Africa and the waves of summits
In the last one and a half decades or so, Africa has been unprecedentedly inundated with a horde of international summits sponsored by the great powers, medium powers and a handful of newly industrialising countries which, if not because of mismanagement and poor governance, some African states ought to have been on the same heap of development with if not better. The hosting of these summits and the like forums is not only frequent, but is also raging just like the whirlwind of the Europeans scramble for Africa which found unholy resolution in the Berlin conference of 1884-1885 during which Africa’s head was proverbially shaved in its absence. Prominent on the menu of summits and forums being consistently served and also in series, to the highly vulnerable continent include: Africa-EU Summit, Italy-Africa Conference, German-Africa Business Summit, African-Canadian Business Summit, Brazil-Africa Business Forum, Africa-Turkey Summit, India- Africa Forum Summit, Africa-France Summit, UK Africa Investment Summit, Russia-Africa Summit, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, US –Africa Leaders’ Summit and The Tokyo International Conference on Africa among others.
Most times, the conveners of these summits as in the case of the Third Turkey-Africa Summit, anchor their desirability on the need “to enhance partnership for common development and prosperity.” They also justify them in the context of “Africa Union’s Constitute Act which mandates the AU to encourage international cooperation and in the Agenda 2063: Aspiration 7 which envisions Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global players and partners”. Attaining this it is believed, will entail “improving Africa’s partnerships”. However, the view is growing among some African scholars and analysts that, Africa should be shunning the slew of invitations to these summits for the following reasons: it is in the first placed argued that, the way and manner African leaders are being summoned for the summits particularly by the great powers, suggests subservience or a look down on Africa. It is also seen as a benign and subtle way of perpetuating the long standing exploitation of the continent. An old wine in a new bottle it is said! In other words, it is perceived as colonialism repackaged. Before we interrogate these points further, it is apposite to raise and answer the question: what attractions are there in Africa that have spurred this unceasing swarm on the continent which began centuries ago?
First is the huge market Africa portends for most of the racing powers on account of the population of the continent. As at today, Africa’s population stands at “1.4 billion people which is about 16.72 per cent of the world population ranking second in the world after Asia. It is tipped to be the fastest growing population in the world racing to become the most populous region by the end of the century when its population is likely to peak at about 3.4 billion people”. The annual population growth rate in “Africa South of Sahara alone in 2022 stood at 2.5 per cent. This was three times more than the global average of 0.8 per cent.” This trend obviously suggests that,” Africa is likely to become a key emerging market for international trade and investment over the coming decades. “Thus, states and “multinational corporations are competing to position themselves to tap these opportunities”. Second, of recent also, the demand for higher education particularly university education, in Africa has been astronomically sprouting and could not be met by African universities. Noticing this gap and the realisation of Africa’s yearning for cross border university education, universities outside the continent have been seizing the opportunity of the summits and forums to promote Africans’ patronage of their universities and other educational institutions. Third, as it was in the days of the old (colonial days), Africa’s humongous natural resources (mineral and agricultural) which include: gold, diamond, uranium, bauxite, petroleum, copper, cocoa, timber and fruits, have continued to be eye catching as raw materials for the industries of the competing powers who unfortunately for Africa are in a better position to dictate the prices of these natural endowments. Fourth, the foreign powers have also noticed the desperation of African leaders for foreign direct investments and their willingness to grant profitable concessions to foreign investors. This goes with the perception by the conveners of these summits and forums that, some African leaders are prone to compromise and can easily fall for skewed deals that favor them. In realization of these bountiful economic opportunities that abound in Africa, coupled with other challenges confronting the continent, the European Union in its summits with Africa, has for example, hinged its partnership with Africa on issues of: peace and security; democratic governance and human rights; trade, regional integration and infrastructure; millennium development goals; energy; climate change; migration, mobility and employment; and science, information, society and space. These are truly areas which both regions can derive mutual benefits.
The continent needs not therefore, shun the summit phenomenon. In a globalised world, it is not of course, politically and economically prudent to opt for isolationism as a policy. Africa should not also pretend that it has the capability to summon and fund most of these summits. All it needs do to prove that it is not subservient and opened to continued exploitation are these: one, in attending all these summits, African states must go with their own lucid agenda of what they can benefits from the interactive sessions. They must be eagle eyed about the potential benefits. The trouble Africa has is that often times, its attendees usually lose sight of the long term and far reaching benefits Africa can gain from the fora and concentrate more on what their partners can offer as short term aid including their personal accrual. Also, African states should be more meticulous and discerning in scrutinizing the terms of their engagement or agreement with these seemingly benign partners so that their countries are not given away in servitude. Aside, Africa must look more inward, genuinely fight corruption and enthrone good governance in order to propel its growth and development. Above all, if African leaders can muster the political will to assert, demonstrate high sense of patriotism and economic nationalism, these waves of summit can partly be a catalyst for Africa’s progress and antidote for poverty.
Dr.Adebisi teaches Politics and International Relations at Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State.
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