As I say that chirping crickets may be the best outcome of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, I hope I am wrong. I hope business deals will be signed during those three days; I hope progress will be made on counterterrorism; and I hope African leaders will be able to voice their concerns and needs to our leaders, and in turn, our leaders will come out of this with a new economic development plan that works for a change. However, I have doubts that any of this will happen. So let me tell you why.
Like most of those who are trying to stay focused on Africa, my mind is on the economy—mutual trade opportunities, lucrative investment initiatives, business partnerships, and closing deals that create jobs both in Africa and the United States. That’s a nice idea, and one that would be expected for any nation hoping to showcase its influence in the region. But our leadership in Africa ended over a decade ago; Africa is in China’s hands now, and whatever and whoever China doesn’t control right now will very likely be under its control in less than five years. You see, that’s how fast others’ influence changes in poor regions. You snooze, you lose, and we’ve been snoozing while China and a few other nations have been taking over.
The saddest part of all this is we still don’t know that our control in China is already lost, and whenever reality sinks in, which it rarely does, we blame it on China and not on our own snoozing. This situation truly shows how slow the United States is in understanding the fast-changing political-economic framework called international business. A July 9 article in The Cable-FP (“Has the White House Bungled a Historic Africa Summit?”) hit the nail on the head when it stated:
“The White House still sees Africa through a decades-old framework in which it is viewed as an impoverished continent with country leaders traveling to Washington hat in hand rather than as nations with robust and growing economies.”
My own opinion is somewhat broader, using one overarching problem: Less than 8 percent of the Obama Administration has private sector experience. Those people come from academia, law firms, community development…and politics, so there is little doubt why our President views almost everyone as “hat in hand” beggars instead of potential business partners. And that is why China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, to name a few, are kicking our butts. These countries are Africa’s best friends now, as the region’s economy is finally geared up to expand. According to Business Insider News, ten of the world’s fastest twenty economies are in Africa, but there’s little we can do except lick our wounds. And the shame is clear: because we don’t understand “real” business and economics, during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit during August 4-6, we will forego business deals for feel-good progressive talking points that go in one ear and out the other.
Needless to say, I’m certain the Obama Administration will not have trade and business in mind when it rounds up the poor African beggars so they can once again listen to what the United States of America thinks Africa really needs. The big three feel good progressive flavors—democracy, human rights, and corruption—have never fallen from the top of the list, and this list is not going to be reshuffled before August 4. But this time the preaching down to the “poor African beggars” will not work. In fact, it is going to backfire.
Why is it going to backfire? I say, “Why not?” It’s only natural when people with access to free media and the Internet see every day how our own dysfunctional government is operating. To most foreign viewers, we’ve become a joke; we’re broke and our own ivory tower government is corrupt. So for these reasons alone, this time I hope we will forego putting Africa’s feet to the fire, scolding our African guests on how bad they’re running their government, lecturing, and preaching. This time I hope our government leaders will do as they seem best equipped to do—feast on the dog and pony show, schmooze, say very little to the Africans other than “Take care of your people, govern fairly, and consider partnering with our companies when looking outside of Africa to do business.”
In fact, if our leaders in Washington can’t get through three days without judging others for doing the same things they’re now doing to the American people, I’d be content just to hear…crickets.†
It’s a small world…so write about it.
D.A. (Dennis) Winstead
Award-winning International Author
Founder and Head of
Color Him Father Foundation