From hoe to microphone; Africa talks to death

Author: Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

Kenya and indeed Africa have to climb down the high horse and get back to the basics. We are still at the level of keeping our skins together.

If one keenly follows global events, they will notice an interesting phenomenon regarding global conformity. Apparently the world must now ‘talk with one voice,’ even if what is said is not properly or entirely understood. Those walking outside this realm are backward, and unfit to live in the civilised League of Nations.

Civility, correct values and norms are defined by the global North which is made up of the countries that bankroll the world’s economy. Most of them like Britain are historically famous for their role in slave trade and colonialism.

At one point it is the economics of the market characterized by privatization and deregulation which may end up as personalization. Then multi-party elections even if they are shambolic.  Another time it is gay rights whatever the cultural norms of a given people.

Countries are defined around the issue on the set agenda. The issue is made to seem like it is the world’s greatest and only concern around which other global subjects rotate.  Of great importance is that it should be looked at with the same lenses that the global North views it. The rest of the world complies and is praised or gets a whipping for not doing so.

Now the hottest topic besides gay rights is climate change. No one in their right mind can say it is not something we should all be worried about.

Especially in Africa the change in weather patterns has affected the mainstay of economies which are structurally agrarian. The extreme long hot patches and rains that destroy property and infrastructure live with us almost on a daily.

So the world organizes climate change conferences. The next edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) or the Conference of Parties -COP 28 will take place in the United Arab Emirates. Be sure that country will make a lot of money from the delegates coming in to deliberate, sight see and shop.

Most of the deliberations are centered on the reduction in emission of ozone depleting gases. Most of these gases are a result of the fuels that are used in production of goods and services by the developed economies. Reducing them means using alternative forms of clean energy. This means changing technology which does not come cheap. It may also mean reducing output from industries which many countries are reluctant to do as it affects employment and overall economic growth and revenue which is the core objective of capitalism. Addressing climate change is almost an affront on capitalism and that is what most countries do not want to publically accept.

Some of the popular solutions are that the rich countries that are guilty of contributing most of the environmentally unfriendly gases and residues pay a ‘tax’. The money will be used to mitigate the effects of climate change, especially in the global South, which is a serious victim of climate change caused by the North.

The last time round there was still a promise of US$ 100 billion which was yet to be paid by the developed countries. COP28 will likely go the same way COP27 went, which was held on the African continent in Egypt. Usually they promote a young person from the so-called minorities. The individual becomes the face of this trend calling on the world with great emotion, to think about the future generation and that makes more news than the core issues of adopting renewable energy and clean energy.

But we are still talking. Now the net has been cast wider. At the risk of taking a beating for being a spoiler, I am constrained to comment on the just concluded first Africa Climate Summit that recently took place in Nairobi. The beautiful city in the sun is also the home of Kibera; the largest slum in Africa where poverty, crime, disease and despair are the norm.

There was a lot of chest thumping about Kenya now punching above its weight and how the so-called youngest continent on earth had made a statement in this summit.

Looking at some of the group photos you saw people accused of grabbing forests and wetlands in various countries on the continent smiling from ear to ear as they ‘made a statement’ on climate change.

One of the major recommendations out of the first African Climate Summit was to call upon the global North to stick to its commitments on climate change. The very things said from time to time in most global gatherings. As usual the North will go on with its ways because the offensive emissions are a direct result of their production and that is the key to their dominance and survival.

Of course many benefited from providing various goods and services for the success of this summit. For instance, the main contract for the renovation of the Kenya International Conference Center was worth about US$3 Million. Then security, transport, accommodation, executive time etc. That would all be okay until you think about this. 

Kenya is in the middle of an economic downturn with very high cost of living. The food and fuel prices are soaring and many small businesses have closed. The debt burden is at its highest at a time when the country is taxing almost everything for revenue to operate at an optimum.

Do we need all that time and money to make statements that will go unnoticed by most of the culprits?

Granted we are supposed to behave like countries that belong to the civilized League of Nations. We are mandated to talk about and show concern about global issues. But do we have to organise these costly huge summits to make statements on global agendas over which we have little or no control?

Kenya and indeed Africa have to climb down the high horse and get back to the basics. We are still at the level of keeping our skins together. We should fight to get out of there before we pretend to sit on the high table and chill with the big boys.  We have dropped the hoe for the microphone and that will earn us praise but not bring badly needed bread on the table.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba