Is Africa in a catch-22?

 Experts agree that the biggest challenge Africa faces today is conflict. They also stress that terrorism and violent extremism are arguably Africa‘s prime security threats. Terror groups with international links and supporters like TPLF, Al-Shabab, Boko haram are thriving in Africa.

8 out of 12 nations most affected by conflict are African. Out of each four African children, one will die before reaching age15.Many of the African countries are faced with internal instabilities that pose an existential threat to their statehood on various degrees of severity.

The Chairperson of AU Commission once said “The will and efforts made to build a strong Africa in its foundations are threatened to be undermined by the security challenge. The rise of the terrorists and extremists evidenced by the repeated deadly attacks which bereaved people, force the survivors to go into exile and forced displacements, constitute a permanent source of concern.”

The gravely mismanaged and underdeveloped economy has further complicated conflict-ridden African politics. Many African economies are heavily dependent on foreign aid. Africa is the only continent where foreignaid inflow outstrips private capital inflow by a large margin. Some argue foreign- aid in Africa has done more harm than good. They say it encouraged corrupt, highly inefficient, ineffective governments.

Besides, the intra-continental trade share in Africa is insignificant, which is about 12%. The major trade partners for African countries are either European or Asian nations. Plus, Africa is facing serious trouble with growing foreign debt. These situations provide a great deal of leverage to the foreign powers to exert undue influence and impose their will on African nations. What is more worrying is that the meddling of foreign powers in the internal affairs of Africa has only exacerbated and complicated their situation. Africa would have been better off if only it were left alone.

It appears that Africa is in a catch-22. Africa would not be free from the domination of foreign powers and the misery of conflicts, poverty, and backwardness unless it stands united in one form or another. But Africa can not be united unless it extricated itself from the domination and influence of external powers.

Any moves toward integrating African nations run against the interest of foreign powers. If Africans succeed in forming robust and effective regional and continental blocks, they would collectively develop a potential to utilize the natural resources they currently provide to the rich and powerful nations. In doing so, they would accelerate their economic growth, and their standard of living and social services would take a great leap. That would translate into political stability and the prevalence of peace. As a result, the flight of highly skilled human resources from Africa to the western counties would dwindle.

It is in the interest of western powers to have Africa remain divided, and even continue to dissociate into smaller pushover banana republics. So far, the Western plan seems to be working. While the African Union, and its predecessor, OAU, were crying for African unity for several decades, Africa has continued to dissociate.

Africa is already the most partitioned continent. Compared to the largest continent, Asia, it has a much smaller population and land area. Besides Africans are less diversified than Asians in terms of language. Some 2,300 languages are spoken in Asia, while it is 2,000 in Africa. Despite these facts, Africa is the continent with the largest number of countries. One may wonder why Africa is partitioned into sovereign states more than Asia does.

New Conflicts are flaring up in several spots across the continent, and the existing ones are reigniting in renewed shape and form. Western powers give tacit approval for every destructive action of rebel groups, like TPLF, fighting for secession. With the continuation of the sinister role of foreign powers in African conflicts under the guise of humanitarian interventions, negotiations, and peacemaking missions, the crises are likely to end up with further dissociation of the African continent.

In his recent lecture here in Ethiopia, the pan-Africanist Prof. PLO Lumumba warned Africa›s further fragmentation is likely to happen if African‘s drag their feet and remain half-hearted on integrating Africa, and the influence of foreign powers is allowed to continue unabated and unchecked.

The fragmentation of Africa and the unending wave of the conflict raging in the continent could be attributed mainly to the legacies of the European colonialism of the past and the subtly divisive policies of the present foreign powers that unsettle the spirit of unity and the formation of meaningful alliances among African states. Apart from sponsoring coup-details and insurgencies, the foreign powers have used corrupt political and military groups as a vehicle to target African leaders that are/were committed to pan-Africanism. From the days of Nkrumah to this day, African leaders struggling to extricate their continent from the grips of neo-colonialism have entered into the ‘black list’ of the western powers.

Over the last thirty years, Africa has seen the fragmentation of the three sovereign states in the Horn, one of the continent‘s geopolitical hot spots involving world heavyweights as well as the Arabs. Sudan and Ethiopia, Somalia have been fragmented into smaller sovereign countries. The continued interference of the foreign power in the Horn has continued to exacerbate the political situation of the sub-region, which could lead to further disintegration and chaos.

Beyond the raging conflicts, the endless waves of hunger, the rampant corruption, and the lack of rule of law, Africa has still had solid causes for optimism. In 2013, Africans under the guidance of the regional body, AU, have started a fifty-year journey to build an integrated Africa. Impressive progress has been scored over the past eight years.

AU is no longer a toothless dog as its critics say. It is shouldering responsibility as a peace broker to settle disputes among African states. A case in point here is the role AU plays in facilitating the tripartite negotiation on GERD. As a part of its drive to promote peace, security, stability, and political dialogue all over the Horn, AU has appointed a High Representative for the Horn. AU has continued its engagement in support of the implementation of peace agreements in member States emerging from conflict and in the fight against terrorism. AU has already started deploying its peacekeeping missions. Since 2007, AU peacekeepers have been struggling against terrorist groups like Al Shabaab to bring sustainable peace in Somalia.

There is no denying that the long march to the realization of African Unity is behind the schedule set in the implementation plan of Agenda 2063, For instance, the plan projects that in two years time Africa would be free from conflicts, human rights violations, and would develop a capacity to prevent genocide, and make peace a reality for all Africans. That is very unlikely to happen in such a short period.

Nevertheless, the dream of Africans to see the Africa they want, an integrated Africa, is not beyond the realm of possibility. The more effort African states make to extricate themselves from the influence of foreign powers, the more likely they will be able to realize African unity. That is why AU has expressed precaution against foreign powers that uses financial supports as leverage to derail the AU from its mission of integrating Africa.

The AUC Chairperson recently said ‘‘There are concerns focused on the urgent need to strike a balance between the usefulness of partner funds and the need to preserve the sovereignty of the Union. The two components of such a balance have been identified as, on the one hand, the non-acceptance of funds from partners with conditionalities out of step with the fundamental values of our Union and, on the other hand, the financing from own funds the programs of the Union deemed sensitive.”

A security analyst writing about Africa has made an optimistic note on Africa’s endeavor for unity. “There is a glimmer of hope. In working together to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area, African leaders showed they are capable of taking a common position on a major continental challenge. If they can repeat and maintain that show of unity – and do it quickly, then the forecast for the Africa of tomorrow might be far better than today’s Africa.”


The Ethiopian  Herald   28 October 2021

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