Africans and their continent are no different than any other. Eritrea, a country in the northeast of Africa, has been vociferous in its message to the world that what Africa needs is to be partners not clients. To that end Eritrea has engaged in a policy much like the United States has reoriented itself to; a focus on security from international threats, particularly transnational terrorism and occupation of its towns, and human development, in terms of broad-based economic growth and provision of social services.
Eritrea has recognized that less developed countries share a dual challenge and asset in its young population. These youth can fuel Africa’s future or bury it in conflict. Only economic opportunity will encourage these youth to work hard for their future rather than fight for it.
Jendayi Frazer suggests that the Obama Administration has been, “…lecturing Africans rather than listening,” ((Frazer, Jendayi E., Four Ways to Help Africa, 25 August 2009)) however, this misses the point entirely. The question should be to whom should we listen. The Bush Administration’s main ally in the Horn of Africa was responsible for invading its neighbor (Somalia) to who observers unanimously decried as fuelling a new Islamic insurgency, ((Bruton, Bornwyn E., U.S. Policy Shift Needed in the Horn of Africa, Council on Foreign Relations, 6 August 2009)) as well as committing grave acts against its own people bordering on genocide as well as the continued occupation of Eritrean land. These are not the state actors that America should be “listening” to, they are the problem, not the solution.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was justly cheered for taking such a strong interest in Africa so early into her term, however, she was not without fault. Her suggestion that Eritrea needed to have action taking against it for its involvement in the Somali question were neither just nor constructive. The only solution to the Somali problem will come from the Somalis themselves. This is why in 2008 Eritrea hosted a conference of Somali reconciliation, inviting members from all organizations. The invitation was only ignored by the then UN recognized government of Somalia which refused peaceful discussion with any other organization.
These are the kind of discussions that are necessary to solve African problems, not conversations between international organizations and African governments, or even meditations by third parties of domestic conflicts, but between those domestic groups in conflict exclusively. If not, the solutions will not be sustainable, and decade after decade new conflicts will arise.
To truly help Africa build a sustainable future, while securing American national security the youth of Africa must have the opportunity to grow at home. Unemployment in Africa is rife and to deal with this America could:
- Encourage trade with Africa, particularly in labor intensive concerns (e.g. agriculture, textiles, etc.,) while dropping both trade restrictions and subsidization in the fields domestically. This will encourage Africans to get rich by hard work and entrepreneurship, the same way Americans have.
- Reduce aid and below market rate loans to African governments to encourage responsible behavior. Dambisa Moyo, in her book “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa,” recently argued that it is this aid that has brought governmental accountability to frightening lows.
- Develop relationships with governments who will encourage parties in conflict to negotiate their concerns without external forces. These relationships could include as little as verbal support from behind a podium to logistical support.
- Provide fiscal support for support unearthing Africa’s past. Archaeology in Africa is all but but extinguished, amidst fiscal crises and cultural conflicts, interest in Africa’s past has dwindled. Africa’s history is humanity’s history and should be researched just as fully as European or Asian histories, but to do that today, inter-institutional (colleges, universities and museums) exchanges will be priceless.
Focusing on the inflammatory Bush-era policies as Dr. Jendayi Frazer suggests is not only intellectually dishonest, but will only compound Africa’s current problems. Fueling the flames of genocide and supporting the invasion of foreign countries is not a tradition that should be brought forward from the past Administration. Secretary Clinton had it right when she said, “…we will be partners with Africa’s people.”