The Conundrum Facing Africa. Question Is: What Then?

Published 1 month ago
By Forbes Africa | Sanjeev Gupta: The writer is a board member and Executive Director for Financial Services at Africa Finance Corporation responsible for Treasury, Trade Finance, Syndication, Country Relations and Advisory lines of business
African woman plucking tea leaves on plantation, East Africa
The climate challenge exposes the hypocrisy too. Africa, home to labor, land, minerals and oodles of sun, wind and water (read renewables). (Source: Getty Images/Creative)

September 2023 was a month of conferences.

It started off with the summit of the Norwegian-African Business Association in Oslo.

A Reuters event in London followed. Then the revered United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. And the month finished with the AIIB Annual Meeting at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Fascinating as always. Thousands of clever people flying around, talking and promising. Everywhere, the Africa question is dominant but cautious. Risk, coups, exchange rates, crime… are oft-repeated words.

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The fine balance of today’s geopolitics means Africa has to appease to the rhetoric and the threats of a rejuvenated West while still looking at the East for all things important.

Tough for our leaders, fraught as their countries are with inflation, currency issues, elections, and poverty.

The fundamental architecture where Africa provides the minerals, and the world produces goods they then sell back to the continent creates an imbalance that no amount of Bretton Woods fiddling can resolve.

The climate challenge exposes the hypocrisy too. Africa, home to labor, land, minerals and oodles of sun, wind and water (read renewables).

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Why keep manufacturing then outside its shores? At least one eminent minister told me that the Washington Consensus on Trade in the 1980s, which was 40 years after the original Bretton Woods’ party and now another 40 years later, the climate agenda (and the ESG paraphernalia), has one thing in common.

A 40-year itch perhaps.

Extract not engage. Lecture but not lead. Promise but not provide.

Can happy endings come from this relentless pursuit of a status quo camouflaged as aid and grant?

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The question is: what then?

Possibly the BRICS bank is the answer to getting an alter ego?

They seem serious albeit the principle of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’-kind-of binding force. Well, my school had said ‘charity begins at home’.

My mother, like all mothers, had told me: “You don’t get what you want, you get what you deserve.” And my little daughter used to say: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

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African unity cannot remain a myth. African collaboration cannot be an illusion. African solidarity cannot be confined to speeches. The global quest for minerals, gas and gold interlaced with ‘dead aid’, fits nicely into the greed, guilt, and fear syndrome. How do we collectively enhance that fear factor?

The fear of food shortage when Africa has so much arable land.

The fear of global warming when Africa can absorb it all through its forests.

The fear of energy sourcing when Africa has all the gas, oil and the coal the world needs.

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The fear of growth when Africa has the youngest and largest unserved markets.

The fear of supply chain concentration when Africa has the obvious renewable energy- based manufacturing at source (critical minerals) solutions. The fear of mass immigration; fundamentalism when simply adding value to Africa’s resources will create jobs and keep them south of the Mediterranean.

Collective bargaining, anyone?

Into that valley of hope let Africa awake. To take charge and be masters of our own destiny. Maybe we should start with banning Africa’s soccer stars from playing in Europe? That should make them feel the pinch – or at the very least, let’s make a pledge to not export any raw materials without value addition at source. Therein lies the start to a world where jobs exist and prosperity reigns.