The US-Africa Leaders’ summit held in Washington DC from 13-15 December 2022 ended with the Biden administration saying it would commit 55 billion dollars to Africa over the next three years.
Though details on how the money would be spent remained sketchy, analysts believe that the key areas of peace and security, democracy and governance, food security, climate change crisis, etc. which dominated discussions during the summit will be affected.
Addressing the summit, President Biden spoke of investing another $500 million to reduce transport costs at the Benin Port – Benin Republic.
Another $350 million was to boost the digital economy in the Continent, adding that a total of $15 billion worth of deals were struck at the US – Africa Business Forum.
This is a ‘mouth full of goodies,’ suggesting that the summit was not jamboree, after all.
But, can these ‘offerings’ address the challenges of a Continent ravaged by conflicts, poor leadership, dearth of infrastructure, hunger, and destitution?
Speaking further, Biden said he looked forward to working with African Governments, Civil Society Organizations, Diaspora Communities across the United State, and the Private sector to continue to strengthen the shared vision for the future of US – Africa relations.
He drew the attention of his guests to their obligations to their people and said: “As leaders, our people inspire us, they awaken us to possibilities that are within our grasp.
They are so many possibilities if we work together. They tell us hard truths that we need to hear. And sometimes we have trouble listening.
They challenge us to live up to the values enshrined in so many of our founding documents and to be worthy of the responsibility given to us by that sacred trust.”
This is a timely admonition for African leaders to change their approach to dealing with their people.
The practice where the ruling elites abandon the population as soon as they access power has always led to a crisis of confidence which, in turn, snowballed into major economic and security challenges.
The perspective of most African leaders in resource management is skewed in favour of the ruling elites. This has to change.
Opportunities abound for real growth and development of Africa if the leaders can look inwards to harness the abundant natural and human resources.
For instance, Africa has one of the fastest growing populations that could serve the labour needs for industrialization, there are large free trade areas, and diverse ecosystems that have continued to heighten the interest of the Global Community and Development Partners in the Continent.
To my mind, what Africa and Africans need goes beyond these palliatives that only manage the symptoms of what hails the Continent without treating the root cause.
Of course, what hails the Continent is not so complex that it cannot be diagnosed and treated.
At the root of the problem is the leadership void. Africa has not been blessed with good leaders.
Any initiative at addressing the development challenges should first consider the leadership recruitment methodology to ensure that only visionaries with the capacity and passion to provide true and purposeful leadership are empowered to access leadership positions.
Therefore, amidst growing concern about the underdevelopment of the continent, we need a summit or conference to be hosted by Africans, for the people to talk to themselves about how to:
-Reinvent the Continent as the cradle of civilization and treasure base of the earth from where other civilizations derive inspiration to develop their Nations.
– Reassert our independence as a people created by God with the potential to manage our affairs.
– Reduce our dependence on aid and loans that have continued to impact the development of the Continent negatively.
In this way, the tendency to ask for ‘palliatives and handouts’ at every opportune time by our leaders will be minimized, if not eliminated.
It is an irony that on the day the Ghanaian President, Nana Akufu Addo addressed the summit and counselled his fellow Presidents against begging for loans as a way of gaining the respect of the World.
Some of his officials were somewhere in the same venue negotiating with IMF officials for a loan of $3billion to alleviate an unprecedented economic downturn in Ghana.
The economy of Ghana, like most African Countries is in bad shape. Its external debt reached $28.1billion in June 2022 with inflation averaging 50%, a 21-year high, made worst by the falling value of its currency, the cedi.
The story is not different in Nigeria which is reputed to be the largest economy in Africa. Nigeria’s total external debt, rose from $10.32 billion in June 2015 to $40.06billion as at June 2022 representing an increase of 288.18 percent in seven years. Yet we have not stopped borrowing.
At the summit, the Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari asked the US to support Nigeria’s $10 billion annual energy investment plan. The initiative, it is said, is aimed to achieve 30 megawatts of energy supply by 2030.
The choice before Africa and its Leaders is, either to look inwards to evolve the homemade solutions to its challenges and grow. Or continue its dependence on palliatives from development partners.