One continent, our destiny

Publish date 15-11-2022

by Paolo Lambruschi

The race for Africa and its precious resources began some time ago. And if before the war in Ukraine this seemed to be, in the distorted vision of various European rulers, a fallback for the West, often only a problem of security, at most a reserve of minerals, fossil fuels and labor to be exploited, today it is clear to everyone that Africa is the continent of our destiny.

The European (and Italian) myopia of the last 30 years towards the great African continent which starts in the Mediterranean and extends towards the South Pole is a big handicap. The European absence – with the exclusion of France which is all too present in its former colonies – we know has been filled in this century first by China, then by the Gulf monarchies and finally by Russia and Turkey. The lowest common denominator of these new masters, who essentially built infrastructures in exchange for the sale of natural resources, was total disregard for democracy and respect for human and civil rights.

And this pleases many African governments which instead, when dealing with the EU, the United States and Canada, see the disbursement of development aid tied to at least formal respect for minorities, opponents and the freedom of word. Some presidential palaces experience these constraints as an interference and accuse (not without reason) the Western chancelleries of hypocrisy, given that they certainly do not shine in welcoming and respecting the rights at home when it comes to African migrants. The vote in favor of Russia or the abstention of many African countries in the UN assemblies, when there was discussion of sanctioning Moscow for the war in Ukraine, is explained, however, not only by this allergy to the USA and its allies and democracy. Or with the old geopolitical location in the Soviet area at the time of the Cold War. In the poorest countries, dependence on Ukrainian and Russian wheat and fertilizers also comes into play, which were blocked until the end of July, generating inflation and sharp increases in food prices, already high due to the drought caused by climate change. Can this lead Africa into an anti-Western and pro-Russian or pro-Chinese camp? That's not the correct way to interpret the facts. Better to put yourself in the shoes of different African countries. In Somalia, for example, still infested by Al Shabaab al-Qaedist terrorists, despite having lost four crops due to drought, is afflicted by the worst famine in the last 40 years (which has already killed hundreds of children and endangered the lives of 8 million of Somalis) only 4% of the aid envisaged by the United Nations has arrived. Where did the other 96% go? In Ukraine. Logical that a promotional (and propaganda) tour of peace like the one put in place by Russia would find support.

But because there haven't been equally striking initiatives on the other side. Sure, the US has doubled its aid to Somalia, Brussels hasn't. It's not about taking away solidarity with the Ukrainian people, the problem is not to forget Africa brought to its knees by the diabolical combination of Covid, wars and climate change. If we add corruption and the so-called resource curse, which condemns the inhabitants of a rich land to suffer looting and wars, the evaluation criteria and the logic of deployment change. The EU can reverse course by giving up, for example, a tenth of its expenditure on armaments and converting it back into development aid. Plows instead of swords, doctors and agronomists instead of tanks. The road to peace leads far away, the EU can teach with its own history that democracy and rights are not burdens, but wings to travel faster.

Paolo Lambruschi
NP August / September 2022

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