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Hot African Winds

Hot African Winds

Monday, 5 July, 2021 - 09:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

No wonder the world is preoccupied with the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. It is not simple for Mao Zedong’s bloc to blow out this candle while still in power, even though the last century has crushed many empires, regimes, ideas, and parties.

We are talking about a country that has succeeded in replacing Japan as the second-largest world economy and is currently heading to the top position. We are talking about a party that has 93 million members, exceeding the population of a country like Germany.

Moreover, it’s about a country that many call the “world factory,” a designation that raises concern in some Western states over China becoming indispensable due to supply chains.

The coming years will be impacted by the Asian numbers and the hopes they raise for some while raising fears for others. Some people believe that the West does not have a solution to the Chinese rise. They believe that curbing the grand ambitions of a country, whose population is equivalent to that of a continent, may require betting on another Asian giant, India.

They note that India has several power cards that China possesses, including population density, technological progress, and a colossal army. Those consider that pumping Western support into the veins of the Indian titan may help it form something equal or nearly equivalent to the Chinese deployment on the Silk Road.

I was following the torrent of analyses about the “Asian roar” and the “Chinese era” when I was caught by scenes and news from the Dark Continent, suggesting that the African winds would not be late in blowing as well, leaving clear effects on the stability and economy of the world.

The first scenes were the images of sinking boats carrying refugees fleeing the nightmare of wars, poverty, and blocked horizons. This is frequently seen off the Libyan and Tunisian coasts. There are haunting accounts of journeys of perils and humiliations, on which Africans dream of throwing themselves into a country where a decent meal, a job, and health care can be found.

Stories reveal that sea pirates are more petrifying than land brigands. Migrants are often crammed into dilapidated boats that are likely to sink before they reach their destination.

Experts believe that this phenomenon is likely to worsen, not regress. Even though some successes have been registered in some areas of the Dark Continent, most countries have failed to provide the basic needs to restore the hope of their citizens in the future, pushing them towards internal and external migration that weighs on the economy, security, and political situation.

Because of the rapid population growth, many expect that the coming decades would witness extraordinary waves of immigration, especially as the rising needs outweigh the capabilities.

Many reports say in the middle of this century, the African continent will witness a demographic explosion that will make it an incubator for a quarter of the world’s population, and that the population of a country like Nigeria will reach the limits of 400 million people.

The projected numbers for the end of the current century show that Africa’s population will exceed four billion people.

A recent study by UNICEF noted that half of the world’s children would be African in 2100.

I also remembered the African wind as I watched the photos circulated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front of thousands of captured Ethiopian soldiers.

The photos were accompanied by hints from the same Front that the region may search for its future outside the Ethiopian Republic, implicitly blaming the policies pursued by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

It is clear that the government forces, which also enjoyed Eritrean support, committed rude practices during their invasion of the region, which revealed the depth of the hatred that lies within this multi-ethnic society.

The problem of the Tigray region raises the difficult question of whether we will witness further faltering and failure of the experiences of coexistence on the African continent. The ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity within the Ethiopian map is present within other territories, and it quickly expresses itself in the form of bloody explosions as soon as the iron fist of the central government declines.

The current Ethiopian troubles bring to mind images of the Yugoslav explosion and the divorce that entailed horrific massacres.

The failure of coexistence experiences and the inability of countries engulfed by corruption to build real institutions that lead the development process and combat poverty, not only strengthen the winds of migration but also provide the ground for the birth of armed militias and terrorist groups.

News from the Sahel and Saharan countries reveal a movement of terrorist cells, such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and others. If we take into consideration the American waning desire to engage in the fight against terrorism and France’s fear of drowning in those arenas, we find ourselves in front of fragile countries trying to confront cross-border terrorist and criminal groups.

The continent, which used to complain about the ambitions of foreign parties into its mines and wealth, cannot today deny the failure of many of its countries in controlling conflicts, placing them under the umbrella of international law and respecting the principles of good neighborliness and balance of interests.

The Renaissance Dam crisis provides a model for African conflicts that can ignite over water or other wealth in the lack of rational policies.

Some fear that the setback of the Ethiopian government forces in the Tigray region will push Abiy Ahmed to toughen his stance on the Renaissance Dam, something Egypt has openly declared that it cannot give up.

The recent Sudanese-Ethiopian clashes in the border area may represent an indication of the possibility of a large-scale fire.

The hot African winds concern us, whether they take the form of waves of migration, the spread of terrorism, or the failure of coexistence experiences.

Thus, the Arabs have to prepare for hot winds blowing from many directions, which necessitates rational and bold policies that help maintain maps and renew hope for better days.

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