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So there’s a Minister for Africa in the UK, so what?

Perhaps the West does not realise how they insult us when they always carry on about Africa this and Africa that, as if this massive, diversified continent is one big political entity.

Do the Brits have a minister for Asia or North America or South America or even one for Aussie Land? I doubt it very much. Do not think they are alone in this, Germany also sports a so-called Minister for Africa.

Africa is a continent, nuckleheads, and a massive one with many independent countries, at least 54 but depending on your definition of the disputed territories, it may be 56. This fact, the obvious dispute over the exact number of jurisdictions, is used by many African critics to tell us just how backward we are, we do not even know our own territories. To them I have only one question: are Israel and Palestine one country or two?

To the rest of the ignoramusi, imagine what an insult it would be to the ever-so-sensitive Yanks if the UK had a Minister for North America. I mean, Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica are just as much basket cases as the worst African countries, and technically they are part of the North American continent. So why not throw them all together in the same rotten basket and appoint one official to oversee relations with them all, including the mighty USA. That will cause a stink or two.

What about a UK Minister for Asia. What will such an office do? Deal with China and forget the rest, or lump the entire Asia from Turkey to Kamchatka together and tell all of them “when you want to talk to the UK Government, you talk to the Minister for Asia first.”

I have explained ad nauseam to foreigners, both investors and visitors, that Africa is so vast, so stratified and so complex, that it does not help any African the slightest bit to filter us all through the same screen.

We are busy with very noble efforts to try and create a veneer of One Africa One Nation, but this is absolute nonsense. It does not exist in reality, it is a construct of the generally misinformed and misguided American and European liberals. In Africa itself, it is viewed with a mixture of amusement and perplexity.

Now, one Rory Stewart makes such completely meaningless, empty statements like “Africa is an extraordinary continent with so much potential: An incredible number of young people, some of the most stunning landscapes in the world and extraordinary new businesses.”

Which Africa does he refer to? Is it Mugabe’s palace in Harare while the rest of his underlying are grovelling in the dirt? Or does he refer to the sprawling shanty towns which some of our neighbours call capital cities?

And what landscapes are so uniquely African that they portray the continent as a whole? There are none. African landscapes are country, or at least region specific. He can rather go and insult the people of South America if he so chooses. What typifies that continent? Is it the Amazon or the Pampas? I am sure he’ll poke his fingers up the hooters of both the Brazilians and the Argentinians when he makes such silly statements about a continent that is just as diversified and complex as Africa.

Africa falls naturally into four distinct regions, North, West, East and South. The independent jurisdictions in each of these regions have for decades tried to forge closer ties, not with much success. If it is so difficult to create some hegemony between countries that are naturally linked, how impossible is it to make an Africa that conforms to the notion of one, unified homogenous sovereign entity.

Namibia really has no dealings or common ground with Algeria or Libya. Even Kenya and Egypt that are relatively close on the continent, have absolutely nothing in common.

If the UK or the German Government wants dealings with African countries, let them take up diplomatic relations like they would with any other sovereign jurisdiction and deal with us, individually through the normal, accepted diplomatic and trade channels.

If they want to deal with the African Union, fine, but then they must realise they are dealing with a representative body whose agenda is developmental and not political. There is no African government to represent the whole continent, and there will not be one for a very very long time.

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The newspaper started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. His editorial focus is on economic analysis based on budget analysis, disecting strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored scores of journalism students as interns and as young professional journalists. He often assists economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to [email protected]