Until recently, the United States of America have had the unique role of shepherding the world through deliberate policies and actions using the instrumentality of well established and organized global institutions like the United Nations and NATO, among others. Little wonder the US was referred to as the world’s policeman and global ‘big brother.’ Over many years, the world had come to depend on this visible concept and character of ‘American Leadership’, a position in most of world’s affairs where the US has made it possible for a united global agenda towards peace and stability in most parts of the world.
Today, ‘American Leadership’ is being called to question, first because of overwhelming assumptions that Russia had played significant roles in the emergence of the new leadership in the US represented by President Donald J. Trump. Evidences abound, although not conclusive, in ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in US election. This has led to multiple resignations of some top appointees of President Trump, many of who have resigned shamefully following some justifiable traces that had proven beyond doubt their smear in the alleged Russian interference in the US election.
Whereas this much talked about alleged Russian interference is an entirely US affair, it has become a matter of concern for most countries and states that had depended on America’s leadership of the world seeing the events of the recent past, which seem to promote, in some ways, Russia’s view of the new world, a world without NATO’s influence and a world in which the United Nations has little or no influence at all in domestic or regional affairs. This pattern of event is seen hidden within the assumptions of President Donald Trump that in his international dealings and relationship with other nations, the US will always come first, even against the time honoured tradition of deferring to allies in NATO. The ‘America First’ ideology that in the main demonstrates some measure of selfishness and egotism is in gross contradiction to the kind of role and responsibility that the US has imposed on itself over the years, by caring for the world’s most vulnerable and managing at huge cost, world peace.
Former president Barack Obama in his victory speech following his election as 44th President of the USA in 2008 had promised an era of renewed American Leadership. Ten years down the line, the American leadership of the world is gradually disappearing and now ushers in a much more chaotic and tension – soaked global stage. The increased role of Russia in global affairs, the subjugation of the opposition movement and near disappearance of the resistance effort in Syria and the recent threats that followed the refusal of some countries to welcome the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in spite of international condemnation and a vote against same by the UN, all add to an image of a world in need of leadership. The bilious rhetoric of President Trump toward Kim Jong Un of North Korea in one instance referring to Kim as the Rocket Man, add to the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
There is a shape that the world assumed in the post-colonial and post slave trade era, which guaranteed some measure of equal rights and freedom for the world’s most underprivileged and isolated population; a world where the voices of the minorities could be heard under the umbrella of the United Nations Organization, a world in which there was always a rallying point for peace, a world determined to avoid a nuclear war, to avoid a religious war and a world conscious of and careful enough to avoid a third world war. That world seems to have disappeared. The cry of war is now heard in the news media and the fear of a major global conflict has so increased in recent times far more than ever before in recent history.
In the face of this overwhelming global contraction of peace, the continent of Africa has remained largely isolated without any visible sign of a leadership. It seems as if Africa has lost her voice entirely in all global affairs. Years back, Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world and Africa’s largest economy by GDP, had maintained a foreign policy agenda that placed Africa as the centerpiece of her foreign policy. This doesn’t seem to hold sway any more as Nigeria has remained politically divided and economically challenged as to be able to provide continental leadership. As for South Africa, the country of the revered Mandela, the future seems more and more depressing as regards providing leadership for the rest of the continent. Kenya is bogged down by her internal contractions and growing poverty while Ghana, which remains democratically stable, lacks the voice to speak for the rest of the continent.
Just recently, the strong man of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was shamefully removed after nearly 40 years in power, the same way Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia was ousted in a ‘democratic coup d’état’ to pave way for a new president.
At a time when the locus of global leadership is difficult to see, when American Leadership has been reduced to a narrow agenda of nationalism, Africa needs to define its own leadership path and get a handle on its future. What really is the hope for an African leadership within and outside the continent? This question remains delicate seeing the migration crises and the slavery abuse of young Africans in the hands of Libyan militia. Following the death of Momma Gadhafi, the pressure of migration around the Atlantic coast has heightened. Every year, thousands of young Africans die in the Mediterranean Sea in their quest to cross over to Europe in search of a better life. The African continent does not seem capable enough to provide for her growing young population. This must change.
Africa’s image has been marred by decades of economic suppression and political corruption. Nigeria scores high in all global corruption rankings with much of her public office holders in court for various corruption related offences. As for Ethiopia, Liberia, Senegal, Cameroon and others, these countries are held down by different problems, from resource inadequacy and mismanagement to constitutional infractions at different levels, which make them unprepared to lead. The African Union is comatose with little or no regional relevance and absolutely lacking the nerves to pull any weight on the global stage.
With the evolving culture of global crisis, tensions and divisive rhetoric and the quest by Russia to assert itself on the global public space, coupled with the economic agenda of China which goal is to dominate the global economy, it is clear that power is gradually going back to the East and the US, which is the leader of the Western world, is unfazed. The Trump presidency is very clear about its determination to abandon the US’s traditional leadership role, giving room to an emerging new leadership of the world that is opposed to political freedom and economic rights. Africa must therefore embark on a deliberate mission of finding a new leadership for the continent.
There is need for an African coalition built around pertinent issues like migration, corruption, democracy, economic diversification, economic recovery and growth and human capital development. It is time now that Africans began to look at options of inclusive growth and collaborations toward a viable African economy that is inclusive and can provide for the prosperity of the young in Africa. We must work to have an open border policy for skill and talent exchange within the African continent and to develop an Afro-centric education system where children in Africa can drink from the same knowledge-base and interact effectively with a view to solving problems of Africa. Today, most of the school curriculums used in Africa are designed after the British and American systems and the best of students from Africa are forced by lack of learning facilities to migrate to developed countries and contribute to further develop these countries, while Africa continues to suffer shortage of qualified human capital in spite the abundance. This should change.
North African countries of Egypt, Morocco and Libya and others must begin to see their place in a one and united Africa. This is the only way Africa as a continent can live up to her true potentials and stem the tide of global domination by the Western and Eastern power blocks, especially under Trump’s new world disorder.
Victor Ikem is Director, Africa Focus Initiative (AFi), an Africa focused policy think-tank