In the last month of 2022, The United States hosted the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The goal of this summit was to expand relations between the U.S. and the continent of Africa.
Well, really, it’s because China is kicking ass in diplomatic, economic, and virtually every other major area in Africa’s ascension, and the U.S. is woefully underprepared for a world where the world’s largest resources center and the world’s largest manufacturer get along — and the world’s most powerful nation isn’t invited to the cookout.
If you’ve been alive for, let’s say, the past 500 years, you’ve probably noticed a bit of a rift between Africans and “westerners.”
Africa, for the modern era, has been the symbol of European colonialist legacy, systematic oppression, and virtually every other atrocity human beings can commit against other human beings.
However, in recent decades, and building from the first liberated African nation Ghana in 1957, Africa has emerged as an economic hotspot. It’s full of potential and opportunities for the future development of global trade. Africa is on the rise.
In tandem with that, Africans are much more vocal on a global stage about Europe’s colonial legacy, the political and economic interference from the U.S., and purposeful partnerships with China. Africans across the continent are also demanding the respect and dignity so long denied to them by global powers.
So here’s the rub…the U.S. needs Africa.
Crazy, right? Because the United States is the bastion of racism and white supremacy. How is this ever going to work?
The only thing the United States has going for it in these negotiations is that the U.S. is still the best global trading partner. But as the rise of the digital age has taught us, number-one spots can be knocked off much more easily than in the past, and with the globalization of nations, equity in exchange has become the new currency of diplomacy. America is lacking.
So, there is a protocol for these things, and it exists in two parts. The first is the typical nation-to-nation communication — standard “talks” we see highlighted on C-SPAN (mostly when it’s a European nation, of course). Then there are the people-to-nation relationships, and that’s where we get to unpack that Africans are pretty fed up with this mess.
Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has been on a world tour of diplomatic middle fingers to the West, and honestly, it’s been a joy to watch.
One of, if not his first public acknowledgment of the shift in the African paradigm, happened in Switzerland in 2020. He eloquently and politely told the Swiss they will no longer be getting Ghanaian cocoa raw, so that they may process it themselves and create the world-famous Swiss chocolate.
With the Year of Return and the subsequent tourism that followed, Akufo-Addo has shifted his focus to speaking directly with the Diaspora about coming home. He is addressing the stereotypes and internal feuds the global African family has endured and wiping that slate clean, inviting all descendants of Africans to return to the motherland.
The shocker is, he’s not asking for anything but that the skills acquired in these foreign lands be applied to our collective homeland. And, honestly, he’s right.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit brings to light the obvious but often ignored fact about U.S. society — the same fact that has been churning in the social media spaces, family gatherings, and pop culture references since the killing of George Floyd:
America Don’t Like Black People. And now the world REALLY knows it.
Africans saw it. The problem is, it’s very obvious which type of person, excuse me, nation the U.S. wants to be an ally for. Ukraine comes to mind. Russian invasion, war crimes, it’s horrible.
But when the Central African Republic is brought up, a nation where Russian mercenaries are committing heinous acts of violence, not even a mention in the State Department briefs, mainstream international news, nada. But Russia is the lead supplier of military equipment to the continent of Africa, so one might think that it would be prudent to take that supply chain, but I digress.
According to former African Union representative to the U.S., Arikana Chihombori-Quao, this whole summit was a sham to clumsily try and make up for decades of neglect.
In an interview prior to the summit on Al-Jazeera’s Bottom Line, she spoke candidly with host Steve Clemmons about the summit and relations between the U.S. and Africa.
“The U.S. needs to call a timeout and treat Africans with respect,” Chihombori-Quao said, adding that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit would “fail unless Americans see Africans as equals.”
She also spoke about the visible shortcomings of the U.S. in its attempts to host this summit.
“Engaging Africa at this time, it’s a new game, calling for new rules of engagement,” Chihombori-Quao said. What’s “behind the failure of effective engagement of Africa is the disrespect of Africans. That’s where the problem begins.”
She continued, “Let’s look at this summit. There was no defined agenda. There has never been defined agendas whenever they meet with African nations. It’s always the U.S. setting the agenda, the U.S. setting the policies, and the U.S. telling the African about the policies. That is no way to have any meaningful engagement.”
Chihombori-Quao compared it to meetings held between China and the African heads of state.
She said in those meetings, the issues are clearly defined, the heads of state are involved in planning, and the outcomes and follow-up are clear.
“The U.S. must understand that Africans are not going to take it anymore,” Chihombori-Quao said. “If you don’t treat the Africans fairly, the U.S. is going to see itself slowly losing ground to China, Russia, and all other nations.
So, why should Black people care?
That’s pretty simple to me, but I’ll lay it out. That oppressive state that we all live in — that we spent the last three years online sharing and posting about the things we’ve known to be the yolk on our neck… it’s trying to go back across the Atlantic. And the nations across the ocean are asking you, Black people, to beat them to it.
Africa will negotiate with the U.S., and now that the U.S. is at least quasi-interested in increased connection, you need to hurry.
You see, this is something you shouldn’t predict will turn out well, but it can be mitigated with Black American engagement.
Right now, we, as a collective, have some leverage. Black America — the largest spending group, the foundational cultural community, and the driving force in social media — can pick up right now and leave, and have a home to go to. It’s legit and eager to have you.
But your landlord is scoping your new property and has the money, power, and resources to claim it all, and sell it to you for the low price of a safari or Airbnb.
My prediction is that some of us will be engaged with Africa, and some of us won’t. Yes, very middle ground, but those that see the potential will always be able to seize the moment.
The summit is over, but the future is just beginning, and it’s ours for the taking. For business owners, non-profits, and skill-having Black people, I would urge you to find the embassies of African nations in your city, or, hopefully, an African chamber of commerce. Offer up your skills, or your business as a franchise or investment opportunity in an African nation — anything will do.
Claim that which was taken from your ancestors, and don’t look back. My only advice is to listen to the people. Respect the land, the culture, the history, and the heritage. DO NOT be an American during this journey. Be an African who wants to go home. Read up, research, and realize this is real.
Patrick Washington is the second-generation CEO and publisher of The Dallas Weekly, which has been serving the Black community of the 4th largest metroplex in the nation since 1954.