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It's time for Africa to reassert itself

By James Shikwati | September 11th 2015

The World is not flat; it is full of valleys and mountains! The ruggedness of the World is what spurred humanity to evolve tools, navigation skills that increased connectivity through culture, commerce and technology. Development cooperation is one of the tools we use in the not-so-flat world.

African agency in global affairs is on the rise. The old order where development cooperation entailed one side seeking to submerge and impose its values on another is under scrutiny. We need courage to create platforms that can enable individuals and countries to engage positively for each other's mutual benefit.

History reminds us that nations and organisations have in the past masked their commercial interests in soft terminologies such as missionary work to "civilise" others. Western countries used Foreign Aid to retain a foothold in distant former colonial outposts.

The current global Aid industry sustains a skewed global market system that disenfranchises regions rich in human capital and natural resources such as the case of Sub Saharan Africa.

The increasing influence of multiple global actors popularly referred as emerging economies is currently challenging the 500-year-old Western dominance in global affairs. This signals a need to review traditional models of development cooperation.

More discussion is needed to bring an end to the 'developed' versus 'developing' country mind-set.

In Africa, for example, we compellingly question why we should allow one part of the world to monopolise the power to name and describe the other as "hopeless", "emerging" and "rising."

The quest for mutual learning and joint solution discovery must be allowed to challenge the prevailing unilateralism in designing the global order. We must have the courage to end the framing of Africa as a powerless victim whose only salvation is offered by experts from other nations.

The award should catalyse discussions towards a speedy review of existing international systems to make them accountable to individual citizens and the family of nations.

I have always argued that the challenges facing Africa are not primarily due to lack of money; that we should not simply write cheques to the poor in a one-size-fits-all approach; that submerging nations' and people's creativity and their ability to be effective actors at the market place is not aid.

International agencies, nations, organisations and individuals must rededicate their energies to review development cooperation in order to uplift human dignity and not to diminish. We have to stop hiding in vagueness in international relations and employ precision, deliberations and progressive targeting.

Development cooperation should promote autonomous but interoperable in-country policy frameworks sensitive to peoples' aspirations for the future; encourage establishment of regional knowledge centres and allow participation of people from Africa and other less endowed regions to explore and nurture their own dreams.

Development cooperation should assist us to address human-induced challenges of insecurity, migration and under-development. It should enable us to evolve new approaches to manage the ever-receding nation-state sovereignty in so far as climate change and public health challenges are concerned.

I believe development cooperation should be measured not by the success of how much Africa consumes products from other parts of the globe, but by how much Africa contributes to knowledge, peace processes and value-added products to the global marketplace.

Development cooperation should offer us tools to navigate and manage multiple players and actors in the global game.

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