As more than a dozen African leaders congregate in London this week, for an investment summit that the British Government has dubbed; the United Kingdom-Africa Investment Summit, the focus is said to be on “trade not aid”; away from the previous European Union (EU) donor relations with Africa. It comes on the back of another global conference, this one held in Davos, Switzerland, of a meeting of one hundred billionaires talking about the effect of the climate change on the global livelihood.
Considering the second idea, first: it indicates that those few rich people have more money than 4.6 billion people of the world. This represents 60 percent of the population, with most of this population in Africa. And most likely, a few of those billionaires, not represented in Davos, are some of the African leaders that are attending the London meet.
A recent case reporting of one such African billionaire, is of Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of former Angolan president, Eduardo dos Santos, shows that the money has been got from corrupt practices riding at the expense of their own people in those countries. And these are some of the people at the London investment assembly.
The British Government has sought to define this as a conference that is a win-win situation, as they gear to leave the EU; and that it is laying out 500 billion dollars for this venture. It is dubbed, not merely as a government-to-government dealing, but a government-to-people dealing, too; and a business-to-business one tying the people in Africa with investment opportunities in England.
One indication the British Government is pointing out to is the involvement of its Overseas Development Aid (ODI) in western Kenya. In Kagola village in Kisumu, it has premiered a sorghum business with the villagers, to grow sorghum. Instead of giving out money, it has provided machinery and the infrastructure for the venture, up to processing the sorghum for delivery to the breweries for making beer. It is only after all the process has been finalized that the villagers benefit from the proceeds.
The aim here is to draw away the investment from the hands of the grasping politicians at the top of governments, where the proceeds only end up in their corrupt hands. According to the UK Minister for Africa, Andrew Stevenson, this kind of involvement, opens the opportunities for ODI to provide real goods and services to the people.
The idea is that the issue is to address the opportunities for Africa’s growing young population for employment and solve the poverty cycle. Yet, in the same vein, Stevenson says the UK-Africa Summit will see the signing of eleven trade agreement with the African governments. The people who are putting their signatures to those papers are the leaders, who are more in tune with the Davos billionaires than the poverty-stricken Africans on the continent.
It is yet to be seen as to how the Kagola-Kisumu experiment is going to operate. If it patterns other funding that have been done before, then it may not produce the results the British-African governments hope for. In the picture, for instance, is what took place in Uganda with the Northern Uganda Action Social Fund (NUSAF). This showed an example of the leaders at the top of the ministries following the money to the people who were supposed to benefit directly.
In this instance, the corrupt politicians at the top would place their proxies at the control of the mechanisms where the money and investments were channeled to in the so-called beneficiaries in the districts. Then the proceeds would be retrieved back to the corrupt few, thus defeating the purpose of the donor money. A case noted is of one of the proxies in one of the districts who, out the NUSAF proceeds, built himself a palatial house, complete with a swimming pool, in the district!
If Stevenson will direct the 500 billion dollars away from being a donation, than as a business venture, then, the issue of the businesses, have to be fleshed out, even before the money is accessed so that the ventures have their direct beneficiaries.
In looking to re-direct their trade interests away from the EU, Britain is now looking to both the US and Africa to benefit its people. African leaders have to be aware that this is not a charity; and that they should take cognizance of what the US-China trade relations have been of late. In these, US President Donald Trump, has sought to squeeze the Chinese in their unequal relations with American businesses. This should be a good lesson the African leaders should take while signing the agreements with the UK.