While globalization became an unformidable phenomenon, why does the African continent remain disconnected and disengaged from the world? Most of what people know about Africa pertains to poverty, slavery, apartheid, famine, natural disasters, dictatorships, and civil war. Movies like The Woman King and Blood Diamond are set in Africa. The former tells the story of Agojie from the 17th century, female warriors of the Dahomey kingdom, who were the frontline warriors to protect the monarch and the territory. The second movie exhibits how most of the valuable diamonds are produced in Africa but are, in turn, sold to fund armed conflicts and civil wars. There is a lot of truth to these movies and many other movies of the kind but we do not hear much about Africa in the news or politics, especially revolving around something good.
During decolonization, a lot of people and scholars took an interest in African states to study the process and political movements. However, this did not translate into continued engagements or stable governance systems. As a result, most of the countries in the African continent were dotted with turmoil, instability, and hunger. This may have been a reason for countries across the globe to not engage with countries in Africa.
The apartheid in South Africa made a lot of headlines but there was not much done by other countries to materialize the global village that we exist in.
Countries in Africa are very distinct and unique from each other in terms of their culture, religion, and traditions. This assemblage of 54 countries in the second-largest continent offers a great consumer base to those countries wanting to increase exports and diversify trade relations. Besides the consumer market, the continent is largely rich in natural resources and has the potential to grow economically if the right industries are set.
Many countries in the North of Africa, like Egypt, Morocco, and Libya are associated with the Middle East. While continents are demarcated geographically and regions are outlined on a political basis, these Northern African countries are not commonly seen as part of Africa. Despite the distinct attributes of countries in Africa, they are either clubbed together or reduced to some eminent states like South Africa, Sudan, Gambia, and Sierra Leonne.
It is not to deny that hunger and poverty are prevalent in most states of Africa but this needs an acknowledgment that these countries have produced numerous Nobel Laureates, Anwar al Sadat, Desmond Tutu, Max Theiler, Albert Luthuli, and world leaders like Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, and Gamal Abdel Nasser. Africa is not only the cradle of humankind but also the originating place of many inventions including cardioid, lithium batteries, and CAT Scan.
Political instability may have marred the potential of countries in Africa but the liberal international world should offer a helping hand to these resource-rich countries to establish themselves.
With the inclusion of the African Union in the G20 group, these countries got some visibility and traction but it is yet to be seen if this permanent seat at G20 also confers political and economic representation to these countries. The world has shifted attention to Africa as compared to the past. The African continent has had gold reserves, cobalt, diamond, platinum, and now oil as well, however, locals could not benefit much from it. These natural resources could not ensure a sustainable future for the population of Africa because locals did not have ownership of these resources.
Most of what was found in Africa was siphoned off to other countries and Africa only got poorer as time went by. It is time to engage Africa on a bilateral and multilateral front on equal and justified terms. Not only resources but new technologies and industries should be set across countries so that Africa becomes a harmonious country with prosperity uniformly distributed across its land and mass.
The author is an Assistant Research Associate at Islamabad Policy Research Institute. She previously worked as a Young Development Fellow at the Ministry of Planning. She tweets @iqraa_siddique