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Does the West still matter for Africa?

August 1, 2008

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First on Zimbabwe, now on Darfur, Western countries have lost out at the U.N. Security Council to African states backed by China and Russia.

A Western attempt to get sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government flopped on July 11. Three weeks later, when it came to renewing the mandate of peacekeepers in Darfur, Western countries bowed to demands to include wording that made clear the council would be ready to freeze any International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide. The United States abstained, but that made no difference to the vote.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

The question had long come up in Western countries as to how much Africa mattered to them given what often seemed intractable wars, famine, disease and poverty. From an African perspective, Western countries – often former colonial powers – have sometimes been accused of arrogance, meddling and ignorance of the continent’s realities.

But while Africa’s economies were once dependent on aid and finance from the West, it is China and other Asian countries that are now rushing to invest, helping to drive unprecedented growth. How Africa will deal with the new investment was a key topic at this week’s meeting in Mauritania with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. G8 countries, meanwhile, appear to be falling short on their promises of aid.

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Investment from China comes without the conditions that Western countries or institutions might insist on. Meanwhile, China has been very ready to back African friends in diplomatic forums such as the United Nations. Russia is less important as an investor, but has taken a similar diplomatic line.

So how relevant does the West remain in Africa? And if its influence is waning then will that give African countries a chance to do a better job of solving problems their own way? Will it give a freer hand to leaders with little concern for democracy, human rights and government accountability?

What do you think?

Comments

I have always loved Africa’s people and vastly diverse cultures. The worst thing to ever happen to Africa was the Wests interferrence. Its continued interference will only make things worse, we never really did improve anything there.

Posted by eric spanjers | Report as abusive
 

The US and the UK must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. The peoples of those regions of the world are well aware of the imperialistic intentions of the Western countries. The objectives of the countries – the US and UK – is most obvious in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by Ardeshir Ommani | Report as abusive
 

Yes.

But the rules are changing and the West has not yet woken up to that fact.

Posted by Kanayo | Report as abusive
 

China views Africa as a friend and brother. The same cannot be said about the West. First, it was slavery, then colonization, and even after that paternalism and double standards prevailed. It’s become very clear that even after over $650 billion in aid, little or nothing has changed. Then, all of a sudden we’re seeing some progress in most countries over the past decade. I think most western citizens have very negative views of Africa mostly as a result of the one-sided negative reporting in their medias.

 

Yes the policies of the west did little to improve conditions in Africa. Yes African countries are seeing growth and development that western aid has never and could never bring. But I’m concerned about China’s practices too. If they are really friends and brothers as one poster states, then I say that they can back African countries in public, but they need to pull their leaders aside and help bring order and stability – but then again, China is not the most democratic country, so its a case of the blind leading the blind. Also too, I’m concerned that Chinese investors are going to end up owning Africa i.e. they will bring their workers, from their country, to provide labour for their projects, and in exchange, own mines and other valuable resources.

Posted by JL | Report as abusive
 

I will ask one question all of you, and it is what is the different between Al- Bashir and Husnil Mubaarak the president of egypt ? why westerners building case against bashir not Husni Mubarak? Not Mugabe, Finally, i want to know the international crime court is it what westerners established to judge African leaders who, don’t fulfill their commandments?

 

We have a leadership crisis in Africa. Working class Africans unhappy with decisions in home countries are immigrants in Europe and the Americas. In a decade they will be in Asia as some are already Mandarin. Africans have acquired skills which are relevant outside of Africa and the challenges in Africa are forcing them to emigrate to Europe, America and now Asia. The African leadership needs to attract the intellectual capital to contribute to the development of the continent. The debate is not whether Africa needs Europe, America or Asia. In case people are not aware, Europe is trading with Asia, America and everybody else. Africa does not need protection from some security council member country. Africa needs strong leadership who can articulate the challenges we face. So Africa needs everybody just like any other country.

Posted by Dereck Tafuma | Report as abusive
 

The country known Somalia is it on the Global map? if it is. Why westerns powerful countries those who say we help Africa. have they never sit together and talk Somalia situation which is getting worst day after day honestly? if it is yes what is so making harder for 18 yrs to solve that problem……

 

It doesn’t surprise me if Africa no longer consider the West as part of their ‘plan’. Rightly so for long term affect of slavery/imperialism etc. But guess what the ‘West’ who initially did this were the English, French, Dutch and so on and Africa and the countries inside were the only countries in the world affected by colonization/imperialism. But I guess if you want to play the colour card, yes some of those other countries are now predominantly white – but changing because of immigrants from countries with ‘in house fighting and civil war’. Now why would an African want to leave their homeland and claim refugee status in the USA/Europe/Australia/anywhere except their own country. Maybe Africa, at the moment, isn’t the best place to be because it’s own leaders eg Mugabe is been accused of arrogance, and ignorance of Zimbabwe’s realities and criminally meddling in politics.

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive
 

To Africa the West grows more irrelevant day by day. Apart from Chinese investment on the continent (which is welcomed across the board all over the continent), strangely enough it’s the double standards adopted over Zimbabwe which has hastened the demise of the Western power in Africa. Most Africans are familiar with fraudulent elections in their own countries, so the question – why target Robert Mugabe and not well known perpetrators like their own governments has been on every African lips. According to some, the song and dance played for Kenya and not Zimbabwe should have provided enough evidence for the last remaining doubters (those hoodwinked into believing the West has Africa interests at heart). In addition the war in Iraq has served to remind Africans of the colonial game. Call it fair or unfair, the west is now perceived as colonial bullies who wave the white supremacist stick at any African country that puts it’s citizens first – lack of adequate coverage on the Lancaster Agreement is responsible. Needless to say Britain leads this charge. What is to be done about this? Perhaps the question should have been how important is Africa to the West?

Posted by indagano | Report as abusive
 

The Chinese, we think they are friends, but they are the same robbers that the west has been for five centuries. they come to steal our land, our resources, and like the europeans, we welcome them and kiss their feet. They will crush us too, as have the russians and the europeans.

Posted by Hasnu Fashi | Report as abusive
 

No! The days of western hegemony on our continent is finally over. The days when they imposed dictators like Mobutu sese seko, Idi Amin and sponsored wars in Angola and Mozambique are truly gone. Africa now has an opportunity to negotiate trade deals with China/India/Brazil as equals. This was not possible before due to the master-servant relationship between Africa and the west. In those bad old days, the eurocentric IMF and Western nations blackmailed cash-strapped African nations into enacting “one-size-fits-all” quack financial policies that ruined their economies while enriching Western nations. Corruption by African rulers (some supported or installed by the West)only accelerated the rate of economic decline. The West gives useless aid packages designed to make them feel good about themselves rather than remove unfair trade policies obstructing the growth of our continent. Trade not aid will lift people from poverty. In any case if they are truly concerned about our welfare why not they establish a marshall plan for Africa similar to the one used to rebuild Europe after world war2?
Now that African stock markets are doing well and investments rolling in from non-traditional asian investors, it is time for the west to shed their annoying paternalism and begin to treat African as equals. They should invest in our various economies if they are interested and stop insulting our intelligence with speeches about democracy while they support Pro-western dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and run gulags in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

Posted by Chimaoge OKezue | Report as abusive
 

The west will not be as influential because China is far more pragmatic about development. This includes supporting whoever is in power, like Mugabe. They won’t have to worry about the average and poorer citizens of the country they are involved in because the leaders control what will occur.

Western companies who were or are involved in countries like the Sudan are criticized in their countries and by the citizens in the western world. The opportunity to be pragmatic like China is not welcome by western bleeding hearts.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive
 

Whilst it’s all fair and fine that the West’s importance is diminishing, there are still 2 issues @ hand
1) It appears that We (Africa) are simply switching ‘foster homes’ if you may. Sure, its no longer the Western world, but best believe East China and other new ‘allies’ bring their own interests to the table, and Africa will have to deal with that in due time
2) It doesnt matter whether the West’s influence is waning if Africa’s problems still exist. While we can agree that the West isn’t doing enough anyway, they at least raise eyebrows. Now who, if non-democratic states become ‘brothers’ to failing democracies; what hope does Africa have

Africa needs to build itself up by implementing its own institutions that allows it to bring to the table as much as other parties do. For as long as we are the Internationa system’s charity case, we forever stand to be exploited

Posted by wenatsotsi | Report as abusive
 

The new west is China, and all for oil and money (just like the U.S., continually making excuses to bomb Iraq-oil and money). CHINA DOES NOT view Africa as a friend and brother. Last year, it was reported on the news that the government of China spent $72-$78 million funding the genocide in Darfur. China’s money is supplying military AK-47s, tanks, jeeps, and uniforms for the slaughter, burning, torture and rape of hundreds of thousands Darfurian people – who live in straw huts! Russia also supplies airplanes and bombs for 1. aerial attack 1st, then 2. the janjaweed come out from the “bush” and burn the entire village down, burn people, gauge out their eyes, rape femails of ALL ages, including babies, and kill these innocent people (see miafarrow.org). CHINA DOES NOT CARE ABOUT AFRICAN PEOPLE AT ALL, very much like the U.S. who instituted slavery for 400 years of AFrican people. Actions ALWAYS speak louder than words. Africa is imploding because we, westerners, have invaded Africa for hundreds of years. The African people have taken that angry and turned it inward (800,000 killed in Rwanda, 1994, in 100 days,and now the ongoing genocide in Darfur). Unfortunately, the “government” of Sudan has internalized western values, thinking westerners and all of our consumerism and way of life is healthy. The gov. of Sudan has taken this to an extreme and are burning down villages and killing Darfurians every single day. The reason there are so many Darfurians, 2-3 million, who have been displaced is because of the direct violence from the janjaweed and military support of that violence from Russia and China. China is no friend of Africa.

Once again, unfortunately, westerner “ideals” (read: quest for world domination) has been internalized by the gov. of Sudan, China and Russia. No good will come out of following in our footsteps. We, the U.S., must aid Darfur now and ALL the people in the many IDP camps. We should be responsible for righting many wrongs to AFrica… China should not idealize the west…we have done so many wrongs to people around the world… The U.S. is being wimp for letting Mugabe and al-Bashir slide and for letting China and Russia continue to bomb and kill Darfurians. The U.S. should be consistent and firm in pressuring the ICC to right so many wrongs. Blessings to the people of Darfur; some of us in the U.S. do care…….

Posted by good day | Report as abusive
 

Why is the West so fearful of Chinese trade with Africa? After all, the Chinese are not sending in troops to occupy African countries and forcing Africans to trade their goods for opium, like what the British colonists did to the Chinese following the Opium Wars 150 years ago

Posted by lotusnoneater | Report as abusive
 

I have doubts on the Chinese investment in Africa. They are after our resources. They say that they are our brothers, but I have some serious doubts on such statements. When anyone wants something from Africa, you call us your brothers. Its hard to believe. They come with their own labour. They dont teach locals, cant communicate, and live in isolation. The partnership is biased and opportunistic. There is more flowing out of Africa to China, and very less into Africa from China, except for their cheap (low quality) goods. Africa needs to diversify its sources of investment. Relying on the Chinese will prove to be dangerous game.

Posted by Sibanda | Report as abusive
 

Africa need to wake up and that very early. I am afraid it is too late for us to make any meaningful stride towards development. We still depend on foreign continents to develop our countries. We have never made any gains to show that we are a competing agent on the globe. As such, to think that Russia and China has come to our aide is a false hope. Wake up Africa! China and Russia are countries strapped in poverty, they are undemocratic, dont uphold human rights, what make us think that they have come for our aide. They are using us for their own gains and we fall for it. Now they have align themselves with leaders like Mugabe and we shamelessly cheer them. China was selling fire arms to Mugabe to kill oppositions and we still think china is a partner. No! I dont think so.

Posted by wenzo2000 | Report as abusive
 

The West stopped mattering to Africa the minute the world became multipolar, their relationship with Africa was full of double standards, it was one sided and lacked sincerity. Their so called AID was a fraud, their fight against corruption was a charade (they turned a blind eye to our hopeless and corrupt leaders stashing their loot in Western banks)and their do as i say not as i do policies . But i believe that this relationship is not beyond redemption and can be salvaged based on mutual respect.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive
 

After being ravaged during the cold war as the east and west vied for influence on the continent, Africa now looks set to be a battle ground for the economic struggle between the West and the Chinese. A Chinese presence in the region is important to the west because it prevents access to markets and resources; much in the same way that communism was considered dangerous, not for ideological reasons, but because it closes markets for the west. It is naive to assume that intervention in Africa is for anything other than outsiders economic benefit. China’s actions in Sudan illustrate this. African countries have the opportunity to play these powers against each other for their own benefit, deciding to what extent the west or east is important. This however, will require strong leadership and a desire for something other than a quick buck, something that can only come from within Africa. Consequently, civil society and the African Union have a large role to play in Africa’s future.

Posted by eventonr | Report as abusive
 

I think you guys got all wrong.
Question here is “How relevant is Africa to the west?”
I’ll tell you why.

During cold war era, US an former soviet goverment struggled to map the world in 2 different spheres of influence, related to each superpower. That was made trhough bribery, extorsion, financial aid and etc.

Today, US is considered the only superpower, although China has been quoted to rise as its rival just like Japan during the 60′s. The difference beteween Japan and China, witch is the very reason why Japan could not fullfill the role as an active superpower,is that China is predisposed to lead and act inthe international cenario.

So how does that info relate to the news above.
Through UN clashes, and g8 and g5 clashes and crises (spcecially in wto talks) an the way china russia and brazil are dealing with financial aid in africa taking the regular place from the classic western powers, we could be seen right now the rise of a new balance formation. Taking neo-realist international relations theory as a premisse we already seen moves and balance actions in cultural area and econimic and financial area, as much as in politic area. For the radicals, i ll just point that every action until now has been a soft power exercise (no military actions), but power exercise nontheless.
The balance formation might have been triggered in the g8 and g5 talks, when led by US, G8 refused to incorporate de G5 lesser powers in its organization. It might have been a political need so they can afford more barganning power in the international field.
What is interesting is the copycat model, China is aplying right now, financing dictadorships in africa, just as US and former soviet goverment used to do during cold war era.
The enterteiment industry already point to “bad ass low life CHINESE thugs” just as it used to do with the soviets during cold war era. The paralels are amazing and don t stop there.

So, having this in mind i ll ask againg. How important is Africa in the long term politic arena to the westerm powers? Is it so little that amarica can just ule it out and just give it free handed to a “rival group” ?

By the way, Im brazilian.
Hope this was good enough.
any doubt or comment or argummet wahtever right me at
xorao_sn@hotmail.com.

Cheers

Posted by Alexandre | Report as abusive
 

Feisal Mohamed Derie
You ask a fair question; why the ICC is pursuing Al Bashir but not Husni Mubarak or Robert Mugabe? I take it you believe that the other two leaders too have a case to answer for. Indeed I would even go so far as to say there many other dictators in Africa who too should be charged for very serious crimes against humanity. So why Al Bashir alone; it is my ardent that 1) charging Al Bashir would send a clear warning to other dictators and would be dictators that the wheel of justice may turn very slowly but it does turn. And that they will be asked to account for their wrong doings some day. 2) With Al Bashir in the docks the ICC can go after the next dictator.
Aliou
It is true the West is certainly guilty of hypocrisy and double standards in its dealings with Africa. China certainly played no part in the slave trade or colonisation of Africa but that should not stop us see China for what she really is- an evil and ruthless big brother. China has openly supported Africa’s dictators and propped them up regardless of the suffering the later were causing. True the Chinese government has a poor record on good governance and human rights even within China itself. But, that is of no comfort to the people in Sudan or Zimbabwe suffering under dictatorship the Chinese have been propping up for decades now!
Africa’s anger against the West exploitation and repression is completely justified and clever leaders like Robert Mugabe have used that historic fact to hide their own present wrong doings. He has repeatedly presented his argument in such a way that to say he was wrong one had first to admit that the West did nothing wrong. Admit the West made mistakes, and he wanted the subject closed; as if what he has done since is insignificant or irrelevant.
Africa has suffered enough and we need to move on and give our people hope of a better life. That will never ever happen until we learn to see what is before us in its totality and not the polarised image the West, East or some dictator want us to see! Leaders like Al Bashir and Robert Mugabe have committed very serious human rights violations against our own African people. It is amazing that so many fellow Africans should be struggling to condemn these dictators for no other reason other than the West condemned it and they can not be seen to be on the same side with the West!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Wilbert Mukori,

I don’t alsways agree with everything you write but I’m always impressed with your reasoning, balanced opinion and goals for African people to achieve sustainability.

You are a realist, very pragmatic and your advice is based on what has and is occuring in Africa.

Continue to provide input, it is enlightening.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive
 

For those who compare China to Western imperialism, nothing is ever said of the different styles of deals that are made. Unconditional loans vs. conditional, building infrastructure vs. destroying it, sending people to help out vs. seizing a country’s people and forcing them to work elsewhere, paying full value / market price + a bit more for goods vs. forcing unfair trade relations (primary goods exported, secondary/tertiary goods imported at a massive overvaluation). Anybody else notice the difference between Chinese influence and Western influence?

China’s help especially with infrastructure, e.g. building roads, rails, setting up factories, repairing buildings, and unconditional loans which do benefit the population in some way (after all even corrupt leaders aren’t seizing 100% of these loans, right?) cannot in any way be compared to Western colonialism. The strongest countries can exercise this freely instead of having ‘freedom’ imposed on them at the expense of having enough to eat on a daily basis. China’s help gives everyone on the continent of Africa something the West never gave them – the right to self-determination.

If the West wants to reassert their foothold on Africa, they need to wake up to reality. Preaching about human rights won’t help. Renegotiating deals to give Africans a much better deal to improve their political and economic relations is essential. It is ironic for one to judge the donor countries’ system then claim they are fighting for Africa’s self-interest. The donor country’s internal political system has little bearing on economic relations providing both the donor and the country receiving the donation believe in the value of money and aren’t hugely ideologically slanted. The time for cheap talk about human rights is over. No person can be truly free if they are starving or thirsty, because they are always dependent on someone / something else. Food, or money for food has a more pragmatic benefit. People are only truly amenable to education if they aren’t starving. This is what is meant by actions speak louder than words.

Posted by John Walker | Report as abusive
 

Thank you Mr John Walker, a lot of people lay too much emphasis on human rights, but they forget that a human being has to be well fed first before his brain can exercise any kind of human right. Africa needs food, jobs and prosperity, only then would they be able to fight our shameless, hopeless and very useless leaders. Human Rights with all its niceties is not Africa’s priority at the moment. The West is well fed so they can concentrate on human rights.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive
 

John Walker / Nduka Tolefe

There is no such thing as a free lunch, China is not in Africa after the goodness of its heart. Whatever roads and infrastructure China is building in Africa it is being paid for it. If China tendered for these projects openly and won them fairly, then no one will have cause to complain. But knowing Africa’s leaders as we all do and how corrupt they are; they is no such thing as an open and transparent deal. And the Chinese for their part, what are they getting for their unflinching public support of these dictators. You have to be very naïve to say, nothing!

What is of even greater concern to me as an Africa is the dear, dear price the ordinary people of Africa have paid for China’s continued support of dictators like Al Bashir and Robert Mugabe. It is the Chinese made weapons which are being used in Sudan to mow millions of innocent and defenceless people. China is well paid for the weapons (it is not only roads, etc China is supplying, John) and clearly does not care against who they are being used. A few months ago a whole ship load was delivered to Mugabe and he had just declared war on the electorate because the dared vote for his political opponent!

So to paraphrase you John, if the West want a foot hold in Africa, they too should be more like the Chinese – milk the continent for whatever they can get and forget about the tragic suffering that ordinary Africans! Well that would not be the first time the West has done that, in fact many in the West are doing just that. As an Africa I do not want to suffer and condemn the West, East and their local African proxies for making me suffer. What I am concerned about is giving the ordinary African – not the British, Chinese or Africa’s dictator- a foothold on Africa!

Nduka Tolefe you said “lot of people lay too much emphasis on human rights, but they forget that a human being has to be well fed first before his brain can exercise any kind of human right.” Actually the right to food is just one of the many economic rights among others like the right to work, the right to be paid a fair wage, etc. The other rights are the political rights; the right to life, free and fair election, freedom of expression, etc.

African leaders are notorious for down playing the political rights in favour of political each time they are asked to account for their repeated denial or out right violation of the people’s political rights included the most important of all- the right to life! They have argued that they are concentrating on delivering the roads, hospitals, school, food, etc. etc. which are of greater importance to their people than the political rights.

To a starving man a bowl of food is certainly more important than freedom of expression; who would dispute that! The truth is never that simple however. After he has had his bowl of food the man must now ask why he ever found himself in that state; he has to if he does not want to be stuck in that rut! And to do ask the pertinent questions, get the honest answers and do for him to DO something about it – he must have the political rights.

Leaders the world over will promise you anything and when they know they will never be held accountable as is the case in Africa, they promise heaven on earth. Mugabe promised us mass prosperity the reality is millions in that country are facing starvation. Only last week Mugabe had a whole fleet of the latest model of Mercedes Benzes delivered to a select few, the ruling elite and by contrast School Teachers’, considered unimportant to Mugabe’s political game, monthly wage is just enough to buy one kg of meat! Of course if the people of Zimbabwe had their full political rights they would have forced Mugabe to address their economic needs seriously or elect someone!

Nduka, would you say the right to life is less important than the right to food? I would say the right to life. Not that I accept the either or choice before us, because we can have both. I only put emphasis on the political rights because they are certainly more important but also because without the political rights you can not fight for the economic rights, if these too should be denied. The truth is the economic rights are the first denied and to silence you the political rights are taken away too!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Is the West relevant? I’d turn it around and say Africa is not relevant in the least to the West. We in the West have tired of hearing about the omnipresent white colonialist causing all of poor Africa’s problems. Get over it. Zimbabwe is the classic example of the colonial crutch Africa continues to pull out of the closet every time one of its countries fails miserably.

If the West offered help, we’d be called racist colonialists. If we do nothing, then we are immoral. Clean up your own mess Africa and stop blaming others for your poverty, AIDS, illiteracy, corruption, and brutal governments.

Posted by restore | Report as abusive
 

Wilbert,
I see you are still stuck in a hugely idealistic mode. Let’s get a few points straightened out first.

First, there is no such thing as ‘fair’ trade. If there are some weaker and some stronger states, trade is never fair. However, there is something called ‘mutually beneficial’ (relatively speaking), and something that’s of (virtually) one-sided benefit. The Western deals made mirror the latter rather than the former; the Chinese deal mirrors the former rather than the latter. That’s why I’ve placed so much emphasis on infrastructure rebuilding.

Secondly, you say that after a person has eaten s/he will wonder why he is in his state and demand political freedom. You make far too many assumptions to reach this conclusion. A human has to first not worry about where his/her next source of food will come from for their next meal in order to have the time to think about something else. Otherwise, they will risk not surviving. Once survival can be ensured for the foreseeable future, they can then be open to learning. It is only after they learn and are educated that they can learn the value of ‘freedom’ and ‘political rights’. (Just think why the better educated tend to participate more in political events?) So, your ideal may remain an ideal, but without completing the first step of feeding them, you will never be able to educate them, and thus will not waste time contemplating about ‘political freedoms’ when they can’t even ensure their own survival.

Thirdly, weapons. If China doesn’t supply the weapons, another major country will. It is impossible to stop weapons arriving on the African continent. So, why not encourage the countries’ leaders to do it legitimately in exchange for money instead? Do you think the Western countries are really any better in this respect, despite all their talk about ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom fighters’? They end up supplying both sides with weapons (or during the Cold War, each of the sides supplied one side in the wars within Africa). Who benefitted? Both the US and the Soviet Union. Who suffered? The poor Africans. And what if one side, the US or the Soviet Union, stopped supplying weapons? The other would supply weapons to both sides, through different personnel / companies. Let’s not be naive about the weapons trade.

Fourthly, do you truly believe that just because one leader claims that they are for democracy that they will not also oppress the people and milk their country dry of resources and money for their own (or own party’s) gain? What makes one dictator better than the other for the average citizen? You must get to the root of the cause of all these dictators getting into power in the first place – corruption.

Fifthly, China in some ways is a good example to learn for Africa. It was raised from the dumps less than 60 years ago, when parts of their country separated. They underwent terrible internal turmoil and self-destruction during the Cultural Revolution. Abuse of power and corruption was, and still is, rife. But in the last 30 years or so they have transformed from a limp, weak country to one that is now touted as the next superpower, and having the capability to rival the US sooner or later. What’s most important is that they did this completely without liberal democracy’s political rights. Africa has many ways to proceed.

But the past has shown that the West is only interested in keeping Africa weak, poor and divided in the name of democracy, whilst threatening embargos and economic retaliation in return for the virtual destruction of their economies. China at least practices the principle of non-interference and only deals with the political leaders. The deals they make will disproportionately enrich the political elite, but with extra schools, etc. being built, these average citizen in many African countries doing deals with China have a chance of rebuilding themselves.

Sixthly, who said these deals between various countries in Africa and China aren’t subject to ‘open bidding’? Did Western countries simply withdraw their offers overnight leaving China as the only bidder? Doing deals with China is in fact better realpolitik by these African countries. By creating competition for Africa’s resources (esp. between the USA and China) the African countries get a better deal. Most importantly, should one side suddenly decide to abuse their power and pressure the African country into accepting less fair deals in the future when they have become more reliant (e.g. ‘free markets’ in Africa, see my first post), the other side can step in. This is basically what’s happened – China would never have got a foothold in Africa if the West offered great deals to African countries. This is why I say if the West wants to reassert its foothold in Africa, it needs to be more pragmatic. It’s just business – or trade – to these major powers.

Seventhly, I am not going to defend Mugabe, but if you really think Tsvangirai is going to be much different after that many years in power (assuming he isn’t displaced or killed by some other power-hungry, ‘democracy-loving’ leader), you must be ridiculously naive. The only difference between them is that one was an anti-colonialist and the other is pro-Western. Also, please don’t think that overthrowing one dictator will solve all problems. If you put a half-competent leader in replacement, you will have even less efficiency, greater corruption, and with no security. If you think this kind of anarchy that causes civil war is the way forward to make the people strong (so that they can secure their political freedom) you must be dreaming.

Last but not least, one has to understand that the concept of democracy, and human rights, is the END RESULT of good governance, and NOT the solution to all problems. Have you not seen many recent ‘immature’ democracies failing because they were not ready for it? It has caused more suffering to the people and made even more people fall below the poverty line. First you need to attend to the basics. Feed the people. Clothe them. Then educate them. Once you have a stronger infrastructure and society, they can then demand political rights and ensure a better leader succeeds. If you don’t let the people be stronger first, you only guarantee even worse repression and wiping out of these ‘freedom lovers’.

Posted by John Walker | Report as abusive
 

One more thing, Wilbert, if you want an Africa for Africans, you need them to be able to set aside their differences, unite in bettering themselves by helping each other, and using capitalism and trade to good effect. Excessive emphasis on individual political rights will cause a country to disintegrate along political, ethnic, religious or cultural lines. This will allow each small country to have their individual rights, but at the complete sacrifice of power in the international scene, and thus less bargaining leverage for economic and political deals. It’s a huge trade-off. But there’s a good reason why almost all powerful countries are also large geographically nowadays – because they have much more clout and power as a whole. (Also think why the ‘European Union’ has to be formed… they can only enjoy the leverage they want if they speak with one voice).

As you know, power is the best guarantee for the freedom to practice your political rights. An Africa for Africans needs to start in not totally equal deals at first, whether you like it or not. It is only in this way that you can accumulate enough capital in the first place to pose a challenge! But this brings one back to the question: is the deals between China and the various African countries really that unfair and one-sided??? Is China not paying market price or even more to secure resources??? Is it also not in Africa’s interest to have a guaranteed buyer for its products it couldn’t use otherwise???

Posted by John Walker | Report as abusive
 

Well said John Walker. As for Mr Restore i dont blame you for your arrogance, i blame our porous and rubbish leaders.But i see a better and fairer world, If you happened to look around you Mr Restore, you would find that western economies are taking a due correction. I welcome full heartedly the contribution of China and co to our economies and hope this partnership continues to grow.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive
 

John

Freedom, human rights, justice, rule of law, etc. all these constitute good governance – not one an end result of the other, as you said John. Good governance is the solid foundation on which a free, peaceful, just and prosperous nation can be built. Look at history, every time a nation, a region and the world has enjoyed peace and prospered; there was good governance. And each time there was bad governance nations have suffered and, sometimes, the whole world; look what happened during Hitler’s rule!

The UN and all it stands for- good governance- is idealistic; true. But do not forget first of all that the idealism was born out of the tragic consequences of the Second World War- hard real life experience. And secondly, that in North America, Western Europe and a few other countries the idealism has been put into practice. So the ideal world can and has been achieved. Even if it had not been achieved anywhere in the world or in human history, I for one would strive for good governance with the same zeal. I make no apology for being any idealist!

Let me address your points:
1) Even if the Chinese were building all the roads, schools, etc. for free, indeed even if they paid Africa hard cash for it all: that does not give them the right to prop up Africa’s dictators.
2) I said economic rights are important but I would put political rights above economic rights because if you have the former you can fight for the latter if they should be denied. And without political rights, economic rights are easily denied too, indeed political rights are denied so that the individual can not complain above the denied economic rights!

To put it another way; what justification can one give for denying another person their political rights? None! I can think of many to deny the other person food, for example; A has to pay B for it- simple economics.

The other reason economic rights are less important than political rights is that where the people have the later they use their own initiative to produce food, employment, etc. Where political rights are denied, usually by the ruling elite, then economic rights are rationed- the few get the lion’s share whilst the rest go hungry- and used to control others.

3) I agree China is not the only country that could have supplied the ship of weapons Mugabe no doubt has been using as part of his repression since April. I am condemning China because it DID supply the weapons.
4) I am not concerned with what Mugabe or any of the dictators claim to be, I am concerned with what they are- ruthless dictators.
5) China is doing well now, yes but even then there is a lot of poverty in China today. I say if it had not been for the repressive Communist Party that have held the country back for decades, China would be even better off today. Look at Tawan compared to mainland China!
6) I do not think Mugabe had an “open” bid for the ship load of weapons he bought from China. Of course he did not want Zimbabweans or the world to know he was spending millions of dollars buying weapons when the nation was starving nor would they have approved what he was going to use them for. China knew that and, no doubt, increased their price!
7) I do not think Tsvangirai is any way particularly brilliant or competent; however I do not think he is repressive and corrupt- which is a lot more than I can say about Mugabe! That is beside the point; good governance is not about one individual against another or one level of government or interpersonal relation. Good governance should encompass everyone from the privacy of one’s home and family but the highest office in the land to our relationship which other nations, etc.

Africa for Africans! No, John that is something you will never ever hear me say. I am a citizen of the world and would want everyone else who wishes to be one too to do so. What fires me right now is to see my fellow Africans enjoy the same freedoms and basic human rights that many others across the globe enjoy and take for granted. What the individual African decides to do or be after that is his or her own affair- and rightly so too!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Africa has got to be the most beautiful place on the planet along with Costa Rica of course. The people and animals are so special. We need to help these people get their independence back and the west needs to stop robbing these special people of their resources. They need help with means to grow food and start industry.

Posted by Debora Edholm | Report as abusive
 

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