By Saeed Shabazz - Staff Writer
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) - A large and enthusiastic crowd recently gathered in the atrium at York College in Queens for a round-table discussion about the “New Scramble for Africa.”
The Dec. 12 event was sponsored by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, under the leadership of Dr. Ron Daniels and his wife Mary France-Daniels, and the World African Diaspora Union chaired by former Ambassador Dudley Thompson of Jamaica.
The York College forum is a continuation of the work by Institute for the Black World and World African Diaspora Union to forge mutually beneficial bonds amongst people of African descent by encouraging Pan Africanism, which essentially calls for Black efforts to support Africa and each other regardless of geographic locale. Both organizations work diligently in building bridges to promote operational unity between the Black community and continental Africans.
Presenters included Dr. Shelby F. Lewis, professor emeritus, Clark Atlanta University; Dr. Chika Onyeani, a former Nigerian diplomat, newspaper editor and widely recognized advocate of Pan Africanism; Sidique Wai, president of the New York-based United African Congress, an organization that works to preserve and promote the image, heritage and culture of the African continent; Dr. Leonard Jeffries, professor at the City University of New York in the Africana Studies Department and a Diaspora Union vice president; Dr. Adelaide Sanford, a Pan African educator who serves as vice chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents; and Amb. Thompson.
The overview for the dialogue was presented by Dr. Lewis, who serves as an African adviser and consultant to the Diaspora Union. She began by explaining the legacy of imperialism, slavery and colonialism and how these institutions played a role in the modern day “scramble for Africa” to acquire her resources.
“It started back in ancient times, with the theft of Africa's intellectual property,” Dr. Lewis said, adding, “Again African people are pawns in the scramble for their gold and diamonds. But, more important is the scramble for Africa's hottest commodity today, Africa's farmland.”
Dr. Lewis pointed a finger directly at the government of China as a leading nation leasing African farm land. “What is in it for Africans?” she asked.
Critics say the Asian nation has grabbed huge amounts of Africa's natural resources while at the same time dumping cheaply manufactured products and indulging in an unequal trade policy.
China is not alone in the African farmland grab. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in May, reported that since 2004, over one million acres of African land has been allocated to foreign entities.
“Most of the land claimed by foreign acquisition was already in use by local people, who were mostly driven out. The results are disheartening as people end up in over-populated urban centers,” the report said. In June, news stories circulated accusing India of “neo-colonialism” in Africa, joining China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and several Arab nations. These nations are being called “food pirates” who use African land to grow crops such as rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils for domestic markets.
“We sit on gold and yet we are begging for gold,” said Mr. Wai. He echoed Dr. Lewis' observation that some of African nations leasing farmland are receiving international food aid and the agriculture output of African farmers is the lowest in the world.
Dr. Lewis, Mr. Wai and Amb. Thompson, accused African leaders of mortgaging the continent's future. “In a sense we in the Diaspora have to go and rescue Africa,” Amb. Thompson said.
Dr. Jeffries told the audience the institute's call to create a think tank must be further developed. “Africans all over the world are asking where is our plan?” he said. “We can put together our own $100 billion plan. Do not sit here and look at the Chinese action as a negative; they do what they do. We are in the best place we can be strategically. What are we going to do?”
“What we are going to do is recommend that a committee be created to develop a preamble and statement of guiding principles for African nations entering into contracts with foreign powers for the utilization of land and resources,” Dr. Daniels told The Final Call.
The goal is to “offer principles which ensure that the vast wealth and resources of Africa are used first and foremost for the development of the people and that contracts for the use of land and resources are based on fair and equitable exchange of value,” he said.
The second scramble for Africa starts (FCN, 05-05-2009)
Is Africom a U.S. military maneuver or real help? (FCN, 02-05-2009)The global exploitation of Africa’s land and people (FCN, 08-21-2008)