LAST YEAR, Japan held the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on Africa's Development (TICAD V). A year earlier, China had also held its Fifth Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and now it seems another version of the "scramble for Africa" is in the wings with next week's American version taking place in Washington D.C.
Africa in the last decade has made its presence felt because of a new breed of leaders interested in driving their countries forward, unlike their kleptocratic predecessors such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Central African Republic's Jean Bedel Bokassa.
Today, Africa speaks and it is heard; it trades its abundant national resources unlike in the past when it was easy plunder and a curse to the continent. Africa's fast economic pace and its potential has attracted many suitors, especially from China, and to a lower extent, other BRICS countries.
So the US-Africa leaders' Summit is no fluke, the Americans are playing a catch-up game that they are not used to. While its economic downturn will not allow it to pour its financial largesse into African coffers, as China and Japan did, it is an opportunity for African leaders to demand for equal treatment on the world stage.
How they go about it is anyone's guess, but if they want to change perceptions of African nations in the political corridors in Washington, now is the time.