By Nuwagaba Arthur Mirama
During the concluded African-Russian summit, many African leaders spoke ill of neo-colonialists – the West, accusing them of having an appetite for controlling them. Some praised Russia for being there for them during colonialism and post-colonialism. They appealed to Russia to support them in achieving their economic agenda, adding value to their raw materials, etc.
The President of Burkina Faso wondered why the African continent, with so much wealth on its soil, a generous nature, and an abundance of water and sun, is the poorest and most hungry continent. And how is it that the Heads of state are crossing the world to beg? He blamed neo-colonialism and imperialism that have been imposed on them by the West. He seemed to have hopes in the new relationships which he thinks will be best for their people.
I may agree with him, but addressing neo-colonialism is a complex and challenging task that requires a comprehensive and united effort from African leaders, governments, and societies. Neo-colonialism refers to the continued economic, political, and cultural influence exerted by former colonial powers and other dominant global players on African countries. To counter neo-colonialism and foster self-determination and development, African leaders must take the following actions.
Strengthening Regional Integration: Promote regional economic integration through organizations like the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Integration (EAC) and enhance economic cooperation and intra-African trade to reduce dependency on external actors.
Diversifying Economic Partnerships: Seek to diversify economic partnerships beyond traditional colonial powers by engaging with emerging economies, such as China, India, and other African countries. This will help to create a more balanced and less exploitative economic landscape.
Investment in Education and Infrastructure: Prioritize investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. A well-educated population can drive innovation and economic growth, reducing reliance on foreign expertise and capital. The African continent’s education system is too theoretical and lacks practical relevance. It requires a multi-faceted approach to make it more practical and relevant, such as emphasizing practical learning by integrating practical, hands-on learning experiences into the curriculum. This can include internships, apprenticeships, field visits, and project-based learning.
Practical experiences allow students to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations, enhancing their understanding and problem-solving skills. STEM Education should be adopted: Strengthen the focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. These fields are essential for innovation and economic development and often have more practical applications. Providing access to modern technology and scientific equipment can also enhance the learning experience, and lastly,
Collaboration with Industries by forging partnerships with industries and businesses to align the curriculum with the needs of the job market. Involve professionals from various fields in curriculum development and provide opportunities for students to engage in industry-related projects and internships. By making education more practical and relevant, African countries can empower their youth with the skills and knowledge needed to drive economic growth, innovation, and sustainable development.
The African continent must encourage Local Industries by promoting the growth of local industries and supporting entrepreneurship to foster economic self-reliance. This includes developing value-added processing of natural resources and investing in technological advancements. The African continent must stop relying on foreign investors to develop their countries. Heavy reliance on foreign investment can make a country economically dependent on external factors beyond its control.
The African continent must advocate for fair trade practices and negotiate better terms for resource extraction and trade with foreign partners. African leaders must avoid falling into debt traps by being cautious with loans and ensuring responsible borrowing practices. Africa’s public debt burden has doubled from 2010 to date.
Data from the International Debt Statistics Data as of December 2022 shows that African countries owe $ 644855.2 billion (USD), and its documents that 21 countries in Africa are in, or at risk of, debt distress. The African leaders must strengthen national debt management policies to deal with issues of governance.
Debt management frameworks and practices should conform to all the principles of good governance, which include transparency, participation, accountability, reasoned decision-making, and effective institutional arrangements, as well as combating corruption and promoting the rule of law. This will build investor confidence and reduce opportunities for external manipulation.
Other issues African leaders should put emphasis on are Collaborative Diplomacy: They should engage in diplomatic efforts and negotiations to protect African interests on the global stage. African leaders can speak with a united voice on issues concerning the continent, such as climate change, fair trade, and debt relief.
Media and Information Autonomy: Africa needs to develop independent and diverse media to counter biased or misleading narratives propagated by external actors. Encourage local media to tell African stories from an authentic perspective.
Regional Security Cooperation: African countries should collaborate on regional security issues to prevent external interference in internal affairs and foster peace and stability in the region. The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which is an umbrella term for the key AU mechanisms for promoting peace, security, and stability in the African continent. All APSA pillars which include Peace and Security Council (PSC) The Panel of the Wise, Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), the African Standby Force (ASF) and the Peace Fund should be emphasized and well-funded to achieve their objectives. Why should there be armed rebellions on African soil when we have APSA in place?
It is crucial for African leaders to work together, engaging with civil society, private sectors, and grassroots movements, to collectively tackle the challenges posed by neo-colonialism and pave the way for a more prosperous and self-sufficient Africa. Otherwise, African leaders will keep lamenting while the so-called neo-colonialists continue to extend their influence on the continent.
The writer is Bazzukulu Affairs Officer in the Office of the NRM National Chairman (ONC) Kyambogo