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Africa should take charge of shaping her future

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd July 2013 01:43 PM

Barack Obama’s second visit to Africa following Xi Jinping’s, arguably set the stage for an apparent second scramble for Africa led by the two leading economic giants, United States and China.

Barack Obama’s second visit to Africa following Xi Jinping’s, arguably set the stage for an apparent second scramble for Africa led by the two leading economic giants, United States and China.

By Awel Uwihanganye

Barack Obama’s second visit to Africa following Xi Jinping’s, arguably set the stage for an apparent second scramble for Africa led by the two leading economic giants, United States and China.


As the common saying goes, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The two competing super powers are aggressively deploying radically different strategies to achieve their interests on the continent.

Among the different narratives by economists, political watchers, and media following the two Presidents’ visit, the African voice articulating core interests and position on key issues was somewhat mute in the discussions that ensued.

Not even the voice of the host Presidents Kikwete of Tanzania or Jacob Zuma of South Africa was heard above the set agenda of the “loud” visitors.

This should be worrying for Africa. On the dawn of an era that promises real economic vantage position for Africa, the narrative is once again being owned and shaped by outside interests.

In its Africa policy, China has chosen a pragmatic approach, directly working with current leaders promising massive investment in infrastructure, and extending development financing in form of grants with no strings attached.

This approach is widely hailed and welcomed by todays’ leaders, given the many pre-conditions they were subjected to in previous engagements with the West. However, it is worth noting that increasingly some of the China-Africa engagements quality and standards are not main features.

The projects are also shrouded in claims of corruption, of substandard and shoddy works, dumping of labour and goods, among other negative aspects of the China approach.

By large, in the China-Africa relations, the ‘young’ generation has been left out of this conversation; yet they are the ones who are angry at the dumping of labour and unfair competition with Chinese businesses, which have joined retail trade in most of African urban centres.

This is in addition to the fact that future generations will be expected to honor obligations associated with the grants, and infrastructure investments being undertaken today.

It is the same young generation in Africa that have become the centre of President Obama’s foreign policy, and his choice for investment in future Africa-US relations.

Even before announcing the robust agenda for Africa’s emerging leaders during his South African leg of his Africa tour, American diplomats have been heavily involved in supporting activities and programmes in outreach to African youth.

Given Obama’s stature as an inspiring figure, whose story projects possibility against the odds, he presents a powerful reference to inspire new thought and aspirations of struggling African emerging generation. This reality increases chances of this strategy succeeding by producing future leaders who are pro-American.

This is against a backdrop of the fact that inter-generational dialogue has not been a priority for most African leaders of today. In the midst of an increasingly inter-connected world, somehow it has not been part of the main agenda to orient and shape leadership outlook of the next generation of African leaders.

However, is it appropriate for the American President to outline such a bold and aggressive strategy like he did, to shape, develop, and orient value systems of future and emerging leaders on the continent? Is he taking away the right of African political leaders to do that, or is it an indictment against them, that they have failed in this regard? Why did African leaders let this go on unchallenged?

Most African leaders are yet to recognise that in the part of the world where over 70% are youth, their voice is as important as national security, and infrastructure development. With “African Rising” becoming more of a reality than a myth, preparing and equipping the young generation with the mindset, abilities, and capacity to own the economic opportunity Africa presents today, the responsibility of shaping the youth is a major task.

Failure in this regard would equal to forefathers failure to protect, and safeguard Africa from slave traders and colonialists.

Therefore, whereas the plan announced by Obama is a welcome initiative, it should acknowledge that first and foremost, local value systems should form the basis of which leadership principles of emerging leaders in Africa are based.

This calls for African business and political leaders to invest themselves in mentoring and shaping these young leaders. Otherwise, Africa of the future will find itself with leaders more concerned with interests of others than those of their communities. Indications especially in East Africa are that the youth are not sitting hands folded, youth entrepreneurship is on the rise, social and media activism is led by the young generation.

Legacy of today’s leaders will largely depend on the perception and appreciation of this critical group of their citizens. Ignoring their concerns and inclusion of their voice in shaping policy interventions is counter-productive to leaders’ interests.

Let us all do what we must to safeguard immediate and future interests of the continent.

Awel Uwihanganye is the Co-Founder & CEO LéO Africa Forum
@awel001

Africa should take charge of shaping her future

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