In a “what to look for in Africa during 2017,” among other things, the BBC included watching incoming U. S. President Donald Trump. Similar to Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, who has said that Mr. Trump, more than any single individual in recent history would assist in unifying Black America, the BBC noted the incoming president has pledged an “isolationist stand.” That could mean less attention paid to Africa and Africans forced to find solutions from within.
One analyst said it includes, “strengthening our institutions, improving infrastructure, governance and security and trading more amongst ourselves.” But to get to a safe and secure Africa, the African Union (AU), or regional organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), must be able to get heads of state to submit to free and fair elections and create continent-wide business models that don’t look to make a fast buck. It also means not taking advantage of neighboring states’ infrastructure restraints.
In Africa destabilizing one country generally means–because of porous borders and the willingness to resolve disagreements by taking up arms–a refugee crisis and regional destabilization.
In The Gambia, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, after initially accepting a Dec. 1 “surprise” defeat by opponent Adama Barrow, later reneged citing electoral “abnormalities.” ECOWAS responded by putting forces on alert should the Gambian leader refuse to voluntarily step down on Jan 19. To make matters worse, the head of Gambia’s armed forces, Gen. Ousman Badjie, in a letter pledged the “unflinching loyalty and support of the Gambia Armed Forces” to Mr. Jammeh.
The continent recently breathed a slight sigh of relief when the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) catholic bishops mediated an agreement extending the tenure of President Joseph Kabila for one year, in exchange for abandoning his ambition for a third term. According to the Financial Times, the situations in the DRC and The Gambia, you can include the breakdown in 2013 of Africa’s newest nation state, South Sudan and its civil war and existing tensions, as “emblematic reminders of the difficulties that democratic transitions are experiencing in Africa.”
To add to West Africa’s woes, Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, unlike in the past when it had functional refineries producing jet fuel to meet the needs of domestic and international airlines, today imports expensive jet fuel. This has caused airlines to interrupt flight destinations to purchase cheaper fuel in Ghana, Gabon, Sierra Leon and Liberia. “Almost all the foreign airlines operating into Nigeria now refuel outside this country once they load their passengers or cargo,” a senior official of one of the oil marketing firms at the Lagos airport told the Daily Sun. Fuel accounts for nearly 40 percent of airlines’ overhead costs.
According to published reports, crude oil traders worldwide have shunned Nigeria crude oil. Once Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria is reeling from a drop in global oil prices and its refusal to devalue its currency (the naira) in accord with International Monetary Fund recommendations. The West African country remains one of the primary sources of “sweet crude” oil.
Political stability in Ghana
All is not lost. Ghana, through an apparently seamless presidential race, has elected new president Nana Akufo-Addo. Ghana’s president, according to VOA News, has spent a lifetime immersed in West African politics.
Discussing Ghana’s economy, which has struggled with escalating debt, corruption and unemployment, the new president recently said, “We have to recognize one thing. If we do not make a focused, systematic effort to change the nature of our economy, moving away from this raw material producing economy into an industrial value-added economy, we are never going to address the issues of poverty, or the higher incomes that we’re all looking for. We must make that consistent effort.”
A visa-free Africa?
The need for industrial and infrastructure development in Africa is sacrosanct. The outgoing African Union Commission chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said the AU’s move to secure “visa-freeentry for all Africans” is a step in that direction. It would increase intracontinental trade, sharing of manpower, and support the need across the continent for technical expertise, she said.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma commended Ghana, Namibia, Benin, Mauritius and Seychelles for their support of a visa free Africa. “We hope in 2017, many more countries will follow suit with visa-on-arrival as we consider issuing the African Passport to citizens,” she said.
No justice for Africa at the International Criminal Court?
There could also be a mass, continent-wide withdrawal from the International Criminal Court– following the planned withdrawal of South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia. Uganda, Chad, Kenya and Namibia are considering withdrawal in 2017.
“The ICC has been made to reinforce and entrench the Orwellian animal farm character of the system by vesting the veto-holding members of the UN Security Council (SC) with the power to refer situations in some countries to the ICC, while shielding themselves–or close allies–from scrutiny of the court. China, Russia and the U.S., all permanent members of the SC, have refused to become ICC members,” observed Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso, a legal scholar and analyst of African affairs.
Showing Africa is able to go it alone and hold its leaders accountable, the African Union Court of Justice started work in earnest by convicting Chad’s ex-ruler Hissene Habre of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison at a landmark trial in Senegal.
AU paying its own way?
Last summer’s African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda, not only discussed a visa-free Africa, but also how the AU Commission could attain financial self-sufficiency. Currently over 70 percent of the AU Commission is funded by outside funders–and as one published report called it “(holding) a sword over the organization.”
In a move to free the continent wide organization from outside influences, former African Development Bank chief Donald Kaberuka proposed ending outside dependency by having a 0.2 percent levy on imports to African countries to finance the African Union. This would enable AU member states to fully fund the functioning of the AU Commission and cover 75 percent of programs. Rwanda’s finance minister, Claver Gatete, said the levy would be able to generate $1.2 billion, and with an additional $65 million regional contribution the AU Commission would have more than enough to fund its initiatives.
As veteran Zimbabwean journalist Isdore Guvamombe wrote, Africa is beginning to “display ideological clarity in terms of self-governance, democracy and accountability and the right to explore its vast natural resources as well as doing business with fair players.”