The Scramble for Africa and colonisation are two events that will forever stand out in the mist of time for many years to come. These events shaped the modern day Africa. Through the two, Africans benefitted from its links with the outside world for its education, military, economy and health. That the continent benefitted, more especially from Europe and America, cannot be disputed.
However, with the wisdom gained from abroad, Africans should have been better placed to utilise the skills gained through interactions with the developed world. They should have used this leverage to turn those skills into the continent’s gain and make Africa-tailored solutions. They have failed to do this.
Now there are evident green shoots of re-colonisation of the continent. Civil Society says what it sees is the Scramble for Africa being played out all over again. Every country, from East to West, which is thirsty for resources, is now flirting with leaders on the African continent. It is a fight for attention for the resource-rich Africa.
We are not saying it is a bad thing for Europe, America and Asia to show interest in the continent. Africa is blessed with natural resources which they need to power their economies. China’s boiling economy cannot survive without the fix of Africa’s copper, coal and steel. That is why they are doing all their best to get the attention of the continent’s leaders.
Meanwhile, Japan cannot stand by and watch China get all the limelight in Africa. This is seen through the 3.2 trillion yen Japan gave to African governments, touted as a debt assistance package to aid the continent’s development agenda.
The West is also renewing its interest in the continent. The Europeans and Americans do not want to be seen to be losing their sparkle on the continent, which has over the years been their fiefdom, backyard and exclusive heartland. We are not saying the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and indeed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) are not crucial to modern day trade. As a matter of fact, the world survives through linkages.
Everybody accepts that Africa can neither operate nor exist in isolation. Rather, our argument is for the growth of Intra-Africa trade which will result in the developed world taking Africa seriously, especially that the West and East come with difficult and often self-seeking conditions that do not favour development of the continent. At the moment trade is skewed in favour of the first world to the detriment of Africa.
While having trade agreements with developed countries is not a bad idea, we must at all times be awake to the fact that it comes with a price. Developed world come to Africa for trade not out of benevolence or because they like Africa, but because it is in their own interest to do so.
Botswana has an agreement with the European Union (EU) over the duty and tariff free goods (interim EPA agreement), but Botswana cannot fully take advantage of the market because of stringent rules imposed by the EU on cattle traceability, for example. As many as 80 percent of Botswana farmers still practice subsistence farming. Some of these requirements disadvantage them while EU companies on the other hand enjoy market access to Botswana.
Equally, aid to Africa from the East comes with strings attached. For example, soft loans turn out to be costly as Asian contractors that do public works in Africa normally bring their untrained labour and raw materials when these can be sourced locally.
Our argument is that Africa should use its markets and natural resources to its advantage. If Intra-Africa trade is fully supported at government level, Botswana free range beef could be sold to populous parts of the continent. Oil from Angola and Nigeria could be sold at a reasonable price, rather than have it exported to the West.