IT’S BEEN weeks since the political intrigues at the foremost African Development Bank made front-page in Africa’s political and economic discourse. The theme of the discourse has been on the call by the United States Government for more investigation into the activities of the bank’s President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, as regards the day to day running of the financial institution, even after the bank’s board of directors have exonerated him from the allegation of corruption, abuse and breach of the bank’s code of ethics after much investigation.
The United States Government, through her Secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, called for a private investigation into the allegations made by whistle blowers against the AfDB President. Mr Mnuchin wrote: “We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process. Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.”
Had it not been for the early intervention of past African leaders like former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who wrote to the African Union and drummed support for the embattled AfDB President, maybe the elite developmental bank, which has been in existence since 1964, together with her management and member countries , might be in disarray, therefore defeating her aims and objectives.
AfDB, a financial institution, which is a brain-child of the African Union for African nations to help tackle poverty, improve living conditions and promoting public and private investment through the provision of loans. It also provides social and economic development to the member states.
With a shift in the paradigm of colonisation in the global political and economic relations and like a child who has suckled her mother’s breast, never wanting to let go, the developed world devised means to always hold the new independent nations to a halt and in a state of impoverishment. This policy, defined by Kwame Nkurmah to be neocolonialism has become the ‘normal’ political and economic relations for about four to five decades now. Today, African resources and markets are not acquired by these first world government and their agents through the use of coercion or force, rather through subtle and soft power strategies.
At the death and the eventual collapse of colonisation, the western economy and government, still perceived Africa as a market for their resources, cheap labour and also, a market for their finished goods. As the scramble for the African market continued to grow, the first world governments have been at logger head to gain monopoly in various African nations.
At first, a developmental model was set by these governments through their controlled agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), then the dictation for African government to adopt the theory of communism or capitalism (liberalisation) in her economic development plan and the adoption of democracy in the political scene.
To get hold of various African nation’s political development, the first world countries like the United States, France, United kingdom and China, have continued to dominate the African market and holding the government to ransom; for he who pays the Piper, dictates the tune. The rancour that have bedeviled the prestigious African Development Bank (AfDB) over the past few months is a continuous signal beeping steadily on the African shores and hinterlands on the negative effect of this new form of colonialism that African governments have turned a blind eye to as the rest of the world exhibit a lackadaisical attitude towards this political-economic situation.
To an outsider, the United States Government’s call for investigation of Adesina is a good course in our fight to eradicate corruption from our system. But, it is worthy to note that such clamour is not oblivious of both political and economic undertone. These political influences would not have been possible if African States were to a large extent capital sufficient and economically stable. In a developmental bank that is Pan-African, in her majority stakes, nine out of the top 20 are non-African and are exclusively from the developed world. What is their role, if not to exert influence, maximise opportunities and to protect their interest?
Over the past decade, the first world countries have continued to set up military camps in various African nations, thereby endangering the sovereignty of these nations as enacted in the international Law. Both the Chinese and United States Government have built military base in Djibouti ( for the Chinese, this is the first overseas military base) and sometimes, engage in their own security businesses without the authority of the host country. While the first world countries have continued to donate billions of dollars in security alliance to their local partners, the insecurities in these countries have worsened. Since 2010, the United States Government has established over 25 ‘enduring’ and ‘non-enduring’ military camps in Djibouti, Kenya, Chad, Niger; yet militant Islamic activities have increased from five to roughly 25 active militant Islamic groups which include Boko Haram, ISWAP ( according to the Defense Department’s for Africa Center for Strategic Study). It is on record that the developed world has continued to instigate political tensions in nation-states that their economic interest is being compromised by the government policies. The Libyan Government under Lieutenant Col. Mummar Gaddefi was christened autocratic, which had no respect for the human life by the first world for refusal to sell oil to their government and for his pan-African activism. Gaddefi was eventually ousted from power and killed. Libya has remained in crisis ever since.
Under Gaddefi’s regime, Libyans enjoyed what citizens of the first world only dreamt, ranging from free education to housing and other social-net schemes. Today, Libya is the hub of modern day slavery. Also, the African political space is not new to such international conspiracy especially when it comes to a regime that hinges her ideology in an internally driven economic development. The regime of Thomas Sankara had altered the dependency paradigm of economic development in Burkina Faso from the West. In other to maintain the status quo, the western government conspired and Sankara dreams of a better Burkina Faso were killed.
The developed world has continued to hinder Africa’s development through any means they see fit. Recently, the French government through her de-facto government in Coté de Ivorie hijacked the proposed uniformed currency (termed ECO) by the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Had the currency come into full operation in the financial market, it would have bolstered economic development and relations among member states. It is pertinent to note that the French Government has continued to call the shot in her African former colonies. These former colonies which include Benin Republic, Togo, Chad, Burkina Faso, etc. pay colonial tax to the the French Government. Yearly, these African States contribute about $500 billion to France treasury and are obliged to France an annual budget and reserve reports. France controls 85% of the national reserves of 14 African countries. They are all forced to pay colonial tax to France. The 14 countries are obliged to put 50% of their foreign exchange reserves at the Bank of France, and can only use 15% yearly, or rightly put, they pay to use their own money.
Although not a colonial power, the Chinese Government is a major player in the world politics and with the hunger to dominate and dictate the tune of the political scenery. Since the turnaround of events in her political and economic landscape in the 1970’s, the Chinese Government’s economic relations especially with African States have continued to grow in leaps and bounds. Unlike her Western counterparts and with the fierce nature of the competition for African market, the Chinese Government is not bothered by the form of government and economic models in place. To a large extent, with cheap labour and goods (when compared to the same services offered by the Western world) the Chinese have penetrated Africa and become a major player in the scheme of events.
With the use of her soft power (which includes the grant of loans for African countries) to uphold her economic strategy of ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ under the President Xin Jinpeng-led regime, which is based squarely on access to strategic natural and physical assets worldwide, whether such assets are commodities (i.e. oil deposits, etc.), infrastructure to access to such assets (i.e. pipelines, etc.), and more critically, poor infrastructure ( Kuo Mercy, 2019).
African States are resource-rich but with poor capital for investment and development have resulted to acquire loans from the developed world, signing up for deals that are detrimental to her growth. In the 2018 Sino-African cooperation forum, the Chinese Government announced providing $60 billion financial support to Africa. Today, Chinese Government fund and execute capital intensive projects in various African States, like railways, airports, seaports and power projects. With this, African governments have signed up for loans or aids that are in constant debt-servicing, thereby mortgaging her future.
In the horn of Africa, Djibouti’s port of Daloreh have been in litigation for a while now, as the government of Djibouti have been maneuvered by the Chinese Government led Merchant Port Holdings to alter a trade agreement with DP World and handover the management of the port to the Chinese giant. The port sits strategically between the Red Sea (think of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea) and the Gulf of Aden (think of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean). For commercial purposes, its port cannot be any more strategically situated, along major trading routes to Europe, Africa, and Asia. And, competitively, it can be developed to an international transport hub bypassing the ports of Middle East altogether and any undue demands or less of a motivation to cooperate by oil rich countries (Kuo Mercy, 2019).
In Nigeria, the bilateral relationship with China has continued to grow since the Abacha led government was forced to lean towards the East for financial aid after being bound by the Western government for the abuse of human rights. Over the past two decades, the Nigerian State has acquired more loans from China than from any of her contemporaries in the Western world. In return, the Chinese Government and firms have made a continuous progress into the Nigeria’s economic system. Today, Chinese firms are in firm control of most infrastructural projects, ranging from roads, railways, airport terminals, financial technologies and power projects
The result of these unequal bilateral relationships between African states and the developed world do not just end with their influence of government policies; rather it extends to the death of local manufacturers and firms who cannot match the financial powers of these multinational corporations (MNCs). Most of the MNCs evade taxes and their activities often lead to environmental degradation, yet, they are not brought to book as African governments are afraid of losing the financial aids and rewards that come from these corporations.
To tackle this cancerous economic policy of the developed countries, African governments must dutifully put to a stop, her over-dependency on the first world, ranging from loans and aids to policies that cannot be replicated. There is need for African countries to build strong institutions, for strong institutions are prerequisites for an upward curve in economic development. Emphasis should be laid more on human capital development rather than just infrastructures. An intentional act of provision of grants for researches by both government and individuals should be encouraged. Various African governments should endeavour to provide a level playing ground for local businesses and investors. Also small and medium enterprises should be encouraged with the provision of easily accessible loans, security and power supply for them to thrive as they play a major role in the development of any nation.
Just like the world wars of the 20th century exposed that the western world were not infallible and they could be defeated, the coronavirus pandemic has also not just dealt a blow to every nation but economies too. It has also exposed that no nation could be self-sufficient but it has also shown that the best form of economic development is one that is intrinsically driven. African governments should be intentional in the development of her economies and her resources for only then will they be truly free from this economic and political dominance of the first world.