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Africa And The West: Revising The Rules Of Engagement


The Bigger Issue

Some may want to reduce the issue under discussion to social conflicts like gay rights or abortion — social problems of which there is much contention in society. But the core issue here is much bigger. Nkrumah hit the nail on the head: it is neocolonialism. He cited the export of social conflicts by capitalist countries. Consider this, Nigeria and most African countries have historically never had any intense social friction regarding gay rights or abortion. Even today, many nations in the region do not have such conflicts. These conflicts are not the basic issue for African states.

The basic issue rests with the right of nations to self governance and the freedom to evolve in that governance. It is about the West hiding under the cloak of promoting democratic ideals to selectively strip weak states of this right while conferring it upon strategic partners.

This social control from the West in Africa’s economics and politics is the bigger issue being discussed here. The West must allow fledging African democracies and their democratic institutions to evolve without petty interferences.

How would the US feel if, for instance, China or Japan, the world’s largest foreign holders of US debt, started using finance to control American policies without regard for Congress, Senate or the White House — forcing compliance with policies more reflective of Chinese or Japanese norms, values and customs rather than North America’s? The American Revolution is proof the US sees such a state of affairs as tyranny.

Enough Is Enough

In a global village, leader-nations have emerged primarily in the Western hemisphere and, as part of their leadership role, they are expected to secure the rights of all nations — more so the weakest and poorest from whom they in part derive their just powers via arrangements like the United Nations.

But when these governments choose to be tyrannical in controlling weaker states adversely, then it is the right of the states to alter or abolish the inordinate control, and to institute new leadership that permit liberty and true multilateral discourse predicated on respect and true equality.

African states are willing to be part of an international community that respects them as equals and allows them the right to govern themselves without control from outside. However, what they should no longer be willing to tolerate is being told how to run their countries.

Part of growing up is being allowed greater autonomy and responsibility. After around 50 years since independence, African states should be given space to take charge of their own destinies and make their own decisions. They should be allowed to decide for themselves which lessons they consider beneficial from the West and which ones they consider not so beneficial.

Changing Times

Our world is changing. Africa is no longer as dependent on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) as it was a few decades ago. According to the World Bank, remittances in 2013 to the developing world were more than three times the size of official development assistance. The 2013 Africa Progress Report shows that private flows from Africans in the Diaspora back to the continent have overtaken Foreign Direct Investments and ODA.

Moreover, Africa has been undergoing a decade-long economic expansion. A number of the world’s fastest growing economies are now found in the continent. Africa need not be bullied by aid withdrawals any longer.

That notwithstanding, African nations are not islands. They need the rest of the global family as much as the global family needs them. Africa needs aid but the nature of development assistance needed is changing. Africa needs technical assistance to help add value to its raw materials instead of exporting them.

The rules of engagement between Africa and the West need serious revision. The times of having absolute disregard for what African nations want while manipulating their national policies from outside to the detriment of Africans, are fast coming to a close as seen with Nigeria and Uganda. It behooves the West to recognize this and to desist from neocolonial control methods.


By: Solomon Appiah


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