Africa finally steps up to the plate

2012-03-31 09:56

They say losers are winners who ­simply stopped trying.

For all our bitching and moaning about the influence of the much­maligned West in Africa, as a ­continent we never really tried.

When the top job at the International Monetary Fund suddenly became available, we couldn’t get our act together fast enough and idly sat by while another French candidate was ­elected to head this institution Africa loves to hate.

This time it is different.

South Africa, together with Angola and Nigeria, last week announced they would support and ­lobby support for Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become the head of the World Bank.

The biggest achievement here is not that she might win the position – it is highly unlikely that she would – but that Africa could unite in such a campaign.

It’s been a tough time for our continent. Africa has been split right down the middle around the fight for the chairperson of the African Union Commission.

Some say it is a split between ­Anglophone and Francophone Africa; others say it is a manifestation of the “cold war” between South Africa and Nigeria, and their supporting countries.

Cynically speaking, South Africa’s support for Okonjo-Iweala does not come for free. We want Nigeria to stop fighting us, and tell its diplomatic troops to retreat and allow Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take the job – the votes were certainly close enough to warrant that.

And let’s not rule out the latest spat about ­yellow fever certificates. South Africa had some serious sucking up to do.

So maybe this is not the start of a beautiful friendship, but it certainly is the start of a ­working relationship.

And if the two powerhouses of Africa can at least talk to each other, we can get momentum going to create unified positions on global issues.

We can get quicker decision-making to take place, which was really where African leaders let us down with Libya.

If they understood the true meaning of emergency and got their bearings in time, we could’ve handled things better.

We don’t think Okonjo-Iweala should pack her bags for Washington just yet. It is almost ­unimaginable that the US will gracefully step aside for a fiery, opinionated and highly skilled African woman to take over the reins of the World Bank, although she is Harvard-educated.

However, we do believe this is a slow but ­decisive start and if we keep trying, eventually we might win.

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