This week something unusual is going to happen both the fastest growing economy and the most powerful nation on earth are going to elect a leader!
But which of these two elections should concern Africa the most?
I know for a fact that most Africans where ever they be will be aware of the elections in America but can’t say so with the same certainty about the Chinese elections.
I am not entirely sure why this is, it could be for a number of reasons, my suggestions include
- One of the contestants in the American elections is of African Heritage
- The networked world has ensured that most Africans have been able to follow the Presidential campaigns
- The Chinese elections happen behind closed doors
Whatever the reasons, Africans have been so interested in the American elections that some stayed up all night to follow the televised debates prompting this comment from Jimmy Kainja a fellow blogger here on his facebook page
Good morning my fellow Africans from sub-Saharan, allow me to think aloud. Why are we so excited about Obama / Romney debate when both candidates failed to mention our part of the continent? Not even once. Let’s think about it, what’s in it for sub-Saharan Africans? Do we even exist in their policies? Or maybe Obama will sent Hillary Clinton again to lecture us and our undemocratic leaders on democracy? Maybe sub-Saharan Africans should be more interested in the leadership change that is imminent in China? We need to think our own interests. Can we do this when we’re falling over ourselves ululating on folks that have no interest in us?
I didn’t watch either of the Presidential debates but was able to follow most of it via my Twitter timeline. Like Jimmy I wondered why my fellow Africans were so interested in the American elections. I have never seen that much excitement in my Twitter timeline about elections in any African country.
In fact the only other thing that appears to keep folk of African heritage on my Twitter timeline that excited is English Football, especially the Premier League, but that is a topic for another post.
Lets return to the coming elections in America and China. Why should Africans care about who gets into the White house? It could be for all manner of reasons including race, colour or indeed the concept of Neo-Patrimonialism or Clientelism which is pretty much the form of governance in most African countries.
Put simply this involves a person in a position of power appointing his/her tribes people, relatives and or friends into High Office/positions of influence whether they have the experience to run such Offices or not. The other side to it is that once a person gets into such a high office his or her community will expect to benefit directly and in fact what some of these leaders do once in power is to regenerate their communities and those that don’t soon get to hear about it.
My own ancestral home town Nakasajja, 17km outside Kampala, Uganda is said to have benefited from a new road because Specioza Kazibwe the then Vice President of Uganda lived a few miles away.
I would not be stretching the point if I said that some amongst us (Africans) had hoped that Obama would adapt Neo-Patrimonialism or Clientelism in his foreign policy towards Africa. In fact the disappointment that he has not visited Africa much especially the village of his ancestors in Kenya nor done much for Africa has been widely reported.
There is a general agreement too, that Obama’s record in Africa has been appalling thus far in comparison to say, Bill Clinton with his tariff free trade with Africa in the shape of AGOA and George W. Bush’s campaigns for more money to combat HIV and Malaria in Africa.
But why should Africa have had such expectations of an American President? Where are we with this mindset?
On the one hand we cry out for our Agency, whilst on the other we have expectations of patronage from a president of another country. What is it that we really want?
If we leave the American elections aside, should we be more interested in China’s elections this Thursday either?
China’s foreign policy in Africa has on the face of it been one of trade- You give us your Oil, diamonds, cooper etc and We will give you a new road , a hospital, an office for the African Union etc. But there has been a lot of grumbling too about China’s true intentions in Africa and this will continue I am afraid.
The basis of this grumbling has come from various circles and political persuasions. Some in Africa, have lost their land to make way for Chinese investors, some have been miss treated by Chinese employers or even lost their jobs to the Chinese such as the women in a market in Lusaka who were undercut by a Chinese farm selling cheaper chicken. Such incidents have led to grumbling from within Africa and to questions as to whether the Chinese truly have our interests at heart or rather like the Europeans before they are simply plundering our resources?
Similarly, the likes of Hillary Clinton have grumbled and complained about China’s presence in Africa and cautioned Africans about “the Devil you know”.
When all is said and done, will it really matter to Africans who actually gets the top job in China or America unless we have expectations of Clientelism?
Are we merely looking elsewhere for answers when we could be taking our African leaders to task over selling us out?
And please don’t get me wrong, I am not implying here, that we as Africans should not be interested in International Affairs, that would be plain stupid, but simply trying to stimulate debate
Your views please?