24 October 2017
   
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Time for Africa to strike the iron while it is still hot
01/02/2017 00:00:00
by Seewell Mashizha
 
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ECONOMICS is not an exact science and so we can all venture opinions on it in our various circumstances. This is why Malaysia’s Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, a medical practitioner, could come up with a paradigm that put Malaysia in the ranks of the so-called Asian tigers.

In this article I shall play devil’s advocate and make a few suggestions to hopefully get everyone thinking. This is particularly important in the era of Donald Trump when much of our world is agog at some of his antics. In the end we in Africa must be driven by our own interests and our own visions.

The noises being made at the AU in Addis Ababa about being self-funding are more than welcome. They are an idea whose time has come. For he who pays the piper calls the tune.

These days we hear funny noises from Europe, and more especially from Great Britain: noises about freedom and independence – about sovereignty! The word ‘sovereignty’ is being used with reckless abandon by the imperialist West. Perhaps we should colonize them.

Our crystal ball shows that brinkmanship and beggar thy–neighbour- policies are assuming dominance. One may want to ask who one’s neighbours are. The answer to that lies in the political and military configurations we see today. A good neighbour is someone who knows who commiserates with you and comes to your assistance when the need arises.

Looked at this way, Morocco, a covetous neighbour is an enemy of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco continues to occupy the Saharawi and the AU should not stand for it. The kind of action taken by Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Chad against Rwanda and Uganda in the DRC may be needed against Morocco. We need to all be on an equal footing as sovereign states in Africa. Only that way can we be able to forge ahead economically.

Good neighbourliness is more than just geography and stated intentions. It means accepting current national borders regardless of their arbitrary and iniquitous origins. Malawi and Tanzania are a case in point. Probably due to speculation about possible oil reserves in Lake Malawi, Tanzania is making noises about a matter that was not until recently, on her agenda.

A look at the military strategy and tactics employed by Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar may be instructive here. Brutus tells Cassius:



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There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Brutus is mistaken, but by contrast, Africa may indeed be on a full sea and must definitely seize the moment and sail with the current while the USA and Europe are preoccupied with their convulsions. New and bolder thinking and resolve are necessary. It is time to go beyond mere resource nationalism to something much more potent. Over and above the implementation of Agenda 2063.

 

The starting point is to look at some of the intentions and pronouncements of America’s deal-maker president, His Excellency, the Honourable Donald J Trump, the most powerful man in the world. The following are some of his major pronouncements:

  • America first, always;
  • Jobs for Americans;
  • No export of American jobs to other parts of the world.

 

Despite the ebullient belligerence, there is much that Africa can do without too much agonizing. And it is not as if we have no examples of resolute action. Far from it. The Libyan Arab Socialist Jamahiriya, now defunct, was a modern example of how things might have been done to maximize the benefits from people’s God-given natural resources.

Sankara’s short-lived Burkina Faso tenure is another very good example to emulate. In both cases the leaders concerned had a correct understanding of what it meant to make a nation a people’s haven. Sankara’s Burkina Faso, like Castro’s Cuba was a model of how to make little go far.

Hardly anyone gave Cuba a fighting chance after the cold war had played itself out. The understanding was that without the Soviet Union to lean on Cuba would fold and die and the great capitalist nation across the waters would rejoice and all would be well again under God’s heaven.

We bring in Cuba because she fits into the definition of a good neighbour that this article is espousing. Where Zimbabwe is concerned, Cuba’s neighbourliness surpasses that of Botswana, for instance. While Botswana was a progressive  and pro-independence African nation in the days of Seretse Khama, the father of the current Batswana president, Seretse Ian Khama, a quick look at the history of the region will show that in general that country has, since colonization, been some kind of conduit of foreign interests.

At the start of what was later to be known as the Pioneer column on June 27 1890 an invasion party of 1 000 white settlers left Botswana for Mashonaland in Zimbabwe. The promise was that they would take over the land in Zimbabwe.

Travelling with the white invasion column was a contingent of 300 black men seconded by the Batswana King, Seretse Khama, and commanded by his brother. These Batswana were to help clear the Pioneer Column’s path to Mashonaland and also look after the cattle, wagons and horses in addition to attending to numerous other pioneer column needs.

On 12 September, 1890, the settlers arrived at what is today Harare’s Africa Unity Square and raised the British Union Jack. In a sad continuation of this trend of settler interest accommodation Botswana in recent times has often broken ranks with the rest of Africa, choosing instead to liaise with white neo-colonial interests. Her love for the discriminatory ICC illustrates this flaw. She does not question why known war criminals from the West are free and at large. Botswana is also rumoured to be hosting American troops despite the African Union’s stand on such things. She is also believed to be home to a pirate radio station whose broadcasts are generally aimed at Zimbabwe with the hope and objective of creating a low intensity conflict with a potential to escalate and willy-nilly make outside intervention and recolonization possible.

Botswana’s compliance and docility has seen that nation being cheated of the true value of her diamonds by De Beers. The diamonds are under-priced and later resold at their correct value elsewhere. Thus, on the ground, Botswana has little to show for being the second biggest producer of diamonds in the world.

An unspoken but known fact is that of many youths from Botswana coming to Zimbabwe to learn at private colleges like Foundation College in Bulawayo and EduCare College in Gweru. What use has the diamond money been put to? When Africa has control of her resources she must diligently guard against under-pricing.

It might even be better to go the Sekou Toure route. Ahmed Sekou Toure vowed never to allow the mineral resources of Guinea to be exploited until he could guarantee that the people would benefit. These are unusual times requiring bold and unusual responses including action against Western interests on the continent.

At the last count there were over 4000 British firms doing business in Zimbabwe alone. What the country may need to do is to set aside enough capital to cause a stir. We need to have each enterprise understudied in all aspects so as to take over the business that such foreign firms are into. There is no need to nationalize them at all. We simply create a protectionist jungle in which only the fittest can survive. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to predict the survivors. We most certainly know our jungles better than intruders and invaders. So, in the true Hammurabi sense of tit for tat, we can say Africa First and Jobs for Africans. None of our companies should export jobs to the West.

I hear quite a few groans of dissension and scepticism. Many of us prefer the business as usual paradigm. Nevertheless, there is logic and design in what we propose here. If the West creates disinvestment in our countries by penalizing those of their nationals who do business with us, we can only reciprocate. After all, it takes two to tango.

If we build our own industrial base with our own resources we can ultimately dictate who we do business with. Our neighbours would then become those nations that want to do honest trade with us, and Africa would become a huge market for our produce and our products, a market where others can come shopping.

Africa must identify her all-weather friends and negotiate the future with them. China’s relationships with Africa make her such a friend. Cuba too and India. Things must and will get worse before they get better.


 
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