By Prof Martin M. Niboh*
In a June 6, 2018, article in the Washington Post titled, “The future is African — and the United States is not prepared,” Salih Booker and Ari Rickman of the Center for International Policy state the following,
“Beginning in 2035, the number of young people reaching working age in Africa will exceed that of the rest of the world combined and will continue every year for the rest of the century. By 2050, one in every four humans will be African. At the end of the century, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population will be African. Yet, instead of preparing to build a relationship that can grow with the continent, based upon diplomatic cooperation, the United States is doubling down on more than a decade of reliance on its military as the primary vehicle of engaging with Africa. The consequences, as one might expect, are overwhelmingly negative.”
The USA risks losing Africa, not just from negligence but also from a toxic relationship. It is like the lover who ignores you, and when they reconnect, they do so in unhealthy ways. While the USA has relied on its military as the foundation of U.S. relations with a complex and rising Africa, China, Europe, and the rest of the world have seen the folly of such reliance on the military. China is investing in Africa in ways the USA is not. The Pentagon may be able to provide weapons, training, and vehicles to African militaries. Still, such military emphasis cannot offer Africa’s needs in free enterprise, trade deals, infrastructure projects, advice on agriculture, good governance, transparent political parties, and social movements to promote democracy and human rights.
Dr. Dambisa Moyo, in her book Dead Aid, has stated that “In the fractured world of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Africa’s fragile and impoverished states are a natural haven for global terrorists. Porous borders, weak law enforcement and security institutions, plentiful and portable natural resources, disaffected populations, and conflict zones make perfect breeding grounds for all sorts of global terrorists.”
The consensus is that political stability, sustainable physical health, economic prosperity, and social cohesion are not words that describe the Africa of today. But the adverse effects of Africa’s challenges will not be contained within the continent. Indeed, the persistently high number of people in poverty, the underdevelopment of infrastructure, ongoing conflicts, and continuing problems with democratic governance are already combining to force many Africans to flee their homelands. Thousands of Africans have died in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in our lifetime as they flee Africa to seek freedom and prosperity in other countries. But that does not have to be the case for the Africa of tomorrow.
Africa’s development impasse demands a new level of consciousness, a greater degree of innovation, a generous dose of honesty about what it will take to build a prosperous Africa. At the very least, Africa needs an indigenous, grassroots, financially self-sufficient Pan-African movement of humanitarian entrepreneurs whose calling is to continually expand unconditional love, liberty, and free enterprise in Africa. Africa also needs a global community of Friends of Africa to encourage its indigenous grassroots movements to better Africa.
In the face of dictatorial and often ruthless governments in Africa, this indigenous, grassroots, Pan-African movement needs the courage of the unknown Chinese man who stood against Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Therefore, Africa indigenous movement needs encouragement from a community of friends of Africa across the world. Otherwise, the indigenous movement won’t survive.
It is in the role of a “Friend of Africa” that the American government can encourage trade deals, infrastructure projects, advice on agriculture, good governance, and also inspire the American people to promote free enterprise, transparent social movements that humanitarianism, liberty, democracy, and human rights. No real friend of Africa should send foreign soldiers to Africa. After all, one of the lessons of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that it is cheaper to build nations with entrepreneurs and civic movements than with soldiers and military forces.
It is in the interest of the USA, Europe, and the rest of the developed world to encourage the building of a united and prosperous Africa. But the history of Africa’s relations with the rest of the world reveals a strong desire to exploit Africa. Even the good-intentioned presence of thousands of business people, humanitarians, engineers, and other technicians, in Africa has been primarily exploitative in its effects.
The participation of foreigners and foreign governments in Africa should provide material, human, and financial resources to Africa’s indigenous grassroots movements working for a united and prosperous Africa. This change will require a shift in mindset in our foreign friends. They are comfortable with their friends in African government institutions, Western nongovernmental organizations, and financial institutions but less comfortable with indigenous Africa leaders who are not a part of existing institutions. It is no secret that current institutions have failed Africans. It is time for direct investment in the people of Africa who are working to improve institutions and build new institutions that serve the people of Africa.
If the USA and the rest of the West who claim to promote democracy invest in the people of Africa at the grassroots and if they do so in ways that encourage the practice of free enterprise, humanitarianism, and liberty in Africa, then no one ever has to send thousands of soldiers to fight terrorists or tyrannies in Africa.
An African proverb says the best time to plant a tree would have been twenty years ago, and the second-best time is now. Similarly, the best time to build a united, free, safe, peaceful, powerful, and prosperous Africa would have been more than sixty years ago, and the second-best time is now.
*Prof Martin M.Niboh is a Former nuclear physicist, former Professor of Physics and Mathematics ,and a Contemplative Humanitarian Entrepreneur & Activist, He is Founder & President, of Igniting Africa an indigenous community development grassroots movement. He can be reached at email@example.com