Why Europe and America are not fascinated at encouraging great cities in Africa?

By Mutabazi Sam Stewart

Europe and America are not responsible for developing Africa but neither should they render themselves as partners of the continent when they are not in reality. Majority of cities in Africa remain in unprivileged position characterized by crumbling infrastructure, filthy slums, flooded streets, poor road network unplanned neighborhoods,  to mention but a few. Though some cities such as Nairobi, Dar-es-salaam, Johannesburg etc, are massively investing in modern infrastructure, they have a long way to go in contemplation of catching up with European cities. America Europe has been partly to blame for the underperformance of African cities in more ways than one.

Europeans and Americans are continuously hovering over Africa from end to end via neocolonialism using programmes that are not of worthy intentions. America is engrossed in building democracy and promoting human rights and god governance in Africa. Healthier as this may sound it’s not in the best interest of the continent. The continent needs well intentioned interventions that will pull it out of the quicksand it is in and refocus it on the right path to development. Africa’s future is in her cities. Systematized and prosperous cities will solve most of Africa’s problems. Americans have faith that with democratic governance, Africa will have a durable foundation from which it can base its development agenda.

America’s method to helping Africa has consequently been limited to building capacity first such that the continent can take charge of its affairs better. But this is not yielding results as expected. America has intentionally negated to promote its commerce with Africa. Even where there is some trade happening, it’s extremely disproportionate in favor of the U.S.  It is therefore not astonishing that the trade between the U.S and Africa in terms of goods and services has remained infinitesimal. The country in Africa that trades the most with USA is Nigeria.  Recent data indicates that the trade between the two countries reared at only $24 Billion making Nigeria the 31st largest trading partner in the world.   Canada is USA’s largest trading partner with goods and service over $600 Billion per year. This is almost a quarter of Africa’s total GDP. Uganda is the 149th largest trading partner of Unites States with a mere $185 Million tradeable goods between the two countries. There are several African countries (Burundi, Central African Republic etc.) whose net exports to USA are almost zero.

Where Africa is making some progress in promoting democracy, transparency and governance, the rate at which it is doing so is dawdling and will necessitate many years for the continent to hook up with the rest of the world. Africa has seen nonviolent change of government and rule of law take shape for instance in Ghana and Kenya. Yet may other countries continue to be fragile, still not to the levels of 1980s and 70s when coup-d’états were the order of the day. Peter Pharm, in his article titled “U.S national interests and Africa’s strategic significance” calls Africa the “step child of U.S foreign policy” largely ignored and written off for the reason that it is more of a source of trouble and has “very little significance” to America’s strategic interests.

Some dependable analysts have written that it’s problematic for America to ignore Africa, a continent of 1.4 Billion people. True as this may be, we could hasten to add that without a doubt America may never ignore Africa, but it may never give it the attention  it deserves, like it has been doing all these years. It’s true that America cannot entirely ignore Africa, but it could claim to be supporting the continent when in actual sense it is only providing lip-service.

The thought-provoking moment is that while Britain and America are not investing satisfactorily in Africa, China, Russia, India and Turkey have found new love in the continent.  They are extending their echelons of influence without many directives and conditionality on African governments.   

On his visit to selected African countries in August 2022, U.S Secretary of State Anthony Blinken carried a message that “America will not dictate” the choices Africa makes” and added that no other country should. He said Africa needs to find her right footing according to its own interests. Oglers noted that the drive of Blinken’s visit was to counter the influence of Russia on the continent and salvage America’s influence.

The Washington Post recently reported that in the next 80 years, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth.  All other continents will have either stagnant or declining populations. The publication further forecasts that 13 of 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa.  This is pretty illuminating. Though the cities in Africa will be this huge, they will not be methodical and fecund. Africa’s cities may continue to expand in terms of population scope but not efficiency. America and Europe know this detail. They are also awake that functional cities are a prerequisite for evocative development. 

So why are they not focusing on this if they want to help Africa escape poverty? They cannot do this because in that lies the secret. America and Britain cannot rationalize coherent urbanization in Africa because, by so doing they will have assisted the continent to attain development faster and more efficiently. They are aware that as long as Africa continues to urbanize purposelessly, the continent shall never realize sustainable development. Until African leaders diagnose and comprehend this “secret” the West and America shall keep frolicking their games pretending to help Africa when in definitive logic they are “burying the continent.” The future of Africa is in her cities and not any other cities but organized and productive cities.

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