Ali Fatty, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
On 25 May 2023, African Liberation Day was celebrated across the continent, an annual celebration of African sovereign rule, independence, and African identity. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU). This 60th anniversary is being celebrated under the slogan: “Our Africa Our Future” using the hashtag #OurAfricaOurFuture. (https://au.int/en/announcements/20230509/commemoration-africa-day-may-25-2023)
However, today many youths, intellectuals, Pan Africans, and even some seasoned politicians express that the status quo of Africa’s independence, sovereignty, and total liberation is alarming in connection to the continent’s relationship with foreign powers around the world. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=76hLdREQ-bE)
Recently, we have seen belligerent vying by foreign leaders to meet their African counterparts, reflecting a growing awareness that they need to deepen their engagement with the continent or gain the upper hand in the continent’s political landscape against rival countries.
The continent also faces myriad internal issues affecting all opportunities for meaningful development. Many countries on the continent have been engulfed in endless and brutal wars for decades, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent citizens.
In this article, we will observe the details that underscore the new scramble for Africa, the history of Africa’s bilateral ties with foreign states, what the future holds for Africa, and the ways forward for the continent in light of the invaluable guidance the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community bestowed on the leaders of the continent in different meetings. To begin with, let us look at the current state of affairs of the continent.
Africa in the world today
According to reports, the rising youth generation in Africa is a global powerhouse for investment, with one report stating: “The median age in the continent is only 19 years old, and roughly half of the world’s population growth is going to happen in Africa over the next several decades, which is just an enormous potential for the region.” (www.africanews.com/2023/03/25/us-vice-pesident-kamala-harris-visits-africa/)
The motives for the new race for Africa by foreign countries can be divided into two main factors: securing political backing from the African leaders in global multilateral institutions and accessing the rich mineral resources of the continent for Western industries.
Africa has 9.6% of the global oil output, 90% of the world’s platinum supply, 90% of the world’s cobalt supply, 50% of the world’s gold supply, two-thirds of the world’s manganese, 35% of the world’s uranium, and 75% of the world’s coltan. (www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=zrjHY-lD2kU)
The eagerness of foreign authorities to engage with the continent has raised fears and concerns among intellectuals, Pan Africans, and citizens that Africa is facing a new form of colonial annexation that is no less devastating in scale and impact than that which the continent suffered in the 19th century.
Many African youths have also raised similar concerns that the new scramble for Africa by foreign powers is not in the best interest of the continent and that the leaders of the continent might be repeating the mistakes of the past in shackling the continent to foreign countries in the form of colonisation in the 21st century.
However, of late, the relationship between former colonial masters and their former colonies has soured, leading to the expulsion and banishment of foreign militia by some leaders of these countries, as is the case in Burkina Faso and Mali. (https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/after-burkina-faso-ousts-french-russias-wagner-arrive-98424640)
Foreign relations in Africa
While the relationship between some previous imperial masters and their former colonies have worsened, other rival countries have taken advantage of the opportunity to increase their involvement in strengthening ties with the leaders of such countries.
The undeniable fact remains that Africa is becoming a diplomatic battleground, like the events of the 18th century, when large portions of the continent were enslaved by European invaders.
Some have called the eagerness of foreign powers to engage with the continent a possible re-enactment of the 1884 Berlin Conference in the 21st century, a conference that was held in Berlin, Germany, marking the partition of Africa among elite European governments.
This bitter and unforgettable archaic historical phase led to the exploitation, plunder, and looting of the natural resources of the continent. Many still remember this period of Africa when it was ruled by the European colonisers through the painful historic wounds left on the continent. https://ivypanda.com/essays/negative-effects-of-african%20colonization
France’s foreign policy in Africa
A few months ago, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, made a voyage of four African nations – a tour that, according to political pundits, was to strengthen the French foreign policies in Africa: peace, security, counter-terrorism, climate change, migration management, multilateralism, promotion of the culture and the French language, to strengthen France’s deteriorating relationship with its former colonies, and to counter the growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region. https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/africa/after-the-ouagadougou-speech/
Mr Macron, during his visit, was involved in a heated debate with the president of the DRC, President Tshisekedi, during a press conference on how Western countries feel and address their African counterparts.
President Tshisekedi stated: “[We] must change how we cooperate; the way France and Europe treat us. You must begin to respect us and see Africans in a different way. You have to stop treating us and talking to us in a particular tone. As if you are always absolutely right and we are not,” (https://nairobinews.nation.africa/watch-dr-congo-president-tshisekedi-frances-macron-openly-argue-at-a-press-conference)
Today, there is much hatred sprouting against France in its former colonies. The youth are rising against their leaders to cut all diplomatic ties with France. France has been accused of exploiting the resources of its former colonies. Within two years, the governments of more than three former French colonies have been overthrown by their military, and Niger has been the latest saga.
There is a common belief in the Sahel colonies that France has always had a hand in the funding of terrorist groups with weapons, which in turn fight the government and indiscriminately kill innocent people.
It is reported that from 2015 to 2020, Russian exports to sub-Saharan countries have grown by 85%, mainly from oil and agricultural products. In Senegal, for instance, Russia took France’s place as the biggest source of wheat, accounting for more than 50% of Senegal’s wheat importation in 2020. The historical power France used to enjoy in Sub-Saharan Africa’s commercial balance is being threatened by the sprouting presence of Russia, China, and Turkey. (https://african.business/2022/05/trade-investment/africa-france-a-time-of-disruption)
As we speak, France is currently facing the risk of losing its old colonies in the West African region to Russia, which is building strong bilateral ties with the one-time French colonies that recently overthrew their governments from office due to dissatisfaction with the leaders and their failures to deliver on the needs of the masses. (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/457323/why-france-faces-so-much-anger-in-west-africa)
America’s campaign for democracy in Africa
The United States government said that its foreign policy in Africa is to promote health security, economic growth, climate sustainability, peace, and stability.( www.state.gov/u-s-policy-toward-africa/)
A few years ago, the US State Department stated that “Africa is the continent of the future. Thus, we need to make the most of its potential. By 2050, its population will more than double to 2.2 billion people, with over 60 per cent under the age of 25.” (www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=zrjHY-lD2kU)
Back in August 2022, Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State for the United States, made an assertion during an official state visit to South Africa that “the United States will not dictate Africa’s choices, nor should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans and Africans alone.” (www.france24.com/en/africa/20220809-us-not-trying-to-outdo-other-world-powers-for-influence-in-africa-says-blinken)
However, this is contrary to what unfolded following the recent visit of the vice president of the United States government, who campaigned for the rights of the LGBTQ community in Africa, a practice that is at odds with the cultures, traditions, norms, and religions of most African nations. The Biden administration vows to take punitive actions against African countries that criminalise LGBTQ practices, just like the case with the Ugandan government. (www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/6/16/us-restricts-ugandan-officials-travel-in-wake-of-anti-lgbtq-law).
In March 2023, earlier this year, media outlets reported the end of America’s Vice President Kamala Harris’ official state visit to four African countries, where she made a campaign for the promotion of democracy and human rights; although America’s commitment and respect for the principles of democracy that it campaigns for domestically and internationally have faced heavy criticism over the years. Many scholars reason that the United States of America lacks the legal and moral onus to dictate democracy around the world.
In the speech of Kamala Harris, whilst advocating for the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Bill”, during a news conference with the Ghanaian President, Mr Akufo-Addo, she stated: “This is an issue that we consider [gay rights] and I consider, to be a human rights issue, and that will not change.” (www.nytimes.com/2023/03/27/world/africa/kamala-harris-visit.html).
In recent times, Western Leaders have received backlash from African leaders, reiterating that they do not want lectures on democracy from them, but instead, they need more economic partnerships, preferential trade agreements, and access to finance at fair rates.
China’s doubtful foreign policy in Africa
According to the Chinese government, they and Africa share similar historical experiences. They intend to help Africa gain national liberation and independence, pursue economic development, national rejuvenation, and common security, industrialise Africa, facilitate agricultural development in Africa, promote cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, and uphold international Equity and Justice. (http://english.scio.gov.cn/whitepapers/2021-11/26/content_77894768_4.htm)
China’s relationship with Africa is welcomed by many Africans with cool hearts on the basis that China has not taken part in the Berlin Conference, where African countries were divided among European imperialist states as their colonies.
From 2012 to date, since the construction of the African Union Headquarters by China in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Beijing’s relationship with countries on the continent has gained strong momentum. Today, when one travels across Africa, one can observe many top Chinese businessmen running major malls and supermarkets, and Chinese mega constructions billowing across the continent built through China’s “Belt and Road” programme. (www.nytimes.com/2023/03/27/world/africa/kamala-harris-visit.html)
Nonetheless, China’s foreign policy in Africa has come under substantial criticism from both Western powers and Pan-African groups, alleging that China is formulating tactical and mechanical methods to colonise Africa. They believe this to be through the giving of big loans and grants to the leaders of the continent in exchange for geopolitical support, selling its currency, and culture, and having uninterrupted and unfettered access to the natural resources of the continent.
Flashback. In 2018, there were allegations that the African Union Headquarters building was bugged by Chinese constructors during its construction, which culminated in the smuggling of significant amounts of confidential and critical information regarding the continent. The Chinese government has, however, through its ambassador to the African Union, Kuang Weilin, debunked these allegations and called them false and sinister allegations intended to deteriorate China’s newborn relationship with the African continent. (www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/30/china-african-union-headquarters-bugging-spying)
A more recent update on the China and Ghana governments’ bilateral relationship issued by the IMF states that China in the future will likely have access to Ghana’s mineral revenue and electricity revenue due to the Ghana government’s failure to reimburse its loan agreement.
This has caused sudden public attention and scrutiny of the government’s ties with China, all amidst an economic recession and inflation in the country. Presently in Ghana, the prices of basic commodities, i.e., water and food items, have skyrocketed, further intensifying anger and opposition by the people towards the government.
The story further indicated that at the end of 2022, collateralised loans of Ghana amounted to $619 million of the $1.9 billion loan pact Ghana has with the People’s Republic of China. The report highlighted that $619 million in loans was signed from 2007 to 2018, and they were collateralised with Ghana’s cocoa, bauxite, oil, and electricity revenue.
However, whether these are true developments or not, the fact of the matter is that the African youth are saying that the growing China influence and activities are sufficient to raise concerns over the long-term future implications on the continent. (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/person/International-Monetary-Fund-3679)
Conclusion: Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa guides leaders of the African continent
The worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, has constantly served as the voice of the voiceless and championed the absolute economic and political independence of the Third World countries, especially the African continent.
His Holiness has unequivocally made these speeches in Western parliaments and has also reiterated the same points to Western leaders during the annual peace symposiums of the Ahmadiyya Muslims Community held in the UK.
During the same event, Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa met with many African dignitaries, parliamentarians, journalists, civil society groups, and top political leaders of various African countries, guiding them in good policies, making for the prosperity of Africa and its people.
Huzooraa has always displayed sincere support, love, and a heartfelt desire for the total autonomy of Africa in all aspects. The fact that His Holiness lived in Ghana for the greater part of a decade, shows that he knows the real input of the African people and the challenging issues the continent is facing. Huzooraa stated:
“I have lived in Africa. I can testify that there are many supremely intelligent African people. When a well-educated African person goes to Europe, America, and other countries, the locals cannot help but be impressed by his intelligence. Thus, nature has not been unjust to anyone; rather, it is humans who do not utilise the capabilities bestowed upon them in a proper manner.” (www.reviewofreligions.org/2746/protecting-africas-freedoms/)
In 2013, during an event organised by the Pan-African Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of some African countries, he stated that Islamic teachings champion and advocate for the total emancipation and sovereignty of every nation and its people. Huzooraa beautifully illustrated:
“I would like to say that Islam places great emphasis on the independence of each nation and each people. Islam teaches that freeing others from servitude and oppression is a great form of piety that leads to huge rewards from Allah. In Chapter 90 of the Holy Quran, Allah has very clearly spoken of the need to free others from slavery, to fulfil the needs of the hungry, to help those in need, and to care for orphans.” “Africa’s True Independence”, The Review of Religions, www.reviewofreligions.org/10105/africas-true-independence/)
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa has further unearthed the injustices that have been going on, against most of the Third World countries by the powerful nations through the taking of their natural resources in an unjust manner. Huzooraa pointed out the fact that despite the superficial independence of some Third World countries, their former colonisers still continue to influence and decide for them on many of their internal issues.
“Remember, whilst at a superficial level the vast majority of countries are independent and have formed governments from amongst their own people, in reality, many developing nations, or those that are sometimes referred to as Third World countries, are still heavily influenced and pressured by the major powers of the world. The powerful nations take advantage of the weaker nations and dictate their own preferred policies, and so in this way, they have practically enslaved the developing countries. Sadly, the major powers take benefit and advantage of the natural resources of the poorer nations and do not give what is the due right of the weaker nations in return. Thus, clear exploitation of the developing countries and their people is taking place.” (www.reviewofreligions.org/10105/africas-true-independence/)
Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa, during a symposium in Canada, buttressed that the weaker nations are economically forced to be dependent on developed nations, which ultimately hinders their progress:
“Leading on from this, the same principle of fulfilling trusts and oaths is something that the major powers and international institutions such as the United Nations must always prioritise. Weaker nations are often forced to rely on the support of more powerful and richer countries, and so the latter should seek to fulfil the trust that those less economically developed nations place in them. They should try to sincerely help them stand upon their own two feet and realise that it is in the world’s interest for weaker nations to develop and prosper.” (www.reviewofreligions.org/12839/justice-in-an-unjust-world-2/)
Huzooraa in 2010, during another PAAMA meeting, warned leaders of the Third World countries to be watchful of the natural resources their countries are endowed with, lest foreign powers have their eyes on such precious resources and again take them under their control:
“Hence, to protect its freedom, whether it is an African or Asian country where only a short time has passed since its independence, there is a need for great effort, to be trustworthy, and to plan properly. So, if we are not careful, other governments that have their eyes on our resources will once again take us under their rule. It is not necessary to formally take over a country or its government to rule over it. By taking over a country’s resources, the country can be enslaved.
And this kind of slavery destroys the traditions of a country, and it destroys a nation’s identity and self-esteem. Therefore, although this celebration of fifty years of independence brings great happiness, it should also draw our attention towards deep reflection and concern.” (“Protecting Africa’s Freedoms”, www.alislam.org/articles/protecting-africas-freedoms/)
Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa also drew the attention of the leaders of the African continent to the fact that it is always the attribute of the most developed countries that they always keep their past histories in view and learn lessons from them:
“Thus today, the Day of Independence, is a celebration of freedom from colonialism.
“It is a sign of living and progressive nations that they always keep their past history in view and learn lessons from it. As a result, they are able to strengthen and prepare for their future. Good traditions and practices are maintained on strong foundations, and to avoid mistakes and errors, great planning and effort is undertaken.
“Thus, when I said that this Independence Day should infuse a new spirit in the country and its leaders, this is what I meant, because in order to continually progress and safeguard your independence, you must never repeat your past mistakes that granted the Western World the opportunity to bring African countries under their rule.” (Ibid.)
Huzooraa advised the Africans and their leaders that if they ought to lead the world, then they must incorporate their belief in God into their daily lives:
“When, a few years ago, I toured certain African countries, I also drew the attention of the Ahmadis over there towards making the firm conviction that ‘We will progress,’ Insha-Allah. I also reminded them that to achieve this aim, they must use every possible good means, and most importantly, they must recognise their Creator.
“Today, with reference to this gathering, I would like to say to African people that most certainly you have the qualities needed to lead the world. However, in everything you do, keep in mind that you have a Creator, Who is watching your every word and deed, and so you should never act in a manner that would be a means of making Him angry.” (Ibid.)
Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa in 2013 also reiterated the need for unity among Africans in order for the continent to prosper:
“Africa, with the Grace of Allah, has the ability to lead and guide the world. But you need to work hard and stay united to realise this potential so that instead of succumbing to enslavement, you are those who stand at the forefront of the world.” (www.reviewofreligions.org/10105/africas-true-independence/)
Huzooraa said that the requisite for Africa to lead the world in the new world order is that the people should make every effort to bring about an inner revolution in themselves:
“I truly believe that the time is fast approaching for Africa to lead the world! And in order to lead the world, it is necessary to bring about revolutionary changes within you. Every citizen and every leader must put aside their own thoughts and interests in order to strengthen, consolidate, and serve the national interest.” (www.reviewofreligions.org/2746/protecting-africas-freedoms/)