Are African Leaders Doing Enough? [Opinion]

Columnist Raynard Jackson has strong words for the continent

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I have been doing work on the continent of Africa for many, many years and to my dismay, Africa’s approach to international engagement is juvenile at best and incompetent at worst. Africa’s weaning from their various colonial powers began in earnest in the early 60’s, so their claim of being a fledgling democracy is no longer valid. For the uninitiated, there are currently 54 countries that makeup Sub-Saharan Africa.

African leaders constantly complain to me about the way the U.S. media portrays them and how our “official” government policy towards the continent is not acceptable to them.  So, I will therefore pose a few questions to my African brothers and voice a few complaints of my own.

I am in total agreement with African leaders when they complain about how the U.S. media portrays the continent.  The media usually focuses on war, famine, disease, corruption, etc.  You can find these same ailments in any large U.S. city, i.e. Washington, D.C.  You have gang wars (to control the drug trade), people who don’t have food to eat, AIDS running out of control and politicians being sent to jail. But what have these same African leaders done to address their concerns about U.S. media coverage? Absolutely nothing! They whine and complain like a crying baby waiting for mommy to pick them up in her arms to console them.

African leaders rarely, if ever, engage with the U.S. media or the American people; and they almost never engage with black media or the black community. So, to my African leaders, if you are not going to engage the America media and the American people, please stop complaining because your idle chatter has become very irritating and unbecoming of a head of state.

Africans also complain about the lack of importance Americans seem to place on Africa.  Well, Mr/Ms. African president, please tell me why Americans should care about the continent or your particular country? How is your success vital to America’s success? Of all of America’s competing priorities, what is the rationale for us giving Africa our attention and support?

The reason most Americans lack awareness of Africa is that African leaders have not given us a reason to pay attention to Africa. I can’t remember the last time an African leader actually engaged directly with the American people in a public forum (outside of New York or DC) or visited a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). They will most surely visit a white university before they would a black one.

Most Americans don’t believe you can do successful business on the continent because African leaders have never shared success stories with the American people. African leaders typically come to the U.S. and meet with the usual white organizations: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Corporate Council on Africa, etc.

The white lobbyists and law firms they hire to plan their trips never think of people like Dave Steward in St. Louis, MO (my hometown). Steward is one of the most successful businessmen in the U.S. and is black. His firm, World Wide Technology is one of the largest technology firms in the U.S. with revenues in excess of $ 5 billion U.S.

Junior Bridgeman is another top businessman. He is the second largest Wendy’s franchise in the world and owns several other brands of restaurants with revenues in excess of $600 million.

Two of the most successful physicians in the state of Florida, Dr. David Abellard (Haitian) and Dr. A.K. Desai (Indian) could be invaluable in designing or expanding the healthcare system of any country on the continent. Two of the most prolific minds when it comes to understanding America’s policy towards Africa are Gregory Simpkins (Professional Staff Member, U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights) and Malik Chaka (Director of Threshold Programs, Millennium Challenge Corporation)–both Black.

David Saunders and Helen Broadus, owners of Venue International Professionals, Inc. (VIP), are two of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to planning excursions to the continent. Rarely does Africa’s Ministers of Tourism seek out their knowledge when trying to promote tourism to their particular country. They are also Black.

These individuals are just a few of the people in the U.S. that can bring solutions to issues facing various African countries. I am not suggesting that these African leaders give up their usual trek to their white organizations; but I am suggesting that you broaden your programs to include other American citizens and organizations that can add value to the collective goals of making Africa more relevant to the U.S. and its citizens.

So, African leaders, stop complaining and start engaging. Engage the American media, engage the American people, especially those whose roots are from the continent.


  • F.W. Lee

    Thank you. Your comments could also be directed at many Black Americans as well. From my experience, there was an elitist attitude by those Blacks from the African region who think all Black Americans are beneath and cater to Whites hand and foot. And let us not forget about how those leaders will bend over backwards for the Chinese at the expense of their own. Read the article and learn the lessons.

  • P.U. Effiong

    As usual, Raynard Jackson, you make
    lofty claims about doing a lot of work on Africa for many years, but you are
    still mediocre at best in your views and/or knowledge on the region and fail
    woefully in your attempts at hiding your prejudice against its people. Your
    prime error is constantly delineating Africa from the standpoint of its
    leaders. This approach is seriously flawed since the “leaders” you
    refer to are hardly representative of the people, being that about 90 percent
    of them were either not voted democratically or have overstayed their welcome.
    If you are genuine in your claims about connecting with the African people,
    then do just that. You may consider climbing down what comes across as your
    fancy, all-important media tower and liaising with Africans other than the VIPs
    that you constantly use as your basis for assessing issues affecting the
    continent. Aside from top officials, many of whom are glorified thugs, Africa
    comprises students, women, blue and white collar workers, young people, faith-based
    leaders, small and medium business owners, teachers, independent journalists,
    writers, artists and community activists among others. Get in touch with these
    Africans; you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn from them. And may I ask how
    many books you have read on Africa? When you visit Africa, do you go in some
    official capacity where you receive special treatment because you are the guest
    of some bigwig? If the answer to the latter is yes, then, trust me, you are yet
    to “visit” the continent.

    On the subject of stereotypes by
    the media and other communication channels, it is the African people that must
    counter these negative images (not the largely shady “leaders” that
    you refer to). If you have read any books by leading African authors and witnessed
    programs by independent media like Link TV and other such media within and
    beyond the continent, you would be aware that tremendous steps have been taken
    and are still being taken (by Africans and non-Africans with genuine interest
    in the region) to provide more balanced information on the continent. The
    topical magazine, Africa Unbound, for instance, which is also accessible online
    ( and which I have contributed to, focuses extensively
    on “retelling” African stories and offsetting archetypal
    misrepresentations of the continent. So, on this subject, you need to get your
    facts straight. Besides, how are black Americans represented in the media? As
    thieves/criminals, illiterates and school dropouts, drug addicts and drug
    peddlers, violent gang members and jailbirds. Did I mention that you are also
    cited as having the highest teenage pregnancy rates and single-parent homes?
    Tell us what you and other black Americans have done or are doing to counteract
    these negative images of your people!

    Finally, I refer to your comment:
    “African leaders rarely, if ever, engage with the U.S. media or the
    American people; and they almost never engage with black media or the black
    community.” Perhaps, but tell me how the U.S. media or the American people
    engage with the African people except by way of typically spreading the
    stereotypes that you refer to? More personally, how do you engage with the
    African people except by constantly advancing erroneous, skewed information
    about us? And tell me how the black media and black community engage with the
    African people. Though black Americans are the leading complainers about prejudice
    and injustice in the U.S., how welcoming are they of African visitors/immigrants
    to their country? Without generalizing, many Africans in the U.S. allege a
    hostility from black Americans that matches the type of disregard that they,
    black Americans, claim to endure from white America. You think Africans should
    engage with you when you have no sincere desire to engage with them?

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  • africa

    Thank you Mr.Jackson for the article i really gives you food for thought!!