Linking the respect of LGBT Rights in Africa to economic aid.
African countries can be given credit for working together to bring an end to Colonialism and Apartheid although there are still a myriad of problems (such as corruption, famine, HIV/AIDS, etc.) that needs to be eradicated through the joint efforts of countries in the region. On a continent where it is very rare to find members of parliament agreeing on any issue except when it is in relation to the increment of their own salaries and allowances; the decision by some Western countries (especially the US and the UK) to tie their foreign aid to the respect of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people across the continent could be the catalyst needed to revive the Pan-African spirit deficient in most of the African leaders of today. For the first time in several decades, the vast majority of Africans from all walks of life including politicians from both ruling governments and opposition parties are making their voices heard on their antagonism to demands for gay rights in African and their preparedness to oppose it with all their might.
To mention the word gay in Africa some few years ago was almost a taboo but today, Africa has one of the fastest growing gay populations in the world. This could mainly be attributed to the rise in sex tourism, the spread of IT (internet) and also cable television. Morocco, Zanzibar, Mauritius, Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar, Gambia, Senegal, Tunisia, etc. are well known destinations in Africa for sex tourism. Due to poverty, many young and vulnerable Africans submit themselves to pedophiles, gays and other sex tourists mostly from Europe and North America on daily basis for meager financial rewards and gifts.
In a deeply religious continent where out of its one billion inhabitants almost 90% consider themselves to be Christians or Muslim and the other 10% traditionalists, agnostics, atheists or followers of other religions; the campaign for gay rights on the continent will not be easy. This has also opened the gates for many conspiracy theorists and according to one Pan-Africanist,
"The West feels threatened by the rapidly growing population of Africa. In spite of the several millions of life that perished as a result of the HIV/AIDS virus, the population of Africa is still growing and therefore the only alternative is to introduce gay marriages which in eventually will disrupt the family structure""
Of course countries like China and India have very large populations and are currently competing with the West on the economic front, technology, etc. but it must be noted that these countries had to restructure their economies and also invest in the education of their citizens which many African countries have failed to do; so how can our population become a threat to the West?
In Africa, the clergy and Muslim clerics do not agree on many issues. A typical example has to do with the immunization of children against Poliomyelitis. Whereas the clergy do not have much problem with the vaccines, some Muslim clerics across the continent especially from Northern Nigeria have issued religious verdicts ("fatwas') claiming that the Polio vaccines contain chemicals that will make the children infertile later in life. This has led to many attacks on Polio workers across the continent and has resulted in fatalities in places like Kano in Northern Nigeria. However, despite the many disagreements between the clergy and Muslim clerics on issues such as Polio immunization and the use of contraceptives, the overwhelming majority of them are firmly of the view that promoting gay rights on the continent is totally against their religious beliefs and also against their African values.
Mahama (Ghana), Kagame (Rwanda), Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Museveni (Uganda) are a few of the Africa presidents who have had to overtly oppose Western demands for gay rights on the continent. This has already led to the slashing of financial aid to some countries who have vowed not to kowtow to the demands of the West. With many African countries heavily dependent on foreign aid, reconsidering their relationship with the West has become an option in order to enable them to feed their citizens and also support their economies. China which already has a strong presence in Africa appears to be ready to do more business with African countries which are falling out with the West.
SINO-AFRICA TRADE TO BENEFIT FROM "GAY RIGHTS FOR AID' POLICY BY THE WEST
Beijing claims its relationship with Africa is part of its global agenda to "" maintain the lawful rights of developing countries and push forward the creation of a new, fair and just political and economic order in the world". Many African leaders are gradually becoming more comfortable doing business with the Chinese who are less likely to interfere in their internal affairs. In any case, LGBT Rights in Africa is one of the least concerns of China; securing and protecting their business interests on the continent is their main priority.
Less than a decade ago, the US and the EU were the largest trading partners of Africa. However, China has now overtaken them and is still pushing for more business especially in raw materials such as oil, gold, diamond, iron ore, chromite, cobalt, manganese. Experts have predicted trade between Africa and China to exceed at least $200 billion dollars by the end of the year 2013. China has over 47 embassies in Africa which is a strong statement to the rest of the world. They mean business and are also ready to protect their citizens and investments. There are currently over a million Chinese on the continent doing business in fields such as agriculture, construction, mining, etc. Despite occasional problems with local people especially regarding land ownership, most of them are quite satisfied due to the high turnover and support they enjoy from African politicians. With a large number of African students getting scholarships to study in China and also more Mao Centers being established in Africa, it is now quite common to meet young Africans who speak fluent Mandarin; and this will certainly help China to deepen ties with Africa.
It took over 200 years after the declaration of independence in the US for the first black person (Barack Hussein Obama) to be voted into the White House. With the passage of time and the right approach, perceptions and attitudes towards gays in Africa could change but any drastic measure to impose gay rights on Africans could have serious repercussions. This would be like giving China and North Korea a one month ultimatum to introduce multi-party democracy or asking Tehran to dismantle its nuclear enrichment plants within a week. This is just impossible. Just as Africa needs the West, the West also needs Africa to help in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, internet fraud, etc. If providing direct aid to African governments will be knotted to the recognition of gay rights, then it appears the West is in for a long battle because voices from the political corridors in Africa indicate that the politicians are for once ready to side with the masses. As the adage goes, "the voice of the people is the voice of God".
Issaka Lawerh Tetteh was born and raised in Ghana but has spent many years in other countries both in Africa and overseas.
He currently holds a Masters degree in International Business Management but hopes to read a PhD in in the very near future.
His research interests are in the fields of Human Rights, Diversity Management, Cross-Cultural Management and International Relations.
Since embracing freelance writing as a hobby; he has written and published extensively in magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.
Issaka spends his leisure time travelling, studying other cultures, learning new languages, reading and writing.