Wednesday, October 28, 2015 4:18 pm
By Osuolale Alalade.
The engaging national discourse on the elusive expansion of the Security Council has essentially focused on Nigeria’s right to occupy the African seat. At least three other African states, namely South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, and perhaps many more, are jostling for the symbolic representation of the continent on the Council. It is therefore no surprise that here in Nigeria very important voices have weighed in on the subject with mostly insightful interventions. In all cases across the continent, the unquestionable local consensus has been typically parochial and nationalistic as each state thinks of itself as the best qualified nation in Africa.
Across the board, what has been missing in the debate is the fundamental question of the utility or even desirability of a sop seat dedicated to Africa on the Security Council in meeting the historic challenges that faces Africa. Given the realities of Africa defined by its very unedifying antecedence, the troubling context of its historic and contemporaneous subjugations and the disconcerting state of contemporary Africa and that of black humanity as a whole, this consideration should be the most challenging imperative of the subject of a seat in the hallowed chambers of the most powerful states in the world.
My concern is that the hullabaloo around an African seat on the Security Council detracts from what ought to be our most urgent strategic engagements as Africans in our entrenched subservience. Africa should not be cast in the role of Meka in Ferdinard Oyono’s Old Man and the Medal. As the largest aggregation of black humanity on Earth, Nigeria should lead the charge in the revolutionary transformations required in the long duree to actualize a vision of truly emancipated black humanity. The solution to that is internal to Africa. The panacea to the historic tribulations of black humanity does not lie in New York or Washington or Paris or London or any other extra African capital for that matter.
The debate in Africa around the Council seat should probably be on evaluating the criticality of a Security Council seat and how it may help to advance the vision of holistic emancipation of the continent. In fact, the whole question of the hierarchy of salience of the multilateral institutions to which we Africans inscribe our states or are compelled to belong comes to the fore. The sad fact of Africa being a virtually subdued continent space since its first contact with globalizing forces is very germane. It has remained so since then because Africa has squandered historic opportunities to strengthen itself to face an external order that has constantly proven to be inimical and hostile to its wellbeing.
From this perspective, the existential challenge of Africa is to concretize the much vaunted rhetorical resolve of its full emancipation, instead of chasing shadows of occupying empty thrones that can only be symbolic. The African seat would be empty because the protocols underpinning games that serious elite states play would ensure that any African occupant of a permanent seat can only serve as a proxy with no real leverage for autonomous action in the charged environment of the chambers of the Security Council. The subject compels an excursive look back to where Africa is coming from.
Africa is in geo-physical terms the centre of the universe. It is the second-largest and second most populous continent on earth with an estimated population in 2013 of 1.033 billion people. It is the most endowed of all continents with the largest deposition of natural wealth on the surface of planet Earth. It is home to 54 recognized sovereign states and countries, 9 territories and 2 de facto independent states with very little recognition. The UN Population Fund stated in 2009 that the population of Africa had hit the one billion mark and had therefore doubled in size over the course of 27 years. As of 2015, the population estimates are around 1.166 billion. Africa thus groups together fifty six of the over one hundred and ninety-three entities that constitute a complex universe of hierarchically arranged state actors in the global order. But the underpinnings of the African state and its systems are mortally flawed.
Africa is a deeply divided continent. The 1963 reactionary rejection of a visionary initiative to repudiate a balkanized Africa instituted by European powers at the Berlin Conference in 1884 has proven to be a tragic antecedence at the core of the curse of the African state system. The infamous compromise leading to the establishment of a loose organization in the Organization of African Unity consolidated the designs of imperial powers to ring fence a divided Africa in the service of their respective imperial interests. The decision has since haunted Africa. The Casablanca bloc, led by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, advanced the cause of a federation of all African countries. Other members of the bloc included Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, Mali and Libya. Founded in 1961, its members were described as progressive states.
The Monrovia bloc, led by Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, felt that unity should be achieved gradually through economic cooperation. These men did not, now known to be at the instigation of their controllers in France and the United States, support the notion of an African federation. Other conservative states unenthusiastic about an African federation in 1963 were Nigeria, Liberia, and Ethiopia. The conservative bloc included most of the former French colonies. Since then Africa’s geo-political structure has not significantly been altered neither in response to the evolution of the global system nor in reaction to the glaring fact of the inadequacy of current configuration to advance Africa’s interests, especially honing it institutionally to enhance its own penetration and value extraction capacity. The African deleterious mindset is as firmly entrenched today as in 1963. All Africa got from the latest spirited attempt at continental integration of Late Colonel Muamar Gaddafi was the change nomenclature of the Organization of African Unity to an African Union. The headquarters housing the Union was paid for by the Chinese. Africa would not even pay the US dollar 200 Million bill to house itself.
As a result, the current configuration of the African geo-political space is characterized by a myriad of 56 ostensible sovereign states, quasi states and absolutely sheer unviable political spaces and non-entities. This has remained an immovable impediment to any meaningful projections of Africa’s interests. The reality is daunting. Only five African states, namely Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt , Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa each contains more than 5% of Africa’s population. The projected population of these states as at July, 2015 ranged from Nigeria’s 184,264,000, representing 16% of Africa’s population to South Africa’s 55 million people at 4.77% of the continent’s people. 43 per cent of Africa’s population is concentrated in these five states.
Twenty-six African states or 38 per cent have a population of less than 5 million. 26 per cent of African states have a population of less than 2 million. 30 or 54% of states and political entities in Africa hold just about or less than 1 per cent of the population of the continent. Nine states representing 16 per cent of states in Africa have a population of less than a million. On the average, when the five major most populous states are put aside, the average population of the African state is just about 12 million. By today’s standards and given the historical context of Africa in the scheme of global affairs, about 40% of African states are highly unable to extract some value in their own local environments and hopelessly out of reckoning in the global competition for extractive value.