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Defence against disorder

Patrick Smith
By Patrick Smith
Editor-in-Chief of The Africa Report.

Posted on Thursday, 20 November 2014 14:53

Do Africa’s leaders have a response as the continent is dragged into a new round of world disorder?

Europe’s face-off with Russia over Ukraine also has consequences for Africa

So many appear to be still celebrating the West’s new appellation of ‘Africa rising’ that their governments are missing both risks and opportunities amid the intercontinental chaos.

The West’s latest war in the Middle East against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is playing out in parallel in North Africa and the Sahel.

The epicentre of that war is Libya, where Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are backing what’s left of the secularist government in Tripoli, and Qatar and Sudan are backing Islamist militias and assorted jihadists.

The result of the fighting in Libya will reverberate across the Sahel.

The governments of Mali, Niger and Nigeria will need a political as well as military response to the threat.

Europe’s face-off with Russia over Ukraine also has consequences for Africa.

Western sanctions against Russia have forced Moscow to look for new markets and revive old friendships.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hosted his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, in late August to finalise what could be a $50bn nuclear power deal.

What Africa’s largest gas producers – Algeria and Nigeria – are missing is the opportunity to exploit Europe’s falling out with Putin and its consequent nervousness about the reliability of Russian gas supplies.

Now is the time for Algiers and Abuja to tie up long-term gas-supply deals at favourable prices with Europe’s ailing but still wealthy economies.

As the US rehearses war games in the South China Sea amid sabre-rattling against Beijing in Japan and India, there are growing worries about China’s slowing economic momentum.

China is the world’s largest economy in purchasing power parity, so its next move will be critical for Africa.

It’s time for Africa to have a China policy, just as Beijing has an Africa policy. That should involve clear conditions such as technology transfer, skills training and investment in manufacturing.

Indeed, such terms should be standard for all investors who have suddenly worked out the potential of Africa’s market of 1.1 billion people.

Even as Ebola cuts a devastating swathe across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Africa should push its interests harder.

It should take World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at his word when he calls for a new $20bn global public health fund.

Africa’s clinics and hospitals, many without reliable power and run- ning water, should be a front-line priority for that fund.

Similarly, as UN member states agonise over climate change, Africa should push its demands for the richer countries to pay up their share of the planned $100bn climate adjustment fund.

A unified response led by the AU and the African Development Bank (AfDB) is required to push harder for Africa’s interests in these treacherous waters.

Perhaps the outgoing president of the AfDB, Donald Kaberuka, can be prevailed upon to kick-start that project before he rides off into the sunset. ●

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