Finding Africa's voice - in Israel

Israel is officially inviting Africa to have a say in the Middle East peace process and that is not a small thing.

Andi Pacurar

OpEds Andi PACURAR
Andi PACURAR
PR

At the launching ceremony of the African Union (AU) in 2002, then president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki said: "The time has come that Africa must take its rightful place in global affairs."

Fifteen years later, Africa’s voice in global affairs is quieter than ever. Drowned by shallow oil prices, stalled by weaker demand for commodities and fraught with election fraud, Africa is too head over heels in its own problems to have the liberty to think of following up on Mbeki’s dream.


Drowned by shallow oil prices, stalled by weaker demand for commodities and fraught with election fraud, Africa is too head over heels in its own problems to have the liberty to think of following up on Mbeki’s dream. And then comes Israel.
And then comes Israel: represented by Prime Minister Netanyahu, in 2016, Israel pays a visit to four African countries. Between unveiling commemorative plaques and reviewing business prospects on the continent, a rather bewildered Israel is being lectured - not without cause or vision, as I have shown in another article [see ‘Museveni’s Palestine blunder that wasn’t’ at/Articles/Article.aspx/19230] - on Middle Eastern politics and, lo and behold, the African speaker head of state, invites himself in on the game.

Upped in its own play in Africa, Israel stays quiet publicly on the matter for well over a month - until last Friday.

Sketching in broad but firm strokes Israel’s policy in Africa - do read his words here http://mg.co.za/article/2016-08-23-00-africa-and-israels-roots-are-long-standing-and-ought-to-bear-fruit-for-both - Arthur Lenk, the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, makes the following remark:

A "mutual benefit [between Israel and Africa] would be enabling an African voice to be heard in seeking opportunities for peacemaking in the Middle East.".

So, Israel did hear - and responded. And what a response! Let’s take this statement piecemeal so we can digest its magnitude: 

First thing: " A mutual benefit" - past colonial, anti-colonial, post-colonial and anti-post-colonial zero sum games of unilateral, ‘either - or’, kto-kogo international politicking and unlike any other current global power, Israel speaks of ‘mutual benefit’ between itself and Africa. We knew and saw such benefits in the economic realms. Now we’re going to see them politically.

Second thing: "Enabling an African voice." Not giving Africa a voice, nor speaking on behalf of Africa as depressingly many politicians have done and are currently doing but enabling its own voice to exist. That is education, training, local excellence centres, R&D and local content - the entire Africa 2063 agenda in three words.

Third thing - and arguably the most important: "An African voice to be heard.". The avid researcher would be hard pressed to find any global forum, conference, organisation, network or stage where Africa’s own voice is actually heard rather than represented by, usually, a self-appointed or non-African speaker.

Give or take the brilliant and minimally consequential Ted Talks, apart from the UN, where the African voice - vote, that is - and that is roughly a quarter of them all - has been on sale and bought usually by the highest bidder ever since the African countries’ admission, Africa’s voice is as quiet as a swan’s.

And so over the ages of history when Africa had a say in non-African affairs only in a handful of occasions: Egyptian conquests of the Levant and the 1950-60 re-enactment as the United Arab Republic, when Hannibal sailed his elephants off the coast of Carthage (today’s Tunisia) and conquered Italy in 216 BCE and when the Moors conquered Spain as part of the Muslim Arab Umayyad colonial expansion in Europe in the Middle Ages.

And then comes Israel inviting Africa to have a voice of its own outside Africa, heard willingly rather than by the force of conquest or circumstance.

And no less than in the longest, most symbolic rather than actual, fake rather than real, endlessly protracted and occasionally flaring, conflict, for some crux of all matters, ‘peacemaking in the Middle East’.

Let me stress this so only to be certain we don’t miss it: Israel is officially inviting Africa to have a say in the Middle East peace process.

At a time when the US’s global role is deeply challenged by a growing internal crisis, when the UK chooses to go solo from the EU without really knowing what next, when France is swept in diversity policies badly formulated and managed, when Russia is busy both in Ukraine and in Syria, when a slowing down economically China is trying to maneuver its ships off conflict in the Pacific and when everybody is importing less from Africa - in other words, when Africa struggles to get a fair buck for its bang and while trying not to get everyone of its leaders killed in the current election turmoil - in this flared up environment, Israel is taking up President Museveni’s self-invitation and throwing the ball in Africa’s court.

I am not at all sure that African people are ready for the challenge but they’d better be because an invitation like comes only once in a millennium.




top