AFRICANGLOBE – What Africa? Africa has thousands of social – economic and political ecosystems. This has caused some people to refrain from discussing the continent as one. What about Europe, China, India and the United States of America?
How homogeneous are they? Africa’s position in geopolitics has one common denominator: minimal proactivity in geopolitical affairs and reacting to what is thrown at it.
According to the just concluded 14th Eastern Africa Media Forum organized by the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN), “nothing is innocent” when it comes to Africa in geopolitics.
That soap opera you watch on your television set; your favorite teams in the English Premier League; fashion and your favorite economic theory are just but parts of the many moving pieces world powers deploy to influence the world view.
Why is it important to discuss Africa in geopolitics? Public intellectuals on the continent have churned out lots of literature on the impact of the Washington Consensus.
When the Washington Consensus market based approach to public policy hit the continent’s shores, it dramatically changed the economic ecosystems. State run economic platforms either collapsed or were privatized.
Benefits ranged from individuals gaining more access to a variety of goods and lifestyles.
The flipside was destruction of production capabilities in poor countries, eviction of thousands of people from their economic livelihoods and or enriching of few political elites who gobbled up what was initially publicly owned outfits.
The high waves of the Beijing Consensus that promotes pragmatic state owned enterprises are on the horizon.
Will African outfits adopted from the Washington Consensus withstand the new wave?
Naïve about how the world works, nation-states and regional organizations such as the African Union appear to have a firm belief that external sources are altruistic and keen to assist Africa.
Geopolitics is generally defined as a given state’s power to control territory, shape international policy and shape other states’ foreign policy.
Such states use a variety of approaches to shape both international policy and other states’ foreign policy.
Art is one such approach that is commonly deployed in still images, motion pictures (movies), theatre and music.
For example, Shakespeare may not be as innocent as we think.
The Economist (March 19, 2016) asked: “Was Shakespeare part of a universal human culture which belongs to everyone, or an extension of colonial power?”
The power of images has influenced African elites to adopt the lifestyles that they watch in movies. For instance, one would courageously plunder public coffers to live just like a “movie star.”
In the media forum mentioned above, Rasna Warah discussed how aid and financial systems are used to shape Africa’s engagement with the rest of the world.
She shared a shocking revelation of how France controls Francophone Africa’s financial system by literally banking money for African countries.
Onyango Oketch’s iconoclastic images had everyone on the edge. Think of the popular image of the last supper with bearded Africans and a nude African woman at the center!
According to Oketch, no image is innocent. Could it be the reason cartoonists have of late been on the receiving end from political elites and media houses?
Think of the images that words imprint on your mind.
Visualize, for example, David Ndii’s opinion that “Kenya is a cruel marriage; it’s time to talk divorce” (Saturday Nation, March 26, 2016).
The furious reaction by Kenya’s public intellectual gatekeepers tells it all.
Edward Wanyonyi discussed the rise of politico – military diplomacy that has stifled information from the unstable Somalia.
Censorship in the name of patriotism is likely to prolong Somalia woes as no solutions can be found in the absence of honest discourse on what’s actually bedeviling the country.
Churchill Otieno decried Africa’s lack of international wire services (for news gathering) and inability to utilize the new media to drive its own content.
In this not-so-innocent world, Africa still surrenders to the other to shape its world view.
In geopolitics, Africa paints an image of a continent that simply reacts to external maneuvers but is too lazy to dare and move.
The bubbly Kenyan politics and how opponents deploy to contain each other shows innate possibility for Africans to be proactive in geopolitics.
So each time you are out there watching your favorite European premier league, Hollywood movie or reading that best seller novel, remember that you are imbibing one of the many moving pieces in geopolitics.
Can we adopt domestic approaches, upgrade them and deploy African pieces globally?
By: James Shikwati