Africa: Editorial - Sochi's Africa's Chance to Play Smart Partner

Ghana's President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is given a traditional welcome at Sochi International Airport as he arrives to take part in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit on October 22, 2019.
editorial

Dozens of African leaders are expected in the Russian resort city of Sochi next week where they will be attending the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit.

Coming after similar initiatives by China, Japan, the US and the European Union, the event is to a large extent a reflection of the ongoing reconfiguration of the world in the new scramble for Africa. It is also a reflection of how much the world has changed since the early 19th century.

In the Berlin Conference of 1884, a handful of global powers carved out the continent and then proceeded to pillage, and in a handful of cases, such as Buganda, subdue a local potentate into lopsided agreements of economic and political subjugation.

Amid the diversity of interests, the Sochi meeting will be a make or break opportunity for Africa depending on the extent to which the continent's leaders unite around key themes.

An enduring legacy has been that the continent, which is a repository of the bulk of strategic metals and minerals that are crucial for sustaining new technology and modern lifestyles, does not get a fair balance of returns from its resources.

In meetings such as Sochi or the Chinese version, FOCAC; Africa finally has the opportunity for redress, but only if it can think and play smart.

For instance, as an exporter of primary commodities, the continent loses much of the value accruing from the value chain.

A new compact that compels the developed world to transfer a portion of the processing capacity for these natural resources back to Africa would not only put Africa on the path of the knowledge economy but also leave more money and jobs on the continent.

The traditional multi-billion dollar "'aid" packages as have recently been announced by China, Japan and whatever Russia might put on the table next week, need to be approached with caution.

They are tempting because they address an immediate hunger for funds but do nothing to dismantle the fundamentally lopsided economic relationship between Africa and its more powerful international partners.

Africa also needs to change its self-perception from the wrong-held narrative of a dark, hopeless continent; to one where we see ourselves as the custodians of the future. The continent is the only part of the world experiencing positive population growth.

By 2030, one in every four people on earth will be an African. This has interesting implications for labour and markets, something that should be seen and converted into an asset.

Of course upsetting the current order and with it the vested interests hiding behind bodies that superintend over global order such as the UN system, comes with implicit risks.

Africa is already on the frontline between China and the West as manifested in the endless instability here. But a combination of courage and vision from Africa itself, the rise of a moral movement in the West which makes it necessary for its leaders to create a semblance of consent and fairness in their dealings with the new world, make an open and transparent market in Africa's natural resources, a tantalising possibility.

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