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Return of the interfering ex-boyfriend

Updated: 2014-08-15 09:22
By Paul Ntambara (China Daily Africa)

Return of the interfering ex-boyfriend

The media in Rwanda had a field day covering the Washington summit, picking up various story angles as they dissected the aftermath and what it means for Africa's development.

One of the key resolutions passed at the summit was for a $550 million initiative by the US to enable rapid response of African forces to armed conflict.

Under a program code-named A-Prep, the US will provide $110 million a year for three to five years to build the capacity of African militaries to swiftly respond to conflict.

The program will include training, equipment and institutional support and will operate in an initial group of six countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. Partner African countries will maintain forces and have equipment ready to use in times of crisis under United Nations or African Union missions.

Another key outcome of the summit was the pledge by President Barack Obama to increase power generation with a target of 30,000 megawatts with an initial $26 billion already mobilized.

Also, new private sector deals worth $14 billion were announced during the US-Africa business forum.

There were renewed investment commitments to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and financing the Doing Business in Africa Campaign in Africa with a further $17 billion earmarked for these two programs.

The New Times, Rwanda's leading English daily, in a story headed "US-Africa summit: How East Africa will benefit", described the US "as a returning ex-boyfriend, with renewed interest promising paradise.

"Choices have to be made, but who should Africa trust between China and the US? Is the US a new admirer or a returning ex-boyfriend with renewed interest who now wants his partner back?"

The New Times reported that Rwanda's President Paul Kagame had warmed to a prep initiative.

"We are a country shaped and informed by our own history, where peace and security was lacking and resulted in what happened 20 years ago. This is about enabling Africa to stand on its own two feet and deal with issues of development and growth," The paper quoted Kagame as saying.

He was quoted as having described the A-Prep initiative as an additional means to ensure Africans remain at the forefront of solving their challenges.

The same paper quoted political scientist Jean de la Croix Nkurayija, a senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda, as saying: "the US doesn't need to (place too many conditions) on how the money it gives is used apart from ensuring that it's not misallocated by the recipients."

He called on African countries to "negotiate strategically".

Energy inadequacies in Africa and especially in Rwanda make the plan by the US to fund energy projects mouth watering, The New Times reported. Rwanda produces slightly more than 100mW of electricity and aims to produce about 600mW by 2017.

On the sidelines of the summit, Obama met youth representatives from Africa. Igihe.com, a local news website, in an interview with Dr Venuste Karambizi, a political scientist and lecturer at Kigali Independent University, criticised a US plan that aims to train young African leaders in the US. The initiative had produced nothing, he said.

More than 500 individuals have undertaken the program in the last three years.

"The US is trying to make it appealing to African youth by training them in the US. This doesn't help the continent much. African youths have a lot to learn here (rather) than being ferried to the US. It is only through local initiatives that African problems will be solved; solutions won't come from the West."

A reader of The New Times, commenting on the Washington summit, said: "Free commerce among sovereign nations is what we Africans seek, not a new master to order us around and determine our destinies. We hope our American friends understand that."

China as a leading trade partner with Africa featured prominently in the Rwandan media coverage of the summit.

China's bilateral trade with Africa stood at $210 billion last year compared with the US' $85 billion with Africa in the same period.

"These two know what they want from us," said Gasamagera, chairman of Rwanda's Private Sector Federation, quoted in The New Times. "We should know what we want from them and how to get it.

"The Chinese are more flexible in their dealings, and their technology is closer to Africa, given its affordability, but on the other hand the US also provides a unique opportunity, especially from a cultural perspective. The language, English, connects us more (than does) Chinese, and these are factors that will shape the nature of the relationship that our countries have with either the US or China."

In an opinion piece in The New Times, Junior Sabena Mutabazi said: The United States must always consider three important factors when dealing with Africa Africans can no longer be told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This is especially relevant when it comes to internal political affairs.

"The current outlook dictates that Africa has a lot of partners to choose from, unlike in the past. Brazil, Russia, India, China and Europe are some of the strong competitors that America must outdo to gain our attention."

Rwanda Today, an English weekly, in an opinion piece by Frank Kagabo said African countries have to work closely together as blocs if they are to benefit from dealings with great powers such as the US. He cited joint infrastructure projects being undertaken by East African countries in partnership with China.

The author is a journalist at the New Times Publications, Rwanda

(China Daily Africa Weekly 08/15/2014 page9)

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