5 August 2014

Africa: Shaba - 'US, China and Europe Must Look At Africa As a Partner'

US and African leaders meeting in Washington D.C, on Tuesday (05.08.2014) will discuss trade and investment opportunities, while US companies are planning $14 billion (10.4 billion euros) worth of investments in Africa.

It is the first summit of its kind that has brought together the US administration and African leaders. Monday saw talk of democracy, tolerance and the Ebola virus that is spreading fast in West Africa while on Tuesday Washington will seek to bolster its ties with Africa and counter increased Chinese and European dominance in Africa. DW spoke to Richard Shaba, from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Tanzania on Africa's relations with the developed world.

DW: The US is hosting a US-Africa Summit this week designed to boost trade and investment between the two sides which is lagging behind Chinese-African ties Will this meeting amount to anything more than a few days of good meals and some nice words?

It's difficult to determine at this point in time I assume some decisions will be taken and maybe some contracts signed, but I think our biggest question is how the implementation is going to be. Because here are heads of state or government meeting the US administration, now they may agree on something but then they have to sell it back home depending on the nature of the structures at home whether the head of state can just sway and convince everybody or whether the parliament and citizens have a say. So something will happen but the key concern should be the implementation of whatever is agreed on.

The African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) is bound to end in 2015 unless it is renewed by the Congress. Is this Act really about growth and opportunities badly needed in African countries?

It is an opportunity. The only problem is most of the states in Africa were not ready to meet the standards and requirements of AGOA. Other countries which were not supposed to benefit from it outside the African continent took advantage of it and used Africa to get their products abroad. As an opportunity it's a good one but a bit challenging for the African states. They have a chance to enter a market that they would never under normal circumstances enter or even have political support to enter such a market. All they need to do is to put their house in order in terms of production quantity and production quality as well as timely delivery. I think once they put that in place chances are they will take advantage of it and they will start seeing the benefits of AGOA.

Bearing in mind the US and China are major players in Africa, has Europe lost out in the international battle for African attention?

I wouldn't say so because let's look at Europe, the former colonial masters. You have France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain or England. All these states had colonies in Africa and these states still have links to former colonies in Africa. And let us not to forget colonialism in terms of imperialism died but the trade links or trade dependency is still very strong. So Europe can drive a few things and has a chance to do so because when they came as colonialists they created an economy which depended on Europe getting raw materials from the African states. Now the current situation whether you look at the United States, Europe or China, again Africa is expected to supply the raw materials and not the finished products. So the original structure hasn't changed and everybody is looking for the raw material. Does this all mean anything positive for the African states or it's another opportunity for them to supply and not develop? Because when you supply your raw material and they get finished then you are done. Or is it an opportunity to create leverage and demand from everybody that we have a partnership which will help Africa to create its own economic base and have a fair play and use the resources to better improve her own economy? The African states have to remember that former leaders like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere or Kwame Nkurumah,did warn everybody that we have our flags or flag independence but the biggest war is going to be the fight for our own economic liberalization. So this fight and everybody warned that it's going to be tough, ruthless and it's not going to be easy.

What can be done to change what is keeping Africa from having their own say in international relations?

Europe, China, India, USA must take Africa seriously they must look at Africa as a partner not as a source of raw materials and Africa itself must start removing leaders who are not working for Africa but working for themselves or being agents of bigger multinational companies. So these leaders must be removed in a sense that when they seek re-election, they get rejected by the population. If these leaders are voted out and different leaders come in who are pro-African and are able to develop the African agenda and decide what Africa wants and how can Africa achieve it, and what needs to be done for Africa to achieve what they consider their priorities.

What should Africa expect from Europe? Strengthening economic ties, like easier access to the European market or more political engagement?

I think the expectations are very clear that the Africans expect the Europeans to understand them better because they have been dealing with each other for a longtime at different levels, and they should be able to understand the needs of the African states because they the means to address them. We know for example that a lot of young people in the process of wanting to enter Europe. Now it's not like these people are stupid but it's just because they are desperate. The only way forward is to come together and see how do we, as Africans, improve the situation at home and how do you as Europeans help us in the process so that these young people who rightly look for jobs and a better life can have it in a different way.

Richard Shaba is office manager at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Dar es Salam, Tanzania

Interviewer: Philip Sander

Editor Chrispin Mwakideu

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