Ostensibly, President Obama’s Africa Summit with African heads of state is taking place to “represent an unprecedented occasion for the US and African heads of state to meet with business leaders and catalyse new African trade and investment opportunities.” But Dr Pheko Motsoko looks at a broader picture from an African perspective.
The opportunities for investment by US business people have been there ever since Africa overthrew colonialism and became independent states. But the old US with a colonial and imperialistic mentality is irrelevant to Africa. The US policy of dictating how Africans must rule themselves, of harbouring colonial conspiracies about “regime change” and lecturing African countries on “democracy” can be considered parochial, arrogant and insulting to Africa’s people.
That respectable African statesman, Tanzanian President “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere was right when he said, “We, in Africa have no more need of being ‘converted’ to socialism than we have of being taught ‘democracy’. Both are rooted in our past – in the traditional society which produced us.”
And Prof. Chukuwuma Soludo, a leading African economist, once observed that, “at issue, is whether or not Africa can be allowed latitude to conduct trade and industrial development for its own development [other than for the benefit of the West].”
He has intoned that with the European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) for example, a major difference is that unlike the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, these agreements are today signed by a free people under supposedly democratic governments, but the true context remains that Africans again, still remain with neither a voice nor choice in these new economic dispensations.
It is therefore unsurprising that African commentators are questioning some merits of this summit. If the US-Africa Summit is about economic matters and trade, why has it not been organised by American businessmen with the involvement of African ministers of trade and economic affairs, as well as their expert advisors? Why is it not being held in Africa where the economic war against poverty and underdevelopment is being fought and needs to be won? Why must it be the African heads of state – many of whom are not economists – that are invited to the Obama US-Africa Summit for economic issues? And pointedly, what actually is new about this summit?
To begin with, if this summit signals an unprecedented change in American foreign policy towards Africa, the exclusion from invites of some African heads of state, such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Sudan’s Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, not only arouses doubt, but opens the ever-festering wounds of colonial domination, and in pan-African political thought-leader circles, there is already talk that the African leaders attending this summit must tread carefully and refuse to be used as tools in the age-old imperialist game of “divide and rule.”
There are calls that the African Union must not allow its members to be discriminated against by foreign powers and that the selective invitations not only undermine the broader continental interests, but render as irrelevant one of the continent’s major tenets, that African leaders must speak with one African voice. It is unabashedly imprudent for America to want to deal with some African heads of state and not with others in this day and age where issues and disagreement must be resolved with the involvement of all parties.