May’s Visit And Britain’s Delusions About Africa

Theresa May
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Theresa May

British PM, Theresa May

By Tokunbo Oke

One can confidently predict that precious little will come out of Mrs. May’s trade excursion to Africa. The BBC made much of the disparity between trade with Africa and trade with the European continent. Trade with Africa yields £8.4 Billion per annum, while trade with Europe yields £186 Billion per annum.

However, behind this wide disparity in trade figures, looms the over-arching impact of the City of London on the British economy, the decline of Britain’s industrial base and the rather ingenious tariffs imposed to prevent African products from entering European markets. Only African products in their raw state are permitted access to European markets. Apart from the laziness of the African elite, it is these restrictive trade tariffs, in other words, Imperialism that has held back industrialisation in Africa. The balkanised African countries also present too small an internal market to support industrialisation. Unless we form larger pan-African units and increase our optimum zone for development, industrialisation will continue to be a mirage.

Back to Mrs. May. Many commentators have been describing Mrs. May’s rapprochement with Africa as neo-colonialism, quoting Kwame Nkrumah’s famous book of the same title. In a sense this is true but the African ruling classes may be fooling around over their own people, as they are no longer puppets. The African ruling classes are much more powerful than they were in 1965 when Osagyefo’s book was published. Aliko Dangote, for example, is one of the richest men in the world. Bayo Ogunlesi owns a number of British airports, including Gatwick.  The African elite may openly forge alliances with more powerful ruling classes but they are certainly not puppets.

Britain is a declining power. The days when we in Africa rode around in cars manufactured in Coventry: Wolsleys, Humbers, Sunbeams, etc and spoke the Queens English, are gone. A few diehard Anglophiles amongst the African elite may welcome Mrs. May but, in general, the African elite will have no interest in forging an alliance with Britain, even if they are bribed with “foreign aid”.

Mrs. May will be listened to politely, she will be given that famous African ‘Pepsodent’ smile and  will dance robotically in South Africa, with the school children, but nothing will happen. The African National Congress (ANC) elite have long memories. Those that were exiled in Britain will remember the warm solidarity that they received from ordinary Brits, the Trade Unions and the organisations of the Left, but they will also remember the slogan of the Young Conservatives: Hang Nelson Mandela! They will definitely remember the intransigence of Mrs. Thatcher over sanctions against Apartheid South Africa. And unfortunately, Mrs May is a Tory. By taking Mrs. May to Mandela’s old cell in Robben Island, they were telling her in a rather subtle manner: you caused this!

For the Nigerian elite, their beef with Britain is different. The British simply fail to realise that for Nigerian students that are sent at great cost by their parents to British universities, they are training the future Nigerian elite. David Cameron’s biggest mistake was conflating numbers of foreign students attending British universities with the immigration figures, to create the impression that Britain was being swamped by an alien species, thus hoodwinking the undiscerning sections of the British public. The revoking of the licence held by London Metropolitan University to recruit foreign students was pretty dastardly, leaving many foreign students in limbo.

Finally, with Nigerians, it is the way that the British High Commission makes us jump through hoops, just to get the visa to visit the UK. The British High Commission labours under the illusion that all Nigerians want to abandon their nation and live in Britain, illegally. Many Nigerians believe living in Britain is a curse. For the Upper Middle Class and the Upper classes, life in Nigeria is much too sweet to leave behind!

Many simply wish to come, buy stuff and go back home to sell. The slow death of Liverpool Street and the rise of Dubai, is a tragic reminder of where delusionary intransigence will lead you!!!

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