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Once again, big powers politics in Africa is in full swing. The west, besides leveraging its economic dominance, is militarily positioning itself all across the continent. North Africa has already seen military onslaughts. Gaddafi was deposed and the Sahel was destabilized (Libya, Mali Niger, etc.) Whatever the pretexts of the day for incursion (military or otherwise) the real interest remains the same; the control of Africa’s mineral and other wealth! AFRICOM (the US Command newly set up to deal with the ‘dark continent’, to use a Eurocentric phraseology) and other institutional tools of the west are readied to be unleashed full scale to facilitate more extraction as well as contain the BRICS, particularly China. Ascending powers like China have tried to make their own inroads, mostly by utilizing the strategy of ‘give and take’. By and large, Africans have benefitted from China’s engagement!
China is still a novice when it comes to playing power politics on a global scale. For instance, China’s dealing with Africa, centered almost exclusively via the nation states, might have won it some temporary victories, but it won’t be enough. If China wants to secure the trust of Africa’s multitude, it has to go deep, so to speak. Even though, the general African sheeple (human mass) is still positively disposed towards China’s engagements, it lacks knowledge/understanding about China’s long history, to say nothing about our own history of colonialism and flag liberation. On its side, China must start becoming a bit more critical of states that do not respect the wishes of their own population. For example, stealing goons seating on the boards of SOE (state owned enterprises) involved in the extraction sector (petroleum, etc.) should not be allied with, because in the long run criminal activities will negatively impact not only China’s image, but also its tangible material interests. When the going gets tough, it is these thieving characters that flee to the west from their own countries of birth exposing China to unsuspected risks!
In addition, China should deeply appreciate the complexity of Africa’s nation states that have diverse populace. Its old strategy of ‘people to people’ should have been elevated to genuine relations that encompass all, not only commerce. China’s image as an obsessed scion of crass mercantilism (in late modernity) cannot on its own, support large-scale initiatives, which by their very nature involve more than mere trade and investment. For example, Africa’s component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) need a thorough sensitization, in order to mobilize sufficient support from the people who reside on the ground. High-level discussions on such issues are necessary but not sufficient. The Chinese policy of exclusively relying on the ever-changing African states, (some failed and failing) not only governments, has started to take its toll. China must do more to win the ideological heart of the African sheeple on a continuous basis, if it wants long-term genuine collaborations.
How is China trying to transform the global order? What is a multi-polar world system, which the BRICS and others are trying to bring to fruition? What is China’ s vision, come fifty years from now? Is it more of the same, like the current western objectives (domination) or does it have concrete plan to save life and life support systems on the planet? What does China mean by ‘Ecological Civilization’? Most importantly, how do they plan to involve the rest of us in these endeavors? Such discourses are conspicuously absent, particularly at the grass root level in Africa, where it matters most. This information gap must be rectified!
On the other hand, the West has no illusion about Africa’s aspirations and potential. Genuine liberation from wants is not going to be achieved by heavily relying on debt and largess from the rich countries of the west. That has been tried and failed. What must be attempted is; a robust dynamic policy that clearly understands our position in the world system. Polarizing globalization, in which we find ourselves in, is not to be celebrated, but rather to be fought tooth and nail. Our western educated elites (with the exception of tiny few) do not understand this phenomenon. That makes them quite dangerous. Russia and the East European countries tried to follow that route and we know where they ended up. The largest country on the face of the earth became mere playground of oligarchs at the service of monopoly capital. Western strategy plays on all fronts and at all levels. From the education of the African elite, to the NGOs, to the diaspora, to the hyphenated elites, to dominant media/entertainment, to IMF/BW, to AFRICOM, etc., all tools are used, rather effectively. An important and disturbing feature one observes about the west is; it is only the logic of capital and not the logic of life/humanity that seem to matter in collective societal existence. This is scary! Commodified life only leads to unfulfilled way of life; frustration, violence, increased use of drugs, legal (Opioids) or otherwise! See Meijer’s article next column and others on page 43,60 & 62.
The whole objective of capitalist modernity, it seems, is not to benefit the global sheeple. That is, at best, only a side activity, a mere by product of the accumulation strategy. Herein lies the difference between the west and the rest of us! Worshipping ‘monopoly capital’ and its tutelages cannot be the alpha and omega of existence. Africa needs to learn a whole lot from the experiences of others, who have been at it for quite a while. To this end, we need sober and erudite reflections. Unfortunately, Africa also runs short in this department. What we have in abundance is ‘belly thinkers’ or zombified intellectuals who preach for our complete subjugation, without even knowing what they are talking about. Who can blame them? After all, they are paid to disseminate propaganda not wisdom, which they conspicuously lack. To the dismay of many, it is this ‘intellectuals yet idiots’ (Nassim Taleb of ‘Black Swan’ fame) or what we call the ‘Ivy Idiots’ that are allowed to dominate public spaces and attendant discourse on our continent!
Here is an old Ethiopian proverb relating to the above predicament: “Trying to collect dung where there have been no cows is a futile exercise.” Good Day!