[in] focus

Whither Europe, whither Africa, whither the World

If the father of pan-Africanism, William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois could proclaim the problem of the 20th century to be the problem of the color line, it might well be proclaimed that the problem of the 21st century is the problem of integration – global integration.

Indeed, the Du Boisian ‘color line’ is but a tiny racial fraction of this larger integration challenge; a problem at the macro-level euphemistically dubbed ‘global governance’ when, in fact, it is only one step removed from the seeming utopianism of ‘world federalism.’

Of course no one of conventional intellectual pretensions wishes being dismissed as a purveyor of ‘utopianism.’ Hence, that euphemism of futility called ‘global governance.’ Yet the federalization of multilateralism may well become the emerging reality in the reconfiguring of a post-Westphalian international system, Europe once again being fore grounded in global transformations to come.

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The 2012 US Presidential Election and US Africa Policy

Now that the contest for the Republican Party presidential nomination is effectively over, the implications of the upcoming US presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for US Africa policy become clearer.

At the broadest level, there is not likely to be a big divergence on Africa policy between Obama and Romney. US foreign policy interests in Africa’s economic development have been closely tied to broader US strategic objectives such as access to secure energy supplies and combating the spread of terrorism. Former President George W. Bush’s support for the PEPFAR programme, an emergency AIDS relief initiative, was indicative of US recognition of the interrelatedness of security, governance, global health and economic development in meeting US Africa policy objectives. This convergence of US interests is not likely to change dramatically, irrespective of who wins the White House in 2012.

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Africa needs wise collective leadership as regression grows

THE lofty statements about the leadership Africa needs made some of Africa’s heads of states at the World Economic Forum meetings in Addis Ababa this week are correct. As Gabon’s Ali Bongo and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi put it, Africa needs a leadership that is tenacious, focused, impervious to disruptive external pressures and that is willing to sacrifice much for the common good. This is true even though both of these leaders are not particularly known for living up to the ideals that they are preaching now. They have not shown the ability not to transcend narrow national interests and to resist divisive external agendas.

This new leadership emphasis is needed all the same because of the resurgence of military coups, with the latest taking place in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, and the growth of political arrangements after disputed elections unfortunately coincide with a weakening of Pan-African leadership. The reversal of democracy, which needs a strong response from Africa’s major political actors, happens when Africa’s big states are not united and energetic.

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France will not redefine its relations with Africa

THE election of the socialist candidate, François Hollande, as the president of France at the weekend has triggered a lot of speculation about the wider implications of this development. Clearly, they will be far wider than the issue of the eurozone debt crisis. There are both fears and hopes for Africa. Hopes that Hollande will bring France closer to a non-paternalistic relationship with Francophone Africa have to be moderated because the relationship is founded in neo-colonialism, a system by which the power of an external state lingers on after nominal independence through linkages perpetuated by the nature of economic relations, a complex aid system, cultural linkages and binding legal agreements, among other factors.

Writing in 1965 in a publication entitled, Neocolonialism, the last stage of imperialism, the late Ghanaian president, Kwame Nkrumah, decries, even at that early stage of independence, the fact that although many former colonies had all the trappings of national sovereignty in the community of nations, they were still controlled subtly from the old colonial capitals. He noticed that in most cases, economic decisions and political reforms were directed from outside. He thought neocolonialism was more complicated than colonialism because while in the case of the latter declared colonial powers were obliged to account, at least, to their own voting populations for their activities in the colonies and those in the colonies who participated in colonial rule could count on colonial powers to protect them against their domestic opponents, neither is true under neo-colonialism. Former colonial powers are willing to dispense of yesterday’s friends when challenged internally and substitute them for a new clientele elite.

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Is Germany’s Rise Europe’s Decline? Implications For Global Integration

In 2010, over breakfast at a German-sponsored workshop in Stellenbosch, I found myself enduring heated reactions to my innocent sharing with my German colleagues an article on ‘the renationalisation of Europe.’ It was penned by US Council on Foreign Relations scholar Charles Kupchan reprinted in The Sunday Independent. The anti-American hostility evoked by the temerity of Kupchan suggesting a reversal in the fortunes of European integration was palpable. What right did an American have commenting on things European or pontificating on what Europeans should be doing? Americans should mind their own business. The German reactions could not have been more militantly ant-imperialist than had they been expressed by a third world revolutionary from somewhere in the non-West.

Fast-forward to 2012. The Eurozone crisis is daily news staple amid the predicted rise of Germany into European dominance. What are we witnessing? Article after article on the threatened demise not only of the euro but of the EU itself under the hegemonic regimen of German-imposed austerity. The historic ‘German Question’ has devolved into an existential crisis for the EU. This is where a much anticipated ‘European Germany’ is begetting a ‘German Europe,’ one threatening the social democratic compact upon which a progressive alternative to Anglo-American neoliberalism was predicated; Anglo-American capitalism itself in crisis along with its erstwhile ‘Washington Consensus.’

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