Scramble for Africa, part two.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:Editorial
 
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Africa, the marginalised 'hopeless continent' of a decade ago is now the 'continent of hope' - not only for its own inhabitants but increasingly for the global economy and the fortunes of several countries.

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"Africa is 'in play' as never before" - the Final Report of the Africa-China-US Trilateral Dialogue.

"There is now no denying that Africa has become a sought-after continent in a short space of time, thanks to its strategic importance. Today Africa really matters" - EU Commissioner for Development.

Both the above quotes come from The New Scramble for Africa by Padraig Carmondy. The book sets out to discover why there has been this sudden spurt of interest in the continent from so many quarters and so suddenly. The study itself and the author's conclusions provide plenty of food for thought.

It is very easy to be flattered by the global renewal of interest in the continent and get carried away by the belief that finally the world has woken up to Africa's merits.

This book comes as a sobering splash of cold water. The title itself, The New Scramble for Africa, should serve as a warning from history, alluding as it does to the first colonial scramble for Africa and its legacy.

There is a school of thought that urges us to forget the past because it is not relevant to today's realities. This is a dangerous posture to adopt because where we are today is the direct consequence of where we were in the past.

Even the World Bank, in its 2009 World Development Report, acknowledged this: "For sub-Saharan Africa, the Berlin conference was just the last in a long line of what geographers have termed 'formative disasters' unfavourably altering the human, physical, and political geography of the continent creating continent-wide problems of low density, long distances and divided countries."

Africa's legacy of failed leaders, often blamed on 'something intrinsically African' also has its roots in geo-political rivalries. "After independence," writes Carmondy, "during the Cold War and the Soviet Union, Western powers supported 'friendly' anti-communist dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, who came to power in a coup backed by Belgium and the CIA. In the late 1970s, Mobutu's Zaire received half of all American aid to Africa."

It is important not to dwell on the past but it can be fatal to ignore the lessons of the past.

Carmondy takes us back to the late 19th century and the initial scramble for Africa. He reminds us that...

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