Africa : The Winds of Change

By Ahmed Charai.

What has just happened in Zimbabwe is very symptomatic of the state of affairs in the African continent. Robert Mugabe, the last of the Mohicans of the wars of independence in Africa has been shown the door, at the age of 93. It’s the higher echelons of the army and his own political party that have decided that they have had enough of the “Old Lion", rather than a popular upheaval. This exit scenario has been executed masterfully without any bloodshed or violence of any kind.

To be sure, the people of Zimbabwe, a country that boasts 85% literacy rate among its adult population, do have to be commended for showing a strong sense of civility in the face of this major turning point to say the least. They are indeed an exception in Africa.

Press reports highlighted Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe and the country’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa have been archrivals in the succession wars over President Robert Mugabe’s position. There was no love lost between these two as they have been angling out to succeed the nonagenarian President who had ruled the country for 37 years. However, I would caution anyone who rushes into analyzing what is going on in Zimbabwe solely through this prism.

Zimbabwe’s economy is in tatters. Unemployment stands at a staggering 80%, which is indisputably a world record. High inflation has completely destroyed the country’s monetary system. The state has preempted private savings and converted them into obligations with the background of a steep deterioration of the standards of living during the last two years.

The Chinese are the only ones who continue to invest in Ex-Rhodesia pumping as high as 450 million dollars over the last five years. Some point to the Chinese as having a hand in the recent events that have rocked the country, which is a highly plausible scenario.

The total failure of Mugabe’s governance could have led the country on the dangerous path of strife and civil war. Nonetheless, the way things have favorably turned out to be begs the following question: What should be done in Africa?

The African continent is blessed with an extraordinary potential for development that would benefit the populations as well as the world economy. But for some reason this dream does not seem to materialize because of strife and lack of stability in many African countries.

Nikki Haley, the US permanent representative at the UN echoes these problems that keep plaguing Africa.

The United Nations keep spending huge amounts of money for missions supposedly aimed for peacekeeping in many countries. However, the cost-effectiveness of these missions remain to be seen as they have so utterly failed to solve any crisis. The UN, which has in some cases managed to assuage the impact of famine, failed to initiate stabilization and democratic processes in the countries where it has pumped human and financial resources. “The UN's track record of long-term success is not good. Neither South Sudan nor the DRC has shown any real progress toward political solutions that would stop the violence”, said Nikki Haley.

Haley’s diagnosis is spot on. But how shall we go about this issue? The UN intervention with the aim to circumvent civil wars may be necessary but without a political project its intervention is reduced to a simple means of maintaining rogue leaders and dictators in place.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, two countries blessed with natural riches, and South Sudan, a young state reeling under strife and civil war, need not only a peacekeeping force but rather a firm engagement on a path leading to democratic institutions, good governance and development.

For Nikki Haley "The United States very much sees Africa as a very important part of the world. We see great opportunities in Africa, we see challenges in Africa, but we want to support and help in those situations."

But for now, there remains the critical issue of the gargantuan budgets of the UN’s peacekeeping missions. We expect so much more from the United States. Africa which will have as many as 2.5 billion people by 2050 is a fertile ground for terrorism and Chinese soft power.

The stakes cannot be higher for the United States in Africa in terms of security. The US is called upon to provide equipment, expertise and training for the local governments. Terrorist activities almost all over the continent threaten US citizens, personnel and investments. The fact remains that those who decide to join terrorist groups often do it out of despair and lack of alternatives, rather than based on ideological grounds. US investments present the real prospect for creating job opportunities for young people to prevent them from succumbing to the temptations of the merchants of deaths. The way forward is to piece together a new platform of African consumers of US products and services and by the same token fend off terrorist groups.

President Trump has rightfully described Africa as a land of opportunity during the G-7 summit that took place in Taormina, Italy. More than words, Africans are waiting for more action from President Trump.

Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan publisher. He is a board director of the Atlantic Council and an International counselor of the Center for a Strategic and International Studies in Washington and the Center for the National Interest

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