September 24, 2009
Is it finally time for a United States of Africa (U.S.A.) to emerge? Without question, I think the time is right.
But, it’s about time also. I was once in Africa meeting with the president of a country and he basically said his “house was on fire.” So, I said to this president that I had the water that could extinguish the fire. His response? “I will let you know when I want the water.”
This has been a common experience with me in my dealings on the continent. Africans have their own concept of time and in most cases it is not congruous with the major powers of the world.
Last week I attended a speech by H.E. Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Senior Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Republic of Senegal. The purpose of his speech was to discuss the concept of a United States of Africa. He was a great speaker, with a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Whether you were an academic or layman, the minister displayed the communication skills necessary to make the concept understandable to everyone. I was most impressed with the minister.
A united Africa makes all the sense in the world. After all, Europe has done it, South American is doing, and of course the United States is the model for how to do it.
According to the minister, they have 20 countries that are ready to move forward, with the other 33 hesitating for one reason or another.
Logistical, political, and economic hurdles aside, I see a major strategic flaw in the minister’s approach. Africa has yet to lay out the intellectual arguments for the movement in the U.S. and Europe. Though these two groups can’t vote on the proposal, I think it is in Africa’s interest to educate the general public as to the relevance of this movement.
For example, when I go to see my orthodontist, Dr. Larry Kawa (www.braces1.com), I know exactly what is going to happen. The staffer assigned to me, Linda, is the best. Before she starts, she tells me what the purpose of this particular visit is, what she is going to do, why she is going to do it, and the expected result from that day’s visit. If there are any changes to the treatment for that visit, she will explain why the change occurred and why it is necessary.
My point is, an educated patient is the best patient. So it is relative to the U.S.A., an educated world is the best world.
Discussion of a united Africa is no new thing. Marcus Garvey is credited with being the father of a united Africa as early as 1924. He was way ahead of his time and the issue is still being debated within the continent.
So, I think the minister, specifically and Africa in general, must do a better job in educating the U.S. as to why Africa matters to us. Why should a proposed United State of Africa matter to the diaspora within the U.S.?
The time for Africa to unite is now, but the time to educate strategic allies is also now. I find most African embassies have very little presence within the U.S. This is not all African embassies, but a lot of them do fit into this category. They should be more engaged in the local communities, as well as the various media outlets. Most of the images you see regarding Africa are about war, famine, and despair. I put most of the blame on African nations for not countering these images conjured up by the media.
Africa has a lot of positive stories to tell, but they must not wait or depend on someone else to tell their story. They must persist in their efforts to force American media do show the positive side of Africa. Most Americans have little appreciation as to how close Africa is to the U.S.
For example, most people don’t realize that from the east coast, you can get to Dakar, Senegal in about the same time it’s takes to get to Los Angeles or San Francisco! So, if I have a 4 day weekend, I would much rather go to Senegal than I would Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Most people don’t know that most of the world’s diamonds come from Africa, as does cocoa. Africa has the world’s largest population of people under 18. This group will have tremendous purchasing power in the years to come. China, Europe, and the U.S. are getting older. Africa is getting younger. Every businessman knows what this means—Africa is the next “MTV” generation (for better and for worse).
So, if Africa could unite and harness this potential and all the natural assets it possesses, they can and will be a power to reckon with.
While they are working on resolving the many logistical impediments to unification, on a parallel track, they must launch a strategic educational campaign simultaneously. To do otherwise is like baking a cake without preheating the oven. You will get a cake, but all the ingredients will not have blended together as they should have.
So, educating Europe, Asia, and the U.S. is the preheating process. When I say educate, I am speaking of going directly to the people, not the “powers that be.” So, to the proposed United States of Africa, it’s about time!
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-based political consulting/government affairs firm. You can listen to his radio show every Saturday evening from 7-9:00 p.m. Go to www.ustalknetwork.com to register and then click on host, and then click on his photo to join his group.