For the West, Africa must only think daily bread

In the many stories of the bible, there is one that has never stopped to impress on me the realities of my continent, Africa.

A story is told of twin brothers Esau and Jacob. The former who was the de facto heir to his father’s estate as a birth right, trades it for a day’s precious meal cunningly cooked to serve that purpose.

Similarly, there is a set of twins -Africa and Europe – as many agree – and the European Union’s Commissioner for Development, Neven Mimica, alluded to this twinhood in a joint conversation with President Paul Kagame on the sideline of the European Development Days in Brussels on June 24.

Paraphrased, Mimica reminded the audience that Africa and Europe were entwined.

Yet, however, it is evident in the manner with which Europe treats Africa that the latter must be relegated to being a lifetime Esau, allowed only to think about daily bread and never dreaming on taking her rightful place as an independent blessed brother enjoying all the rights and possibilities available to him.

This popular European mindset was evident in the questions that took most of President Paul Kagame’s time in the conversation.

He was put on the defensive on issues human and political rights as well as to explain the priorities of the Rwandan government. 

For instance, he was asked to explain why, while there are still human development indicators the country struggles with, his government is investing in long-term projects like the national carrier, RwandAir, among many others.

The Head of State at some point and quite understandably lost his cool and had to give it to everyone that; no one has been given the responsibility to police human rights observation across the world, especially when the same purporting to have this moral high ground so often overlook violations within their own countries to police elsewhere.

“If human rights are universal, then who made you the judge? When we observe and respect human rights, it is not for you or anyone else, it is for ourselves,” President Kagame’s message went.

He added; “These are our human rights; you do not have more interest in policing them than ourselves.”

From this conversation that has attracted debate from social media commentators across Africa, one thing is clear:

To the Europeans, Africa must remain concerned with daily bread, and should therefore not dream long term investments that can promise only through which the ambitions of sustainable development and self-reliance can be attained.

So, when the West talks of aiding Africa to wean herself from aid, the conversation hosted by France24 adds to the body of evidence that this is just paying lip service.

In practice and ambition, a dependent Africa is better for the developed world, whose economies in many instances have been built upon its resources.

I am not saying that daily bread is not important; that investing in and holding leaders accountable on human and political rights is less important.

What I am saying is that for these to become sustainable, Africa must be allowed and supported to invest in long term economic sustainability for, as we say in Kinyarwanda, ‘Abasangira ubusa bitana ibisambo’ (among those who share crumps, there are counteraccusations of greed).

It is through investing in projects such as RwandAir, the Kigali Arena, Kigali Convention Centre, alongside human development investments, that Africa can grow and begin to dream past daily bread or else our birth rights remain on display for taking just like the biblical Esau.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.