Thursday, December 20, 2012

Africa and the New World Order

Africa and the new world order

Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:00
James Shikwati

History points at the disastrous outcome of ethnic-based economies that led to a few Europeans dominating the entire continent.

The national economic structures have offered minimal benefits to African people in view of the fact that they were tailored to simply supply raw materials to global markets.

Africans have been paralysed by foreign domination leading to the paradox of stunted growth amidst wealth in natural resources.

Will China’s relations with Africa be the antidote to the continent’s paralysis?

China's driving force into Africa varies slightly to the force that drives Western countries.

While both the Chinese and their Western country counterparts are interested in supplies of energy and raw materials from Africa, Western industrialised countries remain key drivers of economic activity in Africa, have incentives that go beyond imposing their values on the continent and fear of immigrants from Africa.

China-Africa relations while largely pegged on import of raw materials are driven by the China’s positioning as a major global player.

Africans are paralysed by the fear of continued western domination and Chinese immigrants shifting base to the continent.

China’s relations with Africa offer a catalytic element towards the achievement of a continental socio political economy.

Africa transitioned from pre-colonial ethnic economies that were largely driven by seers, chiefs and kings to national economies constituted by colonial infrastructure.

The continent is currently grappling with building regional economic blocs driven by both local and international interests keen on efficient market system.

China’s re-entry into Africa has opened up a new ocean of possibilities towards a continental economy.

Africa from the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, North and South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean can strategically tap into China’s appetite for natural resources to push for infrastructure development.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce estimates that between the year 2000 and 2006, Chinese companies contracted over 6 000 km of road building, 1 350 km railway rehabilitation and 1 600km of new railroads.

The continent’s policy makers should consider positioning their plans on the basis of how to utilise oceans, seas and airspaces in their negotiations with their Chinese counterparts.

The non prescriptive element in China-Africa relations offers an opportunity for Africans to build a positive image about the continent to the world; to restore confidence in their abilities to tackle the continent’s challenges and to scale up cultural revival.

China’s burden of managing over 1.3 billion people and harmony with 14 neighbours offers Africans an opportunity to leverage their interests.

Africans must discard the paralysing effect caused by the erroneous mindset that solutions to the continent’s challenges reside in foreigners.

The surge in intra-African investments in the construction, banking, retail, education and hospitality sectors is a positive signal for the continent.

Rapid urbanisation offers Africans an opportunity to craft their own centres of economic activities and policies.

The multilateral environment provided by Chinese interest in global affairs offers the continent an opportunity to voice their concerns and push for democratic international institutions.

The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) offers an opportunity to engage China with positive outcomes in mind.

China has widened Africa’s menu for choice from the traditional focus on Western countries.
A wider menu in itself will not produce positive results unless Africans invest in informed choice mechanisms.

The FOCAC initiative provides a framework from which African countries can evolve a unitary strategy to reap from economies of scale and strengthen the continent’s negotiating position globally.

As in all catalysts, China-Africa relations will not change Chinese self interests.
The obligation is on Africans to scan the shifting global systems and evolve alliances that safeguard African interests.

Western countries have benefited in alliance building culture to craft international systems that put wind into their economic sails.

Individual African countries cannot go it alone and engage China and expect long term benefits; they have to craft coordinated approach and utilise FOCAC platform among others.

Africans should study keenly how China manages ethnic diversity, competing interests, builds its state legitimacy across vast territory and its engagement in multilateralism.

The continent’s leadership structure should take courage and jointly craft a long term vision for the continent and its expected relevance and participation in global affairs.

Africans should not fear the Chinese; instead they should build a robust evidence based strategy to engage China.

— African Executive

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