Sunday, July 20, 2014

Can We Have United States of Africa?

The journalist and black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey wrote a poem about it. The reggae great Bob Marley sang about it. And the Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi poured his oil wealth into it. But none lived to see a United States of Africa.
This history of disappointed hopes will provide the backdrop in early August when President Barack Obama hosts the inaugural U.S.-Africa summit in Washington. Only a few of Africa's 54 leaders—including Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who is still the target of U.S. sanctions—haven't been invited.
The U.S. wants to discuss continent-wide issues, such as security and terrorism, and to promote regional initiatives, such as shared electricity. To stress the breadth of the meeting's aims, Mr. Obama plans to meet with the African heads of state as a group, not individually—a move that has ruffled some diplomatic feathers.

Africa Unite!

From Marcus Garvey to Bob Marley, see leading figures who championed a United States of Africa.
The vision of an impoverished continent of countries coming together as one, flexing its muscle in geopolitics and the global economy, has long enticed activists, poets and politicians. But today's Africa remains divided, largely along hastily drawn colonial-era borders. The question now is whether the still-remote idea of political unity can find new life in the more modest goal of an integrated economic community.
The obstacles are formidable. Congolese women who trade eggs can't cross borders without giving away part of their load to officials and facing threats of sexual assault, according to a 2012 World Bank report; South Africa has feuded with Nigeria and Kenya over visa rules for their citizens; and a territorial row between Malawi and Tanzania over a lake separating them has hampered oil exploration.
"They hold hands, kiss each other—sometimes even shed tears," says one senior bank official who has attended pan-Africa summits in which leaders rhapsodize about fused economic futures. "Monday morning, there's nothing. It's all forgotten."
Some Africa experts warn that the Obama administration's effort to deal with the continent as a whole may be counterproductive, both diplomatically and strategically. "It's uniquely American. It's different. It's also high-risk," says Stephen Hayes, president of the Corporate Council on Africa, a Washington, D.C., trade organization.
The U.S. plays down such concerns. Mr. Obama will set aside "lots of time for the leaders during the summit," Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said earlier this month, adding that protocol and security would be handled in a way that shows "respect for African leaders."
The more substantive question is whether this is the best approach for promoting U.S. interests on the continent. Several U.S. competitors have focused more on the immediate needs of individual African states than on the long-term possibilities of a united continent.
Read full story on wsj

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