Opinionista Babatunde Fagbayibo 28 August 2019

The G7 Summit and the African UFO (Unidentified Fly-in Ou)

An open letter to the leaders of the G7 following the Biarritz summit

Dear G7 leaders,

Hearty greetings from the country of, oh sorry, the continent of Africa. I hope the stress of organising a very important summit such as G7, including the arrangements that had to be made to accommodate the theatrics of the Emperor of New America, was not unbearable. If it was, then I suggest that you all see it as part of the great and thankless task of saving the world.

As a dutiful and grateful citizen of the global South, particularly the country of, oh sorry again, the continent of Africa, meetings like yours are sweet music to my ears. It not only shows that money, or the hope of it, is on its way but also portrays African leaders in a very important light: hobnobbing with big mzungus, in the hope that salvation is eventually on its way. This optic always fills me with childlike excitement.

I am particularly fascinated by how G7 leaders seductively gaze into the eyes of African representatives during the tête-à-tête, further confirming the African saying, “The face is the abode of discourse.” Are these promises eventually fulfilled?

That isn’t and shouldn’t be the point. The issue is the aesthetics of the interaction, the face-me-I-face-you, bear hugs, loud laughter, and the subsequent congratulatory messages on social media praising our African representatives on a job well done vis-à-vis negotiations with the mzungus of the global North.

Having said this, I think it is important to now raise my concern about the just-concluded meeting. My anger is not with you guys, as you have done what needs to be done – beautiful photo-ops, mesmerising financial commitments and all. Neither do I have an issue with the African representatives, as they too did what needed to be done – Instagram-worthy postures, nice suits, frank gazes during negotiations, and a self-congratulatory report on how things panned out in Biarritz.

My main issue is with the reporter from Associated Press who referred to a picture of Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, as an “unidentified leader”. He Banna! Haba! After all the preparations, razzmatazz, and serious face-to-face discussions, how could this reporter not have at least known that any black person (and she is also black by the way) at the event must be a very important personality? Doesn’t she know that such carelessness is a jailable (cough cough) offence in some African countries? Does she want to cause friction among our African leaders?

Because some would jealously ask if she would have referred to “golden boy” Paul Kagame as “unidentified”. Even those African leaders who were not invited will start mocking Mr Ramaphosa as “unidentified”, just to spite him for getting the highly sought-after invitation and then going unrecognised by one common reporter. Some would even start referring to South Africa as an “unidentified African country”.

Now, you must remember that South Africa is a big player on the continent, and if this mocking persists, its government could understandably withdraw from bilateral and continental programmes on integrating Africa. All because of some careless reporting!

Dear G7 leaders, these concerns are real, and could even lead us to asking questions about how you see us. Is Africa an “unidentified” player in the global power dynamics? Is this why the G7 ends up not fulfilling its promises to Africa, because we are an “unidentified country”, oh sorry, continent?

I really don’t want this reporter to cause any friction between Africa and the G7 because our relationship is very important. So important that our representatives keep coming back with the hope that one day something will change regarding commitments. What hope, what commitment can be greater than that?

So in going forward, I suggest we agree on a couple of things. One, let’s have a corrective, atonement mini-summit before the next G7 summit, where G7 leaders and African representatives agree that the mistake of Biarritz must never happen again.

In fact, the entire Biarritz G7 summit should be unidentified, with the hope of staging an event where our African representatives, particularly President Ramaphosa, are loudly identified to rousing applause with Afrobeats music by our friends from the global North playing in the background. The mini-summit could be tagged an “Identification Summit”.

As usual, the mini-summit should include the bold commitments on changing things, giving more money to Africa, photo-ops, bear hugs and the ceremonial face-to-face meetings.

Lastly, G7 leaders must promise that the next big summit will be devoid of any embarrassing “unidentified leader” reporting, with a commitment that journalists will be taken through proper training on identifying African leaders and pronouncing their names correctly.

Dear G7 leaders, my sincere hope is that these issues will be given due attention.

Thank you, and until we meet again at the next big summit where fresh commitments will be made, I remain your loyal admirer from the country of, ahh sorry about that, the continent of Africa! DM

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