Monday, February 11, 2019

Macron, Russia 2018 and renascent Africa

Macron, Russia 2018 and renascent Africa
July 11
16:38 2018

Unless you are living in denial or in dreamland, you must be fully aware by now that Africa, as a continent, has been sent packing from Russia 2018, a very sad reality indeed. The fact that not one African country survived the first round of the World Cup is a serious cause for concern and should, under normal or paranormal circumstances, be a major reason for the African Union to convoke an emergency meeting. Perhaps, the only Africans still participating in the World Cup are those in the French national side, Les Blues, a big conundrum indeed when juxtaposed with comments attributed to the youthful President, Emmanuel Macron, during his recent visit to Nigeria, nay to the New Afrika Shrine.

Responding to a question on how France plans to fight terrorism in Africa, Macron said and I quote: “The main plan is an African plan. And France is not the one to solve or fix African situations. We are still present in the African Sahel to fight against terrorism, especially in Mali and in the region and we will stay for as long as it is requested by our friends. What is important to me is how the African governments in different African countries organize themselves to fight against terrorism and get rid of these people, especially jihadists.”

Switching gears to the real issue, President Macron then called on African leaders to solve the economic problems in their countries, adding that it is one of the reasons people join terror groups. “That is why it is very important to build not just a security approach but a stabilization approach at the same time to provide new opportunities to these people,” he added. In a manner of speaking, Macron was saying the French colonial Principle of Assimilation is no longer sustainable in modern times. Africa must now fend for itself. And those Africans in the French team are at work, for goodness sake. They are earning their keep!

Macron’s brutally frank response came months after Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo literally told him off during his state visit to Ghana. A slightly similar question about how the French plan to help develop the Ghanaian economy and an obviously embarrassed Akufo-Addo stated without mincing words: “We have to get away from this mindset of dependency. This mindset about ‘what can France do for us?’ France will do whatever it wants to do for its own sake, and when those coincide with ours, ‘tantmieux’ [so much better] as the French people say…Our concern should be what do we need to do in this 21st century to move Africa away from being cap in hand and begging for aid, for charity, for handouts. The African continent when you look at its resources, should be giving money to other places…We need to have a mindset that says we can do it…and once we have that mindset we’ll see there’s a liberating factor for ourselves.”

Shortly after watching the Macron visit on TV and reflecting on his words and those of Akufo-Addo, I ran into an Egyptian in a store, who struck a conversation with me about the World Cup and lamented bitterly the treatment meted out to African teams. In short, he put the exit of Africa from the tournament down to a gang-up by the Europeans. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Try as I did to make him see how poorly prepared the African teams were and the fact that we didn’t have many top stars in our teams, he refused to listen. He even showed me his Coaching Identity Card to prove to me he knew what he was talking about. And such is our problem as a people. We refuse to face facts even facts face us!

Africa is said to be the cradle of civilization, and quite rightly so, but where has that taken us or left us? From being the first and the most we are now the last and the least! How came it? What other explanations can we give other than bad leadership, lack of planning, lack of vision, greed and corruption? And what can we do to reverse the trend before Africa goes under like our soccer?

There is no doubt about the abundance of human and natural resources across the African continent. By the same token, there is no doubt about the massive lack of visionary leadership in the continent. And there is no doubt that the issue of terrorism, war and poverty will continue to plague the continent, if nothing urgent is done. Look at Nigeria with a huge swath of youthful population and huge natural resources but lacking in almost everything! The saddest part is that other African countries look up to Nigeria to show the way but instead we show them the perfidious path which leads to nowhere good.

So, I want to recommend that perhaps Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism is the key to renascent Africa. This must be contradistinguished from the kind of One Africa which the late President Muammar Gaddafi was canvassing-where a strong man (he, for example) will rule Africa. No. I am talking about an Africa that is united and share common ideals and goals which would help it develop and compete with other continents. The reality is that whatever affects one country invariably affects the other especially contiguous neighbors.

The African Union should convoke a Conference which will feature political and business leaders from the continent and some of Africa’s best living in the diaspora to chart a new course for the continent. If the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has any sense of shame, it should be having emergency meetings now trying to decode what really went wrong and how to obviate the embarrassment in 2022. Strategic interventions in Grassroots Football, Domestic Leagues and Football academies are perhaps the fastest routes to changing the ugly narrative of Africa at Russia 2018. As for the bigger challenges of political instability and economic stagnation, the time to sit down and ask ourselves some hard and urgent questions is now. We have the men. We have women. We have the natural resources.

France will NOT solve our problem. Britain will not. The United States definitely will not-not with Donald Trump in the saddle. We’ve got to sort ourselves out and real quick or Africa will become a theatre of the absurd and, God forbid, a theatre of war and want.

Emeka Oparah writes from Lagos.


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