Africa must change its relationship with Europe if it wants to become self-reliant and exploit rich resources that could transform the continent, Ghana’s president said Thursday.
“Africa and Europe are natural partners… but (it’s) a relationship that has to be different from what we’ve had up to now,” Nana Akufo-Addo said following talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
His remarks were made in an address to 400 representatives of the African diaspora in France who gathered at the Elysee palace in Paris, where the two leaders took questions from the audience.
“That relationship has enriched Europe but has not enriched Africa. So we need to change that dynamic and we can only do it by ourselves, taking the correct measures for our future,” Akufo-Addo said.
“We have to get away from the idea that there is some Father Christmas who’s going to come and develop our continent for us — there is no Father Christmas, there is just us,” he said.
“So, Mr President, we’re saying the time has come for us to take our destiny in our own hands,” he said, directly addressing Macron.
A former British colony, Ghana does not have the same historical ties with Paris as other former French colonies in West Africa. When Macron went there in November 2017, it was the first-ever visit by a French president.
Calling the exiles home
Since taking office in 2017, Akufo-Addo has placed a major emphasis on encouraging African exiles to return home, particularly those in the United States, dubbing 2019 the “Year of Return”.
And the diaspora could play a key role in Africa, as it did in China, whose transformation into the manufacturing hub of the world was driven in large part by massive levels of investment by its overseas community, he said.
“That development of China has changed the status and the position of Chinese all over the world,” he said.
Those who led the independence movements that swept Africa six decades ago understood it would not only bring freedom from sovereign states but provide the basis for the social and economic transformation.
“That still hasn’t happened,” he said.
But with an abundance of natural resources and the world’s youngest population — one in four people are under 19 — Africa was in a unique position.
“Once we find the means to educate this population and give it skills, then we’re putting Africa on the path of very, very strong economic growth,” he argued.