U.S. President, Barack Obama, Thursday unveiled a sweeping new Africa strategy, declaring that the continent torn by poverty, corruption and discord could be the world’s next big economic success story.
The new U.S. blueprint seeks to boost trade, strengthen peace, security and good governance and bolster democratic institutions, and is designed to help Africa’s increasingly youthful population lead its development.
“As we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the U.S. in particular,” Obama said.
It comes as Washington, tooling a foreign policy towards trade and development, also views Africa’s intractable conflicts with concern, including in areas ripe for extremists to exploit, like Somalia and Mali.
However, the new blue-print has received mixed reactions from foreign affairs analysts in Nigeria.
To Prof. Charles Dokunbo, a senior research fellow with Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), the U.S. and other Western nations should fulfill their old promises to the continent and its people rather than coming up with new ones.
Dokunbo also counselled African countries not to rely on America because of stringent strings attached to such assistance like counterpart funds, wondering why Africa must continue to beg to enjoy assistance from countries like the U.S.
He also reminded Africans that this is an election year for Obama and he needs the support of African-Americans.
According to him, the new blue-print may also be seen as a strategy to lobby for their vote to show that he is responding to the need of African continent.
But to Prof. Osita Agbu of the same NIIA, the U.S. is being practical if it decided to help Africa in the area of maintaining peace and security, boosting trade and making sure the youths of the continent who are facing serious unemployment lead the development of the continent.
He said terrorism is a global threat and Nigeria just like any other country on the continent is facing security threat of Boko Haram and the problem of youth unemployment. He reasoned that the youths, if not engaged, may end up becoming tools for militants and terrorists.
Agbu hoped that the Federal Government and other African countries would key into the plan.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the U.S. military was expanding spying across Africa, using small private planes operating from isolated bush airstrips, as part of a “shadow war’ against Al-Qaeda and affiliates.
Meanwhile, Africa’s marginal position on the global stage has created a necessity for stronger ties within the continent so it could play a part in global capitalism.
Also, the need to restructure the system of governance in Nigeria so that the country could play the lead role in Africa’s march to a brighter future cannot be over-emphasized.
These formed the fulcrum of submissions made yesterday at the second Panafest Colloquium and Exhibition 2012 at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
In his keynote address at the event, Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola argued that Africa’s long marginalisation index that started with slave trade through colonialism and imperialism was being further entrenched through globalisation.
He noted: “As things are, Africa is delinked from the world in many respects, more importantly in economic terms, which means it is largely disconnected from the many benefits that accrue from the process of economic globalisation”.
Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, while commending the vision that informed Panafest, restated the historical relevance of Africa as the cradle of the world in spite of its manifest under-development.
He stressed the imperatives of regional integration and the historic role Nigeria could play in such process.
Anyaoku stated that it was not late for Nigeria to realise the vision of its founding fathers, but faulted Nigeria’s existing structure of governance and incapability of making the country realise true greatness.
He declared: “We need true federalism. The kind of federalism we practise cannot develop this country the way we want it. We must go back to its former six units.”
The U.S. surveillance is being carried out by small, unmarked turboprop planes with hidden state-of-the-art sensors that fly thousands of kilometres between air bases and bush landing strips across the vast continent, it said.
The programme, dating back to 2007, underscores the massive expansion of U.S. special forces operations in recent years and the steady militarisation of intelligence operations during the decade-long war on al-Qaeda.
The Post said there were plans to open another base in South Sudan to help hunt for Kony, who is wanted in connection with a series of atrocities and operates in some of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Central Africa.
In East Africa, U.S. aircraft operating out of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Seychelles archipelago spy on Somalia’s Qaeda-inspired Al-Shebab militia and have reportedly launched attacks on wanted militants.
The Post said the fleet of surveillance planes is made up of single-engine Pilatus PC-12s, small passenger and cargo planes manufactured in Switzerland.
Also, according to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, the new strategy encompasses changes in the way America would now relate with sub-Saharan Africa in the area of peace and security and the strengthening of democratic institutions.
The strategy also intends to spur economic growth, trade and investment as well as promote opportunity and development on the continent.
The new strategy, the White House stated, “provides a proactive and forward-looking vision grounded in partnership. The new strategy sets forth four strategic objectives as described below, and commits the U.S. to elevate its efforts on the first two of these four pillars: Strengthening democratic institutions and spurring economic growth, trade and investment.”
On strengthening democratic institutions, it said: “The new strategy commits the U.S. to working to advance democracy by strengthening institutions at every level, supporting and building upon the aspirations throughout the continent for more open and accountable governance, promoting human rights and the rule of law, and challenging leaders whose actions threaten the credibility of democratic processes. As the President said in Ghana, Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions.”
With regards to spurring economic growth, trade, and investment, it said: “ Through greater focus, engagement, and the deployment of additional resources, the new strategy commits the U.S. to working to promote economic growth, including through increased trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The U.S. will promote an enabling environment for trade and investment; improve economic governance; promote regional integration; expand African capacity to effectively access and benefit from global markets; and encourage U.S. companies to trade with and invest in Africa.”