Africa and the United States
The July explosions in Kenya and Tanzania
were fatal for approximately 250 East Africans and 12 Americans. They
also have implications for US foreign policy in Africa.
When U.S. marines sealed off the devastated
embassy building and refused to allow access to desperate and tearful
relatives seeking todig a tunnel, Kenyans and other East Africans took
note. They also noted the preoccupation of Americans with the twelve
American casualties, pointing out that for every American who lost his
or her life, about twenty-one East Africans died.It seems that Semitex
H destroyed not only lives, but East African confidence in the United
States. Ironically enough, whilst the American profile and image became
tarnished, the rapid response of Israel's national Rescue Unit furthered
Israeli foreign policy interest in Africa. Buried in the rubble is perhaps
one of the major explanations why terrorist chose the region for their
deadly activity, namely, the expanding Israeli presence in Moi's domestic
There was wild speculation that the July
explosions were an attempt to divert attention from the beleaguered
American President and that the timing of the explosions were suspiciously
convenient. Others have seen an uncanny similarity between the Oklahoma
bombings and the Kenyan and Tanzanian models. Alleged confessions of
Pakistanis and others would certainly put these speculations to rest.
The August 20 missile strikes and apparently retaliatory strikes in
Sudan (and Afghanistan) have complicated the equation even more. It
is not clear at this point as to how the recent American bombings would
be viewed by Africans in the long run.This issue of Africa Update focuses
on the United States and Africa in terms of the post-cold war era and
with respect to the teaching f Africa. Dr. Obioma Iheduru of Fort Valley
State University prepared his scholarly analysis before the devastating
bombings. He provides a critique of US foreign policy goals and the
set of interlocking principles that have influenced decision-making
in the era before the bombings.
On a slightly different note Professor
Michael O. West of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies,
University of North Carolina, focuses on the teaching of African Studies
in the United States, thus examining another aspect of the intersection
between Africa and the United States. Having looked at African Studies
in Russia and the United Kingdom, in previous issues, we are pleased
to examine African Studies here in this country.
Haines Brown's column, "Africa Online,"
begins a brief series on rural wireless telecommunications. Brown explores
issues related to Internet access in areas lacking phone lines and highly
skilled technical support. He notes that wireless technology may help
in solving problems associated with low orbiting satellite systems and
high altitude satellite phone systems.
We conclude in this issue some brief comments on the South
African celebration, Ipi Ntombi
Foreign Policy and Democracy in post-cold war Africa
By Dr. Obioma Iheduru, Political Science,
Fort Valley State University, GA
The sudden end of the Cold War has
had critical implications for United States foreign policy in general,
and for Africa in particular. The realism that had hitherto been demonstrated
in the conduct of US foreign policy appears to be undergoing drastic
changes. Realism locates the determinant of state action within the
realm of the international milieu. Hence a hegemonic power such as the
U.S. had played roles during the Cold War that responded not only to
the imperatives of the international arena but considered the overall
American national interests. In considering its state interests, American
policy makers tried to shape policies that governed the interaction
of the U.S. with other countries such that the overarching political
goals of the United States were not left in any doubt.
This approach viewed the political culture
of the United States as encompassing certain institutions and practices
that needed to be protected against the intrusion of other ideologies.
In other words the United States wanted to promote the democratic ideals
that are the hallmarks of its political culture. In this way, the foreign
policy goals were conceptualized within the framework of promoting the
dispersal of the political attitudes, norms, and values that govern
a democratic polity.
In the post cold war period this underlying
current of the U.S. foreign policy regime has become even more encompassing,
especially in its relationship with African countries. This is a dynamic
turn-around in American policy towards Africa given that, with a few
exceptions, during the Cold War, very scant attention was paid by the
US foreign policy community to the importance of Africa to the American
foreign policy interests. The stability of the body politic of the African
state was considered paramount rather than the pursuit of democratic
ideals. This stability was aimed at helping to stem the tide and threat
of communist radicalism regardless of whether or not the western-inspired
policy had any meaningful advantages for the African countries.
The change in the objectives of U.S. foreign
policy in the post-cold war era therefore raises a number of questions.
Is the change in the foreign policy objective affecting democratic transformation
in Africa today? If this be so, what factors explain these objectives?
Also, does this statist (this is national state interest-oriented) foreign
policy action offer the best option for the US in its dealings with
African countries? The relevance of these questions is obvious. Given
the poverty that pervades most African nations, it is tempting to try
to explain the relationship between the democratization of the African
continent and the marketization of the economy in the light of current
changes in the polity and the economy. This assumption is made because
it is argued in the literature that democracy and capitalism have a
mutual relationship and that one follows the other. It is logical to
examine the ways in which the the relationship in this theoretical imperative
represents the guiding light for U.S. foreign policy towards Africa
in the 1990s and beyond.
Africa's Cold War political landscape was
dotted with dictatorial regimes propped up by foreign powers. The African
countries usually acted in proxy for the implementation of the Western
agenda of containing communism. Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire
(now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Congo- Kinshasa), was an
obvious example of how superpowers used willing African leaders to push
their interests in exchange for resources supplied them to maintain
their strangle-hold on their societies.
The American Central Intelligence Agency
created Mobutu, installed him, and supported him for 32 years as a bulwark
against the spread of communism in East and Central Africa. The strategic
geographical location of Zaire placed the country in a unique position
to play this role. The resource-rich Zaire endured the authoritarian
rule of Mobutu for three decades in exchange for the support and resources
of the West. The opposition was muffled, civil and human rights were
denied, and the rule of law thwarted while the U.S. and the West looked
away, unsure of the allegiance of would-be successors. They were also
suspicious of elections in the conviction that it was best to keep what
you have in hand rather than deal with the uncertainty of new democratically
elected leaders. Mobutu was received and regaled at the White House
in Washington and several European capitals as a hero and a trusted
ally in the struggle against communism.
Zairian airfields for arms shipment to
rebels (UNITA) against the government of Angola played a far more important
role than the issue of democratization. In line with that policy, once
the cold war was over, Mobutu became a spent force that must be sidelined,
if the new policy objectives were to be realized.
Similarly, the United States maintained
an effective and cooperative link with apartheid South Africa under
a so-called "constructive engagement" policy that did not prevent the
sharing of military intelligence between the two countries and provision
of landing rights and communications bases for the U.S. military. In
all cases the central demands of the opposition and citizens for an
open society were sacrificed on the altar of Western, especially U.S.,
national interests. Similarly, the authoritarian regimes in Kenya, Liberia,
and Sudan earned the support of the U.S. as long as their authoritarian
rulers were friendly to the U.S.
In the countries the U.S. could not control,
efforts were made to aid rebel movements that claimed to be anti-communist
in ideology while fighting a war of secession, as was the case in Angola,
Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. The emergence of Eritrea as an independent
country is one example of such a successful secession.
The response from the Soviet Union in aiding
the Afro-Marxist governments of the day increased the dynamic tensions
of the cold war period, thus making the African governments the object
of intrigue by the super powers. In some cases the African leaders had
played one super power against the other in order to extract resources
from them. The switch in the ideological complexion of Egypt under Anwar
Sadat from capitalism to socialism and back, Somalia under Said Barre
from socialism to capitalism, and Ethiopia from monarchy to communism
under Mengistu Haile Mariam were indicative of the shifts in loyalty
of many African leaders.
These inconsistencies affected the foreign
policy calculus of the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Such radicalism
was extremely dicey, and so did not sit well with Washington. However,
there were countries that remained non-committal through their membership
of Non-Aligned Movement and thus were out of the reach of the U.S. sphere
of influence, but were disposed nonetheless to receive aid coming from
the West. Even in the late 1980s when it became obvious that the new
wind of democratization blowing over Eastern Europe would inevitably
rub off on Africa, the United States was hesitant to alter its foreign
policy evaluation of the African situation.
US foreign policy in Africa of the cold
war era was based on a set of interlocking principles, ensuring that
communism does not have a foothold in Africa, through the maintenance
of the existing political structures rather than trying to change them.
In the post Cold War period the policy changed, and the institutionalization
of market economies, the establishment of democratic institutions and
help to African countries to develop capitalist institutions have replaced
earlier foreign policy choices in Africa. The post cold war era altered
the political realities on the continent of Africa and set in motion
a new context for international interaction that required new strategies.
The ideological struggles of the former Soviet Union and the United
States had ended as well, thus putting to an end the proxy wars that
each side of the cold war's ideological divide used the African leadership
The end of this struggle drastically reduced
the strategic importance of the African states for both superpowers.
More importantly too, the demise of the Soviet Union as a contender
in the super-power rivalry also resulted in the disappearance of the
bipolar world that the superpowers and their allies had hitherto constituted.
Smaller powers began to assert themselves and instead of having a unipolar
world as would have been expected, the medium powers asserted themselves
resulting in a multipolar world.
The present multipolar system has the U.S.
struggling to maintain its presence in and play a role in the African
political environment. The shift away from the dictates of the cold
war policy goals has been occasioned by the desire to export the norms
and values of democracy and market liberalism but also by the objective
of maintaining a competitive edge in the exploitation of the huge economic
resources of African countries. The U.S. realizes that unless order
in the international system and in the different African countries is
maintained, it may not be able to reap the benefits of the international
economic system that it fought hard to establish. Importantly too, African
countries are now left to fashion how best to effectively govern their
societies since the remote control of the U.S. and the West is (at least
not overtly as before) no longer there, and the sources of largesse
for the sustenance of the core support of the authoritarian state all
Secondly, the advantages of the international
political economy of free trade that partly explains American foreign
policy also undergirds U.S. foreign policy in its relations with Africa.
The role of democracy, good governance, political accountability, and
respect for human rights in establishing the congenial environment for
free trade is dependent on a stable political order. The dispersal of
American capitalism in this age of the American empire is also based
on such an order being in place. Considering the realist bases of foreign
policy interactions in an anarchic Hobbesian world, the U.S. and other
Western nations would in a self-help manner put their national interests
over that of the African countries whom they are supposedly helping.
The contention can then be made that economic interests still override
whatever ideological arguments the US and the West make for their support
of democratization in Africa. Two instances will do here.
On June 23, 1993, the regime of Nigeria's
military president, Ibrahim Babaginda, annulled a presidential election
that billionaire businessman Moshood Abiola was geared to win. The election
of Abiola as president of Africa's most populous nation would have capped
a painstakingly lengthy transition program that the general had initiated
on taking power from another general in 1985. Though the U.S. and other
Western nations especially Britain, condemned the actions of the military,
the highest punishment against the Nigerian military was a relatively
weak sanction that in no way hurt the two countries' huge investments
in Nigeria's oil industry. For the United States in particular, Nigeria
has been a consistent supplier of oil and it (the U.S.) was not ready
to sacrifice its national interests for the sake of democracy in Nigeria
through the imposition of blanket sanctions against the new regime.
On July 7, 1998, Abiola died in jail while insisting on his mandate
to rule and coincidentally right before a U.S. delegation that had traveled
to Nigeria to persuade him to abandon his claim to the presidency. The
French were more forthright in their rejection of sanctions and demands
for withdrawal from Nigeria. The contention was that any abandonment
of their oil interests in Nigeria would spell doom for French business
interests as the other oil majors would quickly pluck up their share.
During the Abacha military regime, a successor
to Babangida's, a dispute between Nigeria and Britain over flying rights
into each others airports resulted in a unilateral cancellation, first
by Britain and then by Nigeria, of landing rights at each others airports.
Other European airlines were quick to obtain permission from the Nigerian
government to double their flights into Lagos and other airports in
order to take advantage of the excess passengers resulting from this
impasse. In the same way, U.S. interests though guided by ideological
democratic considerations, was conscious of its national interests in
promoting democracy in Africa. A U.S. firm that provided the resources
for the Kabila insurgency that overthrew Mobutu was rewarded with one
billion dollar concession to mine for diamonds in the southeastern region
of the country, even while the war that brought Kabila to power was
still going on, and Kinshasa was yet to be taken by his forces. This
was despite the known fact that Kabila was an unreconstructed Che Guevera
Democracies are more likely to promote
free trade than dictatorships and communist states. The advantages of
free trade in an orderly international environment would suit U.S. economic
interests given that it has the capacity and resources to allow the
free flow of goods and services to its economy and thereby benefit from
cheap prices around the world. Given also that most international trade
is denominated in the US dollar, the control of interest rates by the
American Federal Reserve (Central Bank) would ensure the continued adjustment
of prices to suit the American economic interests.
The American commitment to democracy as
the center-piece of its foreign policy in Africa is inevitably tied
to the economic interests that both democracy, an open society, and
free trade brings to the international political economy in which the
American economy now has a definite advantage. In other words a realist
pursuit of a foreign policy that promotes democracy and good governance
in African countries, and thus a replacement of the former dictatorships
that the West supported, would also be to the furtherance of U.S. interests
just as was the case during the cold war.
If one thing has remained constant in the
U.S foreign policy consideration, in spite of the change in foreign
policy directions, it is the national interest of the United States,
and by extension the West. The approaches of the U.S. foreign policy
community towards Africa may have changed, but the policy objectives
still remain the same.
Return toTable of Contents
comments on Ipi Ntombi
I. Western Christianity, ATR and
By Marcus Lawson, Student CCSU (History 497)
The interaction between Western Christianity
and ATR (African Traditional Religions) is one that is marked by conflict.
In Ipi Ntombi, it appears that each tried
to invalidate the other because of beliefs within the older generation
that favored ATR, and the younger generation that partly embraced Christianity
The interaction resulted in a compromise
that made both religions prominent parts in the life of the people.
I personally see no conflict between my Christianity and that of other
religions. It is not my place to judge. In Ipi Ntombi the blessings
of the spirits were meant to call forth good spirits, and it was not
meant to call forth the bad.
The supernatural is composed of both positive
and negative forces. Western Christianity does not teach this concept,
but it is a concept found in traditional black pentecostal churches.
Although, these black churches in the west can at times vacillate because
of an unease with what is considered not of God. The ATR in Ipi Ntombi
is comprised of spirit and culture. It is this religion that reveals
the identity of the people. One shouldn't be offended or ashamed of
Western Christianity has historically sought to displace
and disrupt the identity of people. Its main role has been that of the
great assimilator, unfortunately.
II. Comment on Ipi Ntombi
By Zoe Anne Scott, CCSU student (History 497)
Ipi Ntombi is a South African dance celebration.
This musical is a classic example of African song and dance. Ipi Ntombi
is a story of two lovers who encounter many obstacles and in the end
ultimately overcome them. The story begins with the return of a son
who was gone for many moons. He has returned to marry his love. Everyone
is thrilled until the mention of a traditional African wedding. The
son who is dressed in city clothes wants to be married the Christian
way in the city by a priest. The father becomes enraged and reminds
the son he must not forget his roots. He tells his son he will marry
the traditional African way in the village by a "witchdoctor." The son
protests and does not comprehend why his father is so upset because
while he was living in the city he was still attending church (a Christian
one). The son called off the wedding and left the village. After the
trials and tribulations, the girl he was going to marry followed him
and left the village to be with him. They were married the Christian
way but incorporated some traditional African traditions. At the wedding
service, the priest told the woman it was her duty to do as her husband
says and the man's duty to provide for his wife.
This musical showed a classic example of
generational clash. The younger generation does not always follow tradition,
although they may honor it. With technology improving and more and more
places becoming urbanized it is hard to follow the traditions of the
village. Both sides believe in God and the church but the way they practice
it is different.
Overall, I found the performance an exciting
and vibrant musical. All of the performers were smiling and enthusiastic.
Their costumes were eye-catching and representative of African tradition,
as was the music also. I learned a lesson of compromise which can be
applied to all aspects of life no matter what the generation or tradition.
Return to Table of Contents
University of Ghana Holds Dance
Workshops at CCSU
On Thursday July 30, 1998 Students and
Faculty at CCSU participated in a dance workshop conducted by Professor
O'Nii Sowah, Habib Iddrissu, Jennice Newman and Nana Bampoe of the University
of Ghana, Legon. Professor Sowah also gave an informative talk on aspects
of African Dance and Music and responded to multiple questions from
the enthusiastic audience.
The dance workshop was sponsored by African
Studies, the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Student Government,
and the Office of Retention Strategies.
Return toTable of Contents
The Study of Global
Africa and the Descent of the Africanist Curtain
by Dr. Michael O. West, African and Afro-American
Studies, University of North Carolina
Perhaps more than any other major area
of the world, the study of Africa is dominated by non- Africans, with
the result that the interpretation of African experiences, historical
and contemporary, remains largely colonized. Certainly this is so in
the United States, which, over the past two decades or so, has emerged
as the leading producer of knowledge about Africa, in quantity if not
in quality. And yet it has not always been that way. Prior to the end
of World War II few, if any, American historically white universities
paid much attention to Africa. Even the colonial "Africanist" tradition
that emerged in certain circles in Britain, France, Portugal and other
European imperial centers gained little currency in the Euro-American
An intellectual pursuit dominated by anthropologists,
ethnographers, missionaries, colonial administrators and the like, the
colonial Africanist tradition was an enterprise unabashedly pursued
in the service of empire.
Lord Hailey's An Africa Survey, published
in 1938, represents something of an English-language apotheosis of this
If the white American dons generally ignored
the imperial- centered colonial Africanist tradition, they found a competing
and insurgent panafricanist paradigm downright anathema Ä that
is, when they were aware of its existence at all. Christened "vindicationist,"
this insurgent panafricanist paradigm had its origins in the nineteenth
century, emerging as part of the emancipatory strivings of Africans
and their descendants who had been newly freed from the shackles of
racial slavery in the Americas. But while a product of the African diaspora
in the West, vindicationism soon became an integral part of the ideological
commerce that has been the hallmark of panafricanism from its inception.
The vindicationist tradition resonated strongly among the emerging western-oriented
modernizing elites on the African continent, beginning with Sierra Leone
and Liberia, both of which had been founded as havens for undesirable
former slaves from the Americas and Europe.
As an intellectual and cultural project,
vindicationism was explicitly politically driven, seeking to construct
an historiography to disprove white supremacist notions that Africa
and Africans had played no part in development of world cultures and
civilizations. It was, in sum, a search for a usable past. Towards this
end, various writers sought, in their own words, to "vindicate" the
African past, to prove, largely through historical research, that Africans
had been at the forefront of the early development of governmental institutions,
monotheistic religions, science, technology and other evidence of "high
culture." Implicitly, if not always explicitly, this line of research
was predicated on the assumption that Africans and their kinfolk in
the diaspora, once freed from the prison of slavery, colonialism, racism
and oppression, could and would rise again to greatness.
The hour of African redemption, it was
said, was drawing nigh, a belief for which the classical vindicationists
found evidence in the Bible, notably Psalms 68:31: "Prince shall some
out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God."
In the United States, long a center of
vindicationism, the tradition was placed on its soundest institutional
basis to date with the establishment in 1915 of the Association for
the Study of Negro Life and History. Founded by Carter G. Woodson, one
of the emerging cadre of university-trained African American intellectuals,
the Association attempted to organize vindicationist scholarship on
a more professional and "scientific" basis. Central to this endeavor
was the establishment of regularly- published organs for the dissemination
of research done both within and outside the aegis of the Association,
including the scholarly Journal of Negro History and the more popular
Negro History Bulletin. A fundamental characteristic of vindicationist
scholarship was its transnational and transcontinental perspective.
In their historical writings, the vindicationists connected ancient
Africa to modern Africa, Africa north of the Sahara to Africa south
of the Sahara, the African continent to the African diaspora.
They tended to concentrate on broad political,
religious and cultural themes that transcended national and continental
boundaries in the African world.
To the extent that continental African
experiences were formally taught in the United States up to the late
1940s, and then almost exclusively in the black colleges and universities
that had been founded after the Civil War, the approach was largely
vindicationist. In any case, the academy was not the only, or even the
primary, audience for the scholarship produced under the auspices of
vindicationist-inclined formations like Woodson_s Association for the
Study of Negro Life and History, an organization that included academics
(most of them located at the historically black colleges) as well as
scholars based outside the academy, professionally-trained and amateur
scholars, school teachers and community-based public intellectuals.
And then came the end of the Second War
II. In the United States, the postwar international order fundamentally
altered the production of knowledge about continental Africa, among
other areas of the world. The imperative of American policymakers to
become informed about continents and peoples that previously commanded
little of their attention provided the context for the creation of "area
studies," a joint enterprise of the federal government, private foundations
and the nation_s leading research universities, all of them dedicated
to the anti-communist project and the advancement of US "national security."
Among the world areas designated for study under this novel approach
to the production and organization of knowledge was the African continent.
The emergence of "African Studies" constituted
a major departure, both epistemological and methodological, from the
vindicationist paradigm which was soon swept aside by the wealthier
and whiter enterprise. Where the predominantly black vindicationists
specialized in broad surveys and grand sweepsof the African continent
as a whole, the mainly white "Africanists" concentrated on field research
in the individual colonial territories and then nation-states of sub-Saharan
Africa, often focusing on a particular "tribe." Field research was combined
with intensive language and cultural studies -- all of which was made
possible by an unprecedented infusion of state and private monies into
African area studies, whose strong (foreign) policy orientation differed
markedly from the populist and liberationist thrust of vindicationism.
The advent of African Studies thus resulted
in dramatic shifts in the definition of Africa and Africans, the research
priorities, the institutional location for the study of Africa, the
audience for Africa-related research, and the racial composition of
the research community. The rise of the new Africanist school in relation
to the older vindicationist tradition, whose adherents were almost universally
denied access to the resources made available through the state-foundation
largesse, was demonstrated most poignantly by the growing number of
African Studies Centers at top historically white universities.
The increase in such academic units was
matched by the appearance of new Africanist journals, book series, plum
faculty positions and equally well-funded Ph.D. students to fill them.
(At a meeting of the Canadian Association of African Studies some years
ago, a leading Africanist regaled an audience of mainly research-resource-
starved younger scholars about how, in the late 1950s, the Ford Foundation
gave him three times the amount he requested to do research in Senegal!)
The establishment in 1958 of the African
Studies Association as the professional coordinating body of the African
area studies establishment symbolized, at a national level, the ascendancy
of the new Africanist enterprise -- and enterprise it was, indeed --
over the venerable vindicationist tradition. An Africanist curtain had
descended over the study of global black experiences in the United States.
Thus, unconsciously but ineluctably, was
the stage set for a conflict between the heirs to the toppled vindicationist
paradigm and the triumphalist Africanist enterprise. By the late 1960s
the Black Power movement, itself a manifestation of the limitations
of the earlier civil rights project, had arrived at the recently-desegregated,
historically white universities. On campus Black Power, with its emphasis
on social and political relevance, manifested itself in a demand for
Black Studies, including the notion that scholarship should subserve
the cause of black liberation. In rejecting the academic shibboleth
of "knowledge for knowledge sake," the exponents of Black Studies, knowingly
or not, were carrying on the vindicationist legacy of previous generations
of black scholar-activists -- individuals like Woodson and W. E. B.
Du Bois, variously collaborators and rivals -- who also insisted on
the inseparability of black education and black emancipation.
The Africanists, however, were openly contemptuous
of Black Studies, dismissing its exponents as a semi-literate rabble
unworthy of the academy. Seeking to draw a cordon sanitaire against
the potential contagion, they drew the curtain ever tighter, reaffirming,
in ways both epistemic and bureaucratic, the intellectual balkanization
on which African area studies had rested from its inception: a separation
of the study of continental or, to be more precise, sub-Saharan, Africa
from the study of African-descended peoples globally. Africanist ire
was also directed at the intellectual productions of Black Studies scholarsÄas
if, as a genre, this body of scholarship was any less "politicized"
and "tendentious" than the better-funded and occasionally better- researched
work produced by African area studies academics, work that sometimes
quite directly and consciously served the "national security" interests
of US neo-colonial imperialism in Africa. Little wonder, then, that
there emerged separate African Studies and Black Studies units at many
universities. The Africanist hostility to the insurgent field of study
was especially strong at those institutions that already had an African
area studies program at the time the Black Studies phenomenon erupted.
Thus did the situation remain until the
end of the Cold War, when the objective rationale that brought area
studies into being began to fade away. Indeed, the very concept of organizing
the production of knowledge on continental and regional lines came under
attack, with area studies becoming the object of withering criticisms
for excessive specialization, often from the very foundations that had
been so instrumental in creation and sustaining it during the Cold War.
Africa, in particular, was seen as having lost its strategic value to
the United States, the sole remaining superpower, with serious negative
implications for the funding of African area studies. In place of area
studies, the new buzzword became "global studies," a field of study
that promised synchronically to cut across regional and national divisions
the better to come up with policies more adequately suited to further
the globalizing aspirations of US capital.
Sensing the wind of change, African area
studies scholars suddenly rediscovered the "diaspora," that same segment
of scattered Africa that the Africanist enterprise had cut off and marginalized
from the African homeland, eventually consigning it to the ghetto of
Black Studies. Increasingly, African Studies units across the country
began pursuing "partnerships" with their Black Studies counterparts
on historically white campuses as well as with historically black institutions,
though with an accent on "comparative" studies, a mode of intellectual
investigation that actually reinforced the area (and ethnic) studies
model. Yet, it is hardly likely that those responsible for the descent
of the Africanist curtain over the study of global Africa can, or should,
preside over its renaissance. In any case, it is not clear that this
is their objective.
Return to Table of Contents
Policy: Conference Notes
By A. Pandiaye
On May 5, 1998, at Harvard University,
Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa identified some
of the following objectives for a new US Foreign Policy:
1. The creation of a new relationship,
new perceptions and a more positive image of Africa
2. The integration of Africa into the global
3. Asistance to new small businesses
4. The transition from Aid to Trade
5. The elimination of $1.6 billion dollars
of bilateral debts
6. The sponsorship of African Trade and
Foreign Ministers to the US to facilitate discussion and
encourage multilateral discussion
7. Assistance in the prevention and resolution
8. Training of 10,000 to 12,000 African
troops during the next three years
9. Assistance in democratization programs
10. Help in combatting desertification
Return to Table of Contents
By Haines Brown, C.C.S.U.
History Department (professor emeritus)
I here begin a brief series on wireless communications
in Africa. Following this introductory discussion of conventional systems,
I will turn to HF radio networks and then some projects to "think small,"
such as Bushnet, Uganda Connect, and the evolution of the WFP Deep Field
The most difficult challenge is to find
a mode of telecommunications in Africa that will support rural social
development as a basis of future economic development rather than hope
that present urban economic development will spontaneously result in
rural social development.
There is some agreement that this means
having two-way messaging and useful Internet access in areas lacking
phone lines, electric power, and highly skilled technical support, and
all at a modest price. This might seem utopian, but newer wireless technologies
suggest that perhaps it is not.
There are also doubts expressed as to what
it is that people in rural areas might hope to gain by "cruising cyberspace."
This is a difficult question. It could mean access to useful institutions
and services, rural distance-education, on-line access to markets to
support rural businesses rather than force people migrate to cities
for work, and the kind of grassroots social interaction that is a prerequisite
for democratic nationhood. Perhaps the proper question is, can rural
development take place without it, and what will be the long range consequences
if it does not.
Land lines support good (reliable and fast)
Internet access, but there seems no way to extend its infrastructure
into most rural areas. While the acculturation that makes the individual
feel part of a broader social world can result from being on line in
developed economies, in others something very useful and inexpensive
must first pave the way for the more costly land-line telecommunications.
The physical means such as phone lines are very expensive, and if they
are privately owned, the costs of their development would have to be
borne by the rural consumers least able to support it.
The cost of data transfer with land-line
systems is beyond the reach of most people; copper lines are stolen
for their sale; political instability discourages capital-intensive
means of communication; and the equipment and skilled personnel are
so scarce and expensive that there is little hope that ordinary people
can afford it for a long time. However, wireless communications addresses
each of these limitations with varying degrees of success.
High orbit Inmarsat store-and-forward satellite
phone service is considered to work well and be relatively inexpensive
for urban corporate entities. The phones can cost up to $4000 and calls
run $2.50 per minute at 9600 baud. It has been calculated that ten pages
a day sent this way would cost $150/month plus $20 for an internet account
somewhere in the world. HF (high frequency) radio packet offers a similar
service which is priced on volume (in Kb) rather than time on line.
It costs almost the same per month to send those ten pages, although
some argue that it is but a fraction of this amount (comparisons are
difficult), but in contrast to satellite, it requires a local access
provider and transmits at 2400 baud at best. Satellite would at least
support Internet access with non-graphical web access; HF radio at 2400
baud would not support web access at all.
Much hope was placed in the new low orbiting
(LEO) satellite systems to bring rural connectivity. President Mandela
of the Republic of South Africa expected that it would "enhance our
ability to deliver improved quality of life. . .to previously disadvantaged
areas in the continent." However, the early connection charges will
be one to three dollars a minute, and this is beyond the reach of all
but large companies and expatriate NGOs.
While in the long run LEOs promise high
bandwidth and low cost service, they will not succeed without the groundwork
being first laid in the rural areas. Their usefulness for rural projects
will have to have been demonstrated, trainers trained, basic infrastructures
such as electrical service already developed, and there must be a sufficient
number of PCs on the ground to connect to.
In the next issue, I will assess the potential
of HF radio networking for African rural development.
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