Africa napping as world scrambles for its resources

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 00:00 |

In an unprecedented global event, 43 African heads of state recently trooped to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia for the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit. Indeed, the news is yet to sink, with many analysts lost on how to start examining this new development. 

But Russia seems confident and clear in its intentions, both overt and covert. Taking a cue from China’s continued rise in Africa, the Kremlin must have been feeling challenged by the fact that it has a much longer and solid history with many African countries.

Russia was one of the axis during the so-called Cold War pitting the capitalist Western bloc and Soviet-led Eastern Communist bloc. Even in Kenya, several of our freedom fighters had a dalliance with Moscow as they sought for help to root out British colonialists.  

Let us face it; the Western hegemony is declining fast in Africa. It started with donor fatigue, when bilateral and multilateral development partners started conditional aid to hitherto darling African countries. China identified this lacuna, and came in aggressively to fill the vacuum. Now, with the return of Russia, the West’s alienation in the continent is almost guaranteed.

The question begs, what is Russia really after? President Vladimir Putin is not a dreamer. His tough past from childhood, to his meteoric rise to the highest echelons of the KGB security agency has created an aura of mystery around him. From his KGB days, Putin must know so many secrets about Africa than African leaders!  

America sees Putin as a schemer, but appears impotent to punish him for allegedly meddling with the US 2017 elections. He is not your ordinary push-over, and can resist America’s bullying and tantrums without breaking a sweat. 

While Russia is talking health and trade, Putin and his government must be carrying a much bigger picture, with a long-term view of this potential partnership. Most likely, Russia is looking into being the major supplier of arms and ammunition in Africa. I mean, look at the resounding success of the Avtomat Kalashnikova, otherwise known as the AK 47 assault rifle, in the continent.

Indeed, it was instructive that one of the lingering pictures of the Russia summit depicts members of an African delegation trying out various types of guns in an exhibition. Russia does not need our oil and petroleum— it exports it. Further, Russia must be opening up other manufacturing fronts, and hence needs Africa’s invaluable resources.  

Tragically, African leaders are rushing for all these trade and cooperation conferences with no agenda of their own. Going by precedence, their main purpose seems to see what is on offer, and how they can personally benefit from the projects.

Presidents who love conference tourism are on a roll. Late August this year, they were in Yokohama, Japan for the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development. The conference was held under the guise of advancing Africa’s development through people, technology and innovation.  

The same month, the presidents were in Bali, for the Indonesia-Africa Infrastructure Dialogue, 2019. With all due respect, this is a light-weight managing to punch its way above its category. 

So, what are the Arabs scheming? I am sure the oil-rich economies will come knocking soon seeking, nay, demanding, a piece of that which the rest of the world seems to have discovered, but we haven’t.

We cannot keep crying wolf to those who exploit us. Rather, we should put Africa’s leadership on the spot. Are we so bereft that we cannot manage to respond to all these foreign overtures on a quid pro quo basis? 

—The writer is a communication expert, and public policy analyst. [email protected]

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