There is no doubt that Africa has transitioned from being considered a “dark continent,” to one which is currently regarded as the second fastest growing continent in the world in the 21st century. However, despite advancements in agriculture, finance, health, politics, and formal education, Africa continues to suffer the negative connotations of colonialism, imperialism, and inferiority. So why is Africa still perceived negatively on the global stage when the continent is home to abundant natural resources and opportunities for innovation?
A United Africa?
15 years after the establishment of the African Union (AU), the continent remains divided on whether or not the need for a united continental front is practically important.
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Speaking at a gathering of 32 African heads of state in 1963, Ghana’s founding president and Pan-Africanist warrior, Kwame Nkrumah, warned that the African continent had a ripe opportunity of uniting now or forever perishing in the shame of failure. Nkrumah’s warning was echoed in 2013 by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who told former AU chair and ex-president of Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi, that the African continent is in dire need of a leader capable of championing the economic advancement of all African economies on the world stage.
Three years down the line, Africa remains divided on all frontiers: language, ethnic culture, political dispensation, and currency. The repercussions for such division has been a modern scramble for the continent’s natural and human resources by the West, just as was the case during the original “scramble for Africa” during the 19th century.
Dependence on the West
Whenever an African president plans on having diplomatic talks with a Western leader, the main assumption by his or her political critics is that such talks are centered around begging for donor support and seeking financial assistance. Former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, minced no words during the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa earlier this year, where he lashed out at African leaders for begging for financial assistance from the West.
“We cannot always pass a hat around and insist we want to be sovereign, we want to be independent. We should lead and get others to support us. That support will be much more forthcoming when they see how serious and committed we are,” he said.
The issues raised by Annan support a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which reveals that the percentage of official development assistance (ODA) by Western economies and multinational corporations has continued to rise since the early 1970’s.
Foreign aid, be it military assistance, food support, or even humanitarian interventions, is meant to help disadvantaged nations become more economically secure.
But what happens when up to 70 percent of an African country’s fiscal budget is dependent on foreign aid and donor support? What happens when the development projects in Africa emanate exclusively from the harsh conditionalities of such aid?
Africa can only mature and be seen as an economic super power if leaders come together and put in place effective governmental policies, geared to a total and conclusive form of fiscal independence from the West. Until that happens, the continent will continue to be perceived as a flaccid economic liability, in need of strict economic and political invasion.