For decades the Western and Eastern civilisations have tended to lump African countries in one basket. They treated Africa as one country and prescribed the same medicine to all.
African countries were given the fake hope of having a say on the world stage simply because they were allowed to sit on the same table with the big boys. They were there to be seen and not to be heard.
Today things have changed. African countries have learnt to take advantage of being treated as one country by negotiating as one.
When it comes to elective positions in international organisations, in most cases, it will speak with one voice. That is why today it is being heard and all major concentrations of economic power are orbiting in its airspace trying to gain a foothold of influence.
Russia bid its time as other major powers were striking deals with the continent. When the West was making noise of China making inroads in what the former considered its hunting grounds, India and Japan were also making sweet overtures.
So, the first Russia-Africa summit currently going on in Sochi should be seen in the light that Africa matters; there is no way around it.
What is most reassuring about Russia’s entry on the stage is that it has echoed China’s, Japan’s and India’s pledges; that any aid they will give African countries will come with no conditions. No strings attached.
But then, African countries should not go to Sochi with begging bowls. They should not regard President Putin and his government as Santa Claus on Christmas Day dishing out free gifts. They should use that time there to learn, strike favourable deals and strengthen their relevance on the world stage.
They will have earned the privilege of making a grand entrance via the front door, not the service entrance they have been used to.