Archive for April, 2009

GADAFRICA

April 2, 2009

GADAFRICA

 

Politics. Economy. Emerging global challenges.

 

Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi becomes Chairman of the African Union, at a time when the future of the continent is so uncertain

 

By David Malingha Doya

 

 

The future of Africa has never been so uncertain than at this time when a man with absolute ambitions of formally uniting the continent’s diverse masses is at the helm of a continental body that African countries assent to.  Col. Muammar Gaddafi, leader of the Libyan Jamahariya takes over Chairmanship of the African Union from Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete when no one can see a clear path ahead as far as politics, economic development, security and social standing on the continent goes.

 

It is anticipated that less aid and foreign direct investments will flow from rich countries in the West, as they attempt to contain an economic recession.  Already, some multinational with roots in the West but also operating in Africa have closed shop, while central governments here have reported alarming rates of capital flight from capital markets.  Protection tendencies are emerging among economies in Europe America and Asia, a development promising to reduce exports from Africa to those countries.

 

Home made challenges include in instability in the Great lakes region with fighting continuing in DR Congo, and renewed unrest in Somalia which is in the process of establishing a new government.  Additionally, chronic diseases are for the first time more prevalent in Africa than anywhere else in the world, and are killing many more people than infectious diseases, yet the World Health Organization and national health departments continue to mainly focus on the latter. 

 

At the same time, countries like Angola, DR Congo, Ghana and Uganda have discovered extractive minerals notably oil and precious stones underneath their earth, a development that could lead to national economic development or deeper impoverishing.  Also, although countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya have resolved to run on governments of national unity, the complexities that have come with it so far offer no clear pointer going ahead.

 

Politicians; what do you expect from a pig but a grunt

Development experts and politicians have said that Africa will have to determine its own destiny now more than ever, after they woke up to a reality that their so-called ‘development partners’ in the West have a bigger mess to deal with at home.  This is the situation Col. Gaddafi is coming on to, yet he continues to sell his idea of a single government for Africa, this time round with more difficulty convincing Heads of Governments that it might make everything right.

 

At the African Union Summit where Col. Gaddafi was elected to be Chair of the continental body, he wasted no time attempting to gather consensus among Heads of Government for his idea of having a United States of Africa.  He pushed the meeting by an extra day, and stayed up his colleagues until the wee hours of the night, but did not pull it off.  The idea is to leverage a critical block mass in the formulation of a US of Africa, to spur economic growth and help solve conflicts on the continent.

 

Before this aggravated opportunity, Col. Gaddafi has all along been advocating for his idea and recently decided to take it to traditional leader where he apparently got more mileage than he did with Heads of Governments.  Some 200 Kings, Sultans and Princes from all over Africa gathered at Benghazi in Libya on Col. Gaddafi’s invitation where they joined his Forum for ‘Traditional Leaders,’ and later crowned him ‘King of Kings.’  Col. Gaddafi was in reality drumming up support for his United States of Africa idea, arguing that traditional leaders are critical representative of the people, although it is known that it was easier for the ambitious leader to gain support from traditionalists who are usually not so wealthy or influential, unlike Heads of Governments with almost absolute power and are well catered.

 

Indeed a follow up meeting for traditional leaders’ was due to take place in Kampala, Uganda before government stopped it saying that the law of the land barred traditional leaders from engaging any sort of politics.  “The issue of uniting Africa is political, not cultural, so we did not want to put temptation to our traditional leaders to involve in that dialogue and break the constitution,” said Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, whose position still ruling the day is against establishment of the United States of Africa as a single government for the continent.

 

It emerged from the last Summit that Heads of Governments shared the view of strengthening the African Union to deal with emerging challenges including the deepening global financial mess, spiraling conflict, infrastructural development and disease.  In strengthening the African Union, Col. Gaddafi was for a single government, President Museveni, the most vocal opposition against the idea, proposed an African Commission, but later settled for an African Authority that would have a substantial mandate to tackle the mentioned challenges, but with no supreme powers.

 

“Our position has been to create and consolidate regional blocks first, then go ahead and form an economic community for Africa,” President Museveni said.  He is indeed spearheading the fast tracking of the East African Community whose five member-States are negotiation a common market protocol, and will later complete modalities of a monetary union and ultimately a political federation.

 

Gwynne Dyer a columnist in the State-owned New Vision wrote in his weekly column on global issues that; “The model for the African Union is the European Union, a relatively loose association of democracies with long separate histories, not he United States of America with its single shared identity.  It is probably the right model.”

 

Will it be more bombs or talks

Africa also suffers resounding political unrest. The two wars in DR. Congo one involving Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, and the other Congolese rebels formerly led by Laurent Nkunda before he was arrested. Somalia which is in the process of establishing a new government has to deal with warring factions, and the Dafur factor lives on now that the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Umar el Bashir.

 

Col. Gaddafi first and fore most fought his way to power, and has helped rebel movements in the past such as the National Resistance Army led by now President Museveni of Uganda. 

 

The growing trend on the African continent has been peace negotiations rather than conversional warfare to solve conflict.  It has so far worked in ending the civil war in Sudan, which paved way for signing a comprehensive peace agreement between the Khartoum government and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement in the southern part of the vast country.  However sometimes these peace negotiations go on indefinitely and often fail.  For instance peace talks between the government of Uganda and Kony’s Lords Resistance Army collapsed, after the elusive rebel leader did not turn up for the signing ceremony, and war was opened again.  Sometimes pursuing rebels has worked to stop conflicts, like in Angola’s case when they were hunted down and killed.

 

If Gaddafi advocates for war, he could probably read from the same page with countries like Uganda that fired the first shot when they realized that Kony was not about to sign the peace agreement.  If he promotes talk, or a combination with war, on the other hand, he will perhaps head to The Hague to discuss an arrest warrant for a sitting President in Africa, and indictments of LRA rebels, which are partly blamed for failing the peace talks.

 

Money shower and free trade

On the economic front however, Col. Gaddafi through the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, an investment State agency, has done a job of investing in various projects using the model of foreign direct investment, and in some cases engaging in ‘suspect deals’ of acquiring State property, an or swapping debt for equity in government-owned enterprises.

 

For instance in Uganda, Tripoli agreed with Kampala to give Libya shares in National Housing and Construction Company as part of a long standing debt settlement.  In Kenya, it is known that Libya has invested in hotels and oil industries to substantial levels.  This approach has in most cases created a few extra jobs for locals in the country, although Libya is yet to originate an investment in Uganda that creates thousands of jobs.

 

African countries including especially those in eastern Africa have called for foreign direct investment, sometimes promoting the region as a single investment destination, but the more important thing has been improving the trade environment. 

 

The idea has been first to ask trade partners in Europe, America and Asia to open up their markets by removing non-tariff barriers, although this might be a wasted shot given the emerging protectionist tendencies in these markets.  Part B, of this idea that is gaining prominence is increasing trade among the African markets themselves, so that market can be guaranteed regardless of what happens in the other markets in the world.  This would mean bringing opening frontiers and allowing free trade, a concept that is already breeding among three regional blocks namely; The East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and South African Development Community.

 

This arrangement could be preferred against foreign direct investment per say, or advocate for the two to be pursued together, in either case it will be interesting to see what which way the new Chairman for the African Union will as far as Africa’s economic future is concerned.  What Africa needs nevertheless, is a new economic order that will sustain economic growth and development amidst a global financial storm, ensuring that realization of the MDGs is on course.

 

 

ENDs.

 

 

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