US President Joe Biden will host the US-Africa Summit in Washington DC next week, from December 13-15.
It is almost a carry-over from the Scramble for Africa between the tail-end of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th century. In spite of the present-day post-colonial world order everybody, it seems, still wants a piece of Mother Africa to fulfill their self-serving foreign policy objectives.
But then again, truth is times have changed and Africa of the past century is markedly different from the AU-led Africa of today. There is a renewed spirit of Pan-Africanism, solidarity and a consciousness, as espoused by former President Thabo Mbeki, the latter-day protagonist of African renaissance.
In a globalized world, Africans have become politically astute and knowledgeable about the complexities of the current geopolitics and the external diplomatic interests of friends and foe alike.
From this standpoint alone, I contend that the 49 African heads of state that stand to be treated to pomp and ceremony on arrival in Washington DC need to bear in mind a single thought, nay, philosophy – that they are all African on arrival and African on departure three days later.
As they prepare to attend the Biden-led summit, African leaders would do well by undertaking the journey to America fully aware that inasmuch as they need the US, the US need them just as much.
The 49 men and women who will arrive in Washington DC next week must leave the Biden administration in no doubt about their collective identity of representing the United States of Africa, as the slain leader of Libya, Muamar Gaddafi, once opined.
The fragmentation of our continent is no longer as obvious and meek as back in the colonial days. Through the AU – imperfect as the organisation might be – Africa continues to strive to unite and prosper as a collective.
The days of the cruel “divide and rule” policy and strategy of Africa’s erstwhile colonisers are no more, and eternally may their disappearance be.
This week, in anticipation of the 2nd US-Africa Summit, UNISA together with the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) held a colloquium in Pretoria to reflect on Africa’s opportunities and threats in Washington. The IGD also launched a co-authored paper and research report titled: “The Biden Administration and Africa in a Changing Global Order: Towards the 2nd US-Africa Summit.”
The first summit was hosted by Barack Obama in 2014, and the subsequent Donald Trump years lacked the appetite to prioritize Africa in their foreign policy objectives. Hence the minimization of bilateral, regional and continental engagements with Africa by the more inward-looking Trump administration. In a discussion document, the IGD notes: “It is important to delve into a contextualised analysis of what this Summit means for Africa-US relations in a contemporary global system that is fraught with instability.”
The IGD is correct in its observation. I appreciate the diplomatic decorum required in the expression of any adverse standpoint that has to do with the US.
“Our global system”, it is worth emphasising the IGD’s stand-point, “is fraught with instability”. The truth is – America’s often cantankerous foreign policy has caused untold misery and mayhem in all the four corners of the globe. In Latin America, Venezuela’s socialist government has paid a heavy price for showing scant regard for the US hegemony.
Cuba, literally on the door-step – or in fact in the belly of the mighty US, has been under Washington’s heavy economic sanctions, blockade and isolation for more than 60 years due to their Communist doctrine.
In the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Eurasia – there is no corner of the universe where the US is not part and parcel of conflict.
The Palestinian Struggle against apartheid Israel remains unresolved because every UN Security Council’s resolution against Israel is swiftly vetoed by the US, which possesses a veto power as one of the only five permanent members of the UNSC.
A lot has been written about the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 during the George W Bush tenure in the White House. They killed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein without ever finding his so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction – the premise for the invasion, because they were non-existent.
In Africa, Gaddafi was hounded until his assassination on October 20, 2011, at the height of the US-led foreign-fuelled rebellion against the popular “Brother Leader”.
The Ukraine war with Russia is entirely dependent on the US assessment of the extent to which Russia would be weakened post-war. If Washington so desires, negotiations to end a war that is being fought on Washington’s fully funded budget to the tune of billions of dollars and sophisticated weapons could begin.
And then, in a long list of examples of America’s long tentacles in global conflicts, there is the matter of Taiwan – recognised as part of China in law and in practice by the rest of the world – but the US is mischievously undermining the recognised one-China policy with worrying regularity. The August visit by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei created much instability and simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait that has lived in peace and harmony for a long time.
This is the situational analysis under which the 2nd US-Africa Summit is going to be held next week. To ignore facts would be plain naïve, or disingenuous.
The US, by virtue of being the world’s only surviving superpower since the end of the Cold War, has to wake up to their political and moral obligation to generate global peace instead of their constant threat to multilateralism.
Washington’s reconfiguration of the global order to suit their “rules-based world order” that does not tolerate any dissenting views causes unnecessary tension and great instability to the global security architecture.
The IGD further challenged the African leaders en route to Washington as follows: “It remains to be seen whether the Summit will allow the continent to enhance its agency and shape the key contours of US-Africa relations in a manner that prioritises the continent’s development goals as outlined in Agenda 2063 and various regional indicative strategic development plans and frameworks adopted by the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa.”
I’d add that it would also be wise to flaunt to the Biden administration the new ways of doing business with a united Africa, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The AU describes AfCFTA as “one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. It is a high ambition trade agreement, with a comprehensive scope that includes critical areas of Africa’s economy, such as digital trade and investment protection, amongst other areas.”
It further adds: “By eliminating barriers to trade in Africa, the objective of the AfCFTA is to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, particularly trade in value-added production and trade across all sectors of Africa’s economy.”
I believe such an approach will show the US that finally, they are meeting with leaders of the United States of Africa. The past divide and rule policy belongs to the rubbish bin of history. Africa has turned a new leaf, and this factor alone is what the world’s biggest economy should better beware when the US-Africa Summit takes place in the rarefied atmosphere of the Capitol Hill, amidst pomp and ceremony.