Africans must remain united as Europe realigns its strategy for continuous domination

Publié le par hort

Africa should remain united against Western detractors

By Mabasa Sasa

EUROPE has always been an intriguing yet loathsome political creature, perhaps more so than the boyish politics and society of North America.Reeling from the sobering reality that the halcyon days of Empire are indeed over and that the Chinese dragon has a roar more appealing than the self-righteous proselytising of the North Atlantic states, the divisions in Western Europe over how to engage Africa are becoming more apparent by the day.

Just a few decades ago, the political economy of Europe was premised on denying millions of people their basic human rights while exploiting them so thoroughly their economic, political and social condition today remains underdeveloped. Before that, with arrogance that is still unmatched in human history, Europe took upon itself to exchange African people as a commodity that could be valued in terms of sugar, cotton and whatever else took the fancy of the royal palates in the Old World.

But now the new millennium has come with shifting economic and political alliances and has forcibly birthed out of Europe’s almost barren international public relations womb a grotesque coquetry that is both intriguing and repulsive. Intriguing in the fact that suddenly Europe wants to look at Africa as a partner and yet yesterday the continent was one huge farm and mine whose proceeds were supposed to benefit only those of fair skin.

Repulsive because we all know that what Europe really wants — but is too embarrassed to say — are our resources and to ensure emerging global players like China and India do not leave them coughing in the dust of the African savannah. And Europe knows it does not only have to contend with the likes of China, but it must also find its own waysof competing and coping with an America that uses "shock and awe" strategies to get its way.

Europe would like the world to believe that engagement between the two continents has really changed and people like Nicolas Sarkozy, the French leader, appear to be on the verge of literally begging Africa to forget about colonialism and join France in a new development partnership. And in the face of these attempts to mute the arrogance of old, Europe has to contend with an Africa that is gradually becoming aware of its true worth to the global economy and that, furthermore, it can pick and choose the economic and political partners it desires.

Realising this, in 2005 the European Union came up with what it called the EU Strategy for Africa.While this still smacked of that inexhaustible smugness that is so characteristic of Europe (Africa was not consulted on the matter!), the strategy document was the offspring of Europe’s increasing realisation that things are changing and will continue to do so well into the unforeseeable future.

The strategy was intended to guide the EU’s future relations with Africa and it is from the agreement of 2005 that we now see the madness surrounding the EU-Africa Summit in Portugal and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s whining over Zimbabwe’s participation. Brown is putting himself and his buddies in the EU in an unenviable position as no one in Europe wants to miss an opportunity to improve relations with Africa and thus position his/her country for better access to the resources on the continent.

In fact, it is believed that the EU shall present Africa with an EU-Africa joint strategy meant to solidify relations and most of Europe is aware that Africa is, in turn, aware that it has a stronger bargaining position. Africa’s united voice on Zimbabwe has shaken Europe and this should mark the genesis of a new Africa-Europe relationship that is based primarily on

Everyone knows what Europe wants from Africa and hence it is time for Africa to make it clear what it wants from Europe. Only a dunce would deny that Europe’s interest in Africa has always been about access to resources, which makes Brown’s hollow moral grandstanding a rather flat joke, and that the pressure for a huge EU-Africa Summit is because last year’s Sino-Africa meeting that left the West green with envy.

The task of African heads of state and government is, therefore, to enunciate a unified agenda and programme of action ahead of the summit so that this one voice can be carried coherently into Portugal and beyond.Africa must take full advantage of Europe’s forced chastened state of mind as it will last only as long as the EU accepts negotiation will thenceforth be the only way to access resources on this continent. (Who knows, the EU could wake up as trigger-happy as America’s cowboy president and then it would be totally different ball game!) Perhaps this would be a good time for Africa to bring up the matter of that odious debt that we have found ourselves "owing" Europe for allowing them to underdevelop our continent from slavery through to neo-colonialism. After all, in 2005 Jeffrey Sachs, advisor to then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, suggested that Africa simply ignore the US$200 billion owed to the rich West.

So while the Berlin Conference of 1884/5 set the tone for Africa’s colonisation and exploitation and African leaders must guarantee that the EU-Africa Summit does not facilitate perpetuation of the same.Ironically, Germany and Portugal spearheaded the Berlin Conference and the two are playing a pivotal role in the present case. At that time, Germany, steered by Otto von Bismarck, had surprised even itself by bursting onto the scene as a genuine military-industrial power keen on catching up with Britain while Portugal was on its way down in the imperial sweepstakes and trying to prolong the glory days. Today, Germany, led by Angela Merkel, is trying to assert its position as the leader of the EU while Portugal is apparently still in the same state, geo-politically, that it was at the time of the Berlin Conference and seeking to make full use of its Lusophone "contacts".

France has always wanted to have a greater foothold extending beyond historically Francophone Africa and hence we all know what that country is after.Everyone in the EU has an agenda but they know that their agenda has to be sexy enough for Africa. Europe is thus making coquettish conciliatory noises while perfecting its strategy to get the most out of next month’s meeting. Africa should therefore not wait for Europe to lay the cards on the table but should enter Lisbon and the future with the same unity shown thus far and let the world know what it expects of its co-operation partners.

Racing for New Riches

Russian and Chinese investors are battling for African resources to fuel their growing empires.

By Owen Matthews
Nov 8, 2007

Late on a Friday at the Simba Saloon in downtown Nairobi, music by the Kenyan pop sensation Boomba Clan is playing, and the ties are coming off. At the bar, financial types swap news of the latest bank IPOs andmineral concessions—the must-have gossip in Africa's biggest boomtown. Some of the conversations are in English. Some are in Chinese. And increasingly, manyare in Russian, as Moscow begins to give both the West and Beijing a run for their money in the race for Africa's riches.

Today emerging-market giants are fighting for oil, gas and metal ore in Africa as energetically as 19th-century European colonialists grabbed land. The Chinese have been the most aggressive, with more than 700 companies active in 50 countries, according to Standard Bank of South Africa. China is now Africa's second largest aid donor and trading partner, behind the United States, with trade up fourfold to $40 billion since 2000.

But Russia, the second most-active emerging-market power, is gaining. While trade with Africa is only $3billion a year (up threefold since 2000), Russian companies flush with cash have sunk more than $5  billion into buying up African assets since 2000—and that's not counting $3.5 billion of oil-exploration deals coming online by the end of the decade. (Over the same period, China has put $6.7 billion into Africa, but much of that money has been sunk into infrastructure projects like telecom, electric power, water conservation, transportation and agriculture.)

Pushed by the profit motive, and by a Kremlin eager to build economic empires, Russian businessmen are heading south. Africa, like Russia in the early 1990s, is full of basket-case economies with great mineral wealth—and the Russians reckon they know how to deal with those conditions. Russia has strongly encouraged its companies to buy assets around the world because it suits President Vladimir Putin's philosophy of restoring his country's international position. Recent energy deals in Algeria have gone hand in hand with $4 billion in arms sales from Moscow. Russian businesses interested in South Africa have gotten a boost from a deal Putin made with President Thabo Mbeki to expand nuclear cooperation. Last September Putin made a whistle-stop tour of Africa with several top Russian oligarchs in tow—including Viktor Vekselberg, who pledged to invest $2 billion in metal and mining
projects in Africa.

While the Chinese are staking ground in Africa mainly to power their burgeoning cities and manufacturing sector, Russians see the deals differently. Russia is the world's largest energy exporter, and has plenty of its own metals and minerals. But rich Russian companies want to extend their global reach while they have the money, and with oil approaching $100 a barrel in recent weeks, the time is now. There's another motive, too, analysts say: moving empires beyond the reach of the Kremlin serves as insurance against future political changes in Russia.

Over the last three years, four top Russian metal companies have invested more than $5 billion in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Russian oil giants Lukoil, Rosneft and Stroytransgaz have signed exploration deals in Algeria, Nigeria, Angola and Egypt worth more than $3 billion. Earlier this year Lukoil snapped up 63 percent of a field off the Ivory Coast in a production-sharing agreement with the Nigerian owners.

While the Chinese focus on commodities, the Russians have that in mind and more. Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to hit 6.7 percent this year, and the region's debt burden has fallen from 80 percent of GDP a decade ago to about 30 percent. Economic reform is gaining momentum in places like Zambia and Kenya, and countries like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria now boast a growing consumer class. The Russians see that and are expanding from oil into financial services, telecom and retail.

Russian banks are fast outpacing Western private-equity investors such as Washington's Emerging Capital Partners and South African hedge funds. It's a Moscow investment firm, Renaissance Capital, that is pioneering services that will soon allow billions in outside money to be channeled into sub-Saharan African businesses. And a new Africa Fund just launched by Renaissance is expected to reach its $1 billion cap by spring —making it as large as the total of five funds put together since 2000 by Emerging Capital Partners, previously the largest private investors.

It's not clear that Russia and China will be better for Africa than Westerners turned out to be. South Africa, for example, has been a model for sustainable growth in the region, but South African corporations eager to expand throughout the continent may be winnowed out by Chinese or Russians who can pay cash for practically any asset. Local leaders say they've been following Western business and development models for decades without seeing returns. New countries may offer  something new. At the very least, they bring cash. As the ties come off on the dance floor, and cocktails that would be worth two weeks' wages of a Kenyan laborer are spilled, it's unclear what else the new conquerors will make of Africa's future.

Publié dans geostrategy

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