce politicians and bureaucrats by bribes in their quest for contracts.
“African Union estimates that the continent loses as much as $148 billion a year to corruption. This money is rarely invested in Africa but finds its way into the international banking system and often into western banks. The proceeds of corrupt practices in Africa, (which the African experts group recommended in 2002 should be classified as a ‘crime against humanity’ because of its impact on ordinary people), are often laundered and made respectable by some of the most well known banks in the City of London or the discreet personal bankers of Geneva and Zurich."
Elimination of wars and Promotion of Peace and conflict resolutions: The West can work with African union in finding solutions to the cessation of conflicts and wars.
Wars (especially internal strife) are ubiquitous in the continent. Some African governments and warmongers commit their resources to executing endless wars. The West must frown upon the sale of arms to these parties by checkmating their natives’ arms industries.
Fair and Balance Trade: The West must encourage fair and equitable trade with Africa. The giving of aid must not be the only means to defeat poverty and alleviate quality of life in Africa.
The promotion of trade can be possible when concessions are made to infant industries in Africa. The West can improve technological developments by investing in areas of science and technology that can sharpen the technical-know-how in the continent.
The West must stand for fair trade at the World trade organization by conscientiously removing agricultural subsidies given to their own agricultural sectors that adversely affect the traffic of commodities from Africa. Only trade can be the panacea to poverty in Africa, this wills by and large booster a higher GDP and a decent standard of living.
Finally, Clinton trip is perhaps a goodwill tour that probably will not bring any substantial impact to the continent but Clinton should be commended for having Africa in her mind.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Analyst and Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. Africa Political and 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. http://afripol.org. email@example.com