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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

EU-Africa Summit Agenda:Africa must set an Empowerment for Poverty eradication!!

As the EU-Africa Summit approaches, African scholars, Intellectuals, Political leaders, Civic leaders and ordinary citizens of Africa must ask themselves, "What agenda should constitute the Summit?"

The quest for Africa to achieve development in Post-colonial Africa has been not been easy, if not unaccomplished at all because of failures on the part of Africa and lack of a constructive international engagement with key powers on the globe. What has been ubiquitous in Africa has been Independence, which is broadly negatively and narrowly defined as the absence of direct control and manipulation of the political spheres.

Over 50 years after the Independence of the first African nation, Ghana, Africa must probe itself "Why is it that independence has never been positively and broadly defined in Post-colonial Africa?" and "Who is dictating the pace and life in Africa?"

Africa, having been formerly and overwhelmingly exploited during the Pre and Post- colonial era by some key participants of the EU-Africa summit, must use this opportunity to set the tone of the relations so that at least some of her concerns prevail, in order to reassert the proper definition of independence.

The colonial question has remained broadly unresolved; many Africans have never experienced the real independence but real poverty and in fact repeated cycles of trauma of failing to reconcile their economic Pre-colonial expectations of independence with their post-colonial experiences.

The attempts to controversially empower indigenous people in Zimbabwe through the controversial seizure of white owned farms comes into my mind but there remains an enduring question as to who must foot the bill for compensation of white owned farms?

The African governments need to seek clarification from their co-partners on this enduring colonial question given the rise of pro-land reform sentiments in much of post-colonial Africa.

The Zimbabwean case should provide a testing ground and precedence of on how to tackle this key issue of compensation. Though the economic performance of agriculture in Zimbabwe after the farm seizures offers minimal convincing public relations support to the popular land reform exercise, this colonial question remains relevant in the quest for a higher-level independence.

Various interest groups attack the quest for land empowerment using imperial inspired arguments such as; the beneficiaries' inabilities to finance meaningful investments, the lack of technical skills and modern farming knowledge in beneficiaries, the chaotic nature of the fast track land reform, the destruction of employment opportunities in the farming sector and in some instances the food shortages and the economic downturn in Zimbabwe.

There is striking similarity between the argument which was used to advance the pre-colonial dualisation of Zimbabwe's agriculture which was a racial doctrine based on the premise that Africans are not ready to govern themselves and utilize the economic space around them and this was used to advance the cause of the evil of colonialism.

The issues against indigenous ownership of land are however now irrelevant because land has already been seized from the beneficiaries of colonialism, but what can be done is reorganization of the ownership systems of land in Zimbabwe so that they become broadly nationally inclusive, economically sensible and pro-poor in picture rather than total reversal of the process.

Africans need to ask their co-partners what contribution they will make to clear this mess to avoid a repeat of the Zimbabwean case. Africa must approach their partners on an equal footing in order to settle this enduring question once and for all.

The EU-Africa Summit coming shortly after the end of the China-Africa summit this year must enable Africans to probe the ideological construction, which informs the China and the EU scramble for Africa. Is it informed by a relationship of equity and equality which is a "win-win situation"?

Africa is yet to control and be responsible for her economic sphere despite undertaking various controversial initiatives and attempts to legislate indigenisation and empowerment.

My view is that given the financial and political muscle of China and EU, and the sinister past of some key EU-Africa summit participants, Africa will not be able to benefit much, which advances its cause of independence if it does not get concessions especially on the questions of empowerment for poverty eradication as opposed to aid for poverty eradication.

The summits are in fact making Africa more vulnerable from its former colonial masters, a euphemism for a negative and narrow definition of independence given the lack of commitment by the super powers to reform and make clear policy pronouncements on key issues of African empowerment.

The purpose why Zimbabwe has dominated the pre-summit debate on whether President Mugabe should attend or not, is not centered on the purported key issues of diminished civil nationalism of the ruling Zimbabwean government but on the enduring question of indigenisation and empowerment hence the split along lines of Africa and the West, who are the citadels of imperialism. Given that Zimbabwe and Africa can use the opportunity to bring to the table this enduring colonial questions, which leaves the EU, with a bad past an egg on the face, fortunate or unfortunate to Africa, they have given President Mugabe solidarity in his quest to get a seat at the summit.

I wish to submit that the solidarity extended to President Mugabe has been done by Africans so that he can articulate and act as an icon for empowerment on a key and emotionally controversial issue of land during the summit, which most nations wish to pursue and admire, but are afraid of because of the backlash associated with confronting and questioning this imperial hegemony, hence the notion by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that an attendance by Zimbabwe's President will disturb and divert the summit agenda.

Africa remains geo-politically strategic to EU and China's interest because of its rich minerals and as a market for their goods including arms of war, rather than because of its plight of poverty. Africans can only make these summits different from the Berlin conference of 1884, which partitioned Africa for better exploitation of her resources by articulating her cause and not by ceding economic concessions to China and EU without deriving any equal reciprocation. Africans should set the tone of the Summit by asking the enduring colonial question of empowerment for poverty eradication than of Aid for poverty eradication.

Hillary Kundishora is a Scholar of Strategic Management. He can be contacted at

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