AFRICANGLOBE – With sequester in our faces, unemployment near 8 percent, flatlined economic growth — gross domestic product rose 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter — Americans may be forgiven for their near-constant focus on domestic issues. But on the edge of our sightline, Africa rises.
Africa rises in the news because of the insurgency in Mali, unrest in Algeria, the disastrous death of a U.S. diplomat last year in Libya and recent elections in Kenya, which gave cause for concern because of previous untoward incidents after Kenya’s last election and the fact that the leading presidential candidate in Kenya has been indicted by the ICC.
Africa is certainly capturing more attention from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Recently elevated to ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker saw Africa up close in February, visiting North and West Africa. Corker’s trip was security related, taking him to talk to the prime ministers of Algeria and Tunisia and the president of Senegal as well as commanders of French and African forces, who are fighting al-Qaida and other terrorists groups in Mali.
“It goes without saying that the security situation in North Africa has substantially deteriorated in recent months,” Corker said on his return. “The flow of weapons from Libya has armed terrorists in the region and destabilized at least one government. An increasingly dangerous spread of weapons and fighters across the region is also empowering al-Qaida to take advantage of impoverished and disenfranchised populations in ungoverned territories.”
The Obama administration last month responded to the rise of Arab-backed terrorism and training by deploying U.S. troops and drones to Niger. But more is going on in Africa than the spread of extremism in the north and potentially unsettling electoral outcomes south of the Sahara.
Africa is rising economically. According to reports last year, seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies on the planet were in Africa. The birth rate in Africa is booming. And, as happened here in America during and after the Industrial Revolution, farmers are becoming factory workers, creating a heretofore unheard-of “middle class” on a continent that is home to 1 billion people.
Corruption is still rife across the continent and the “strong man” principle of government has yet to completely disappear, with graft creating drag on the economy and the big-man potential leading to legal and civil uncertainty. Still, Africa rises and America ignores the ascent to our own economic peril.
A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last year showed how G-7 countries and China stacked up when it came to selling their stuff to the vast African market in 2011. China led with $73.4 billion in exports to Africa, followed by France with $38.9 billion, while the United States came third with only $31.5 billion.
Arab terrorists have taken advantage of America’s relative absence to gain military advantage. American indifference and huge Sino investment have given China a big head start in commerce on the continent.
“The fact China is there isn’t a threat to (America),” Corker said in a media call some months ago. “Their approach to Africa is much different than ours. (China takes) an almost mercenary approach. We look at Africa with a more principled approach.”
In August last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for “sustainable partnerships in Africa that add value rather than extract it.” She also called for “enhancing ties between American and African businesses.” She spoke those words from South Africa, with executives from Boeing, Walmart, FedEx and General Electric in the travel party.
Poverty in Africa is a breeding ground of extremism, while, as the world has learned in Asia over the last 20 years, free markets and free trade lift millions more people out of poverty exponentially faster than social programs. To combat both poverty and extremism, America would be wise to engage Africa strategically, rather than responding to the crisis du jour.
Then, as Africa rises, America — and Africans — benefit.
By; Greg Johnson