Posted on March 17, 2009

Obama’s African Blood Lines Are Not a Gateway to Success

Brian Gilmore, Ebony/Jet, March 16, 2009

In the March 11, 2009 issue of the newspaper, The Financial Times, U.S. President, Barack Obama is first amongst a list of 50 individuals who will “frame a way forward” through the world’s current global financial crisis. It is quite an honor and sight to see.


While it is impressive that a man of African descent, Obama, heads the list, there are two points to be made about the list that are more noteworthy.

First, while Mr. Obama is #1, he is the only person on the list of African descent. Mr. Obama is not in charge of an African nation, company, or institution; he is President of the United States.

Second, and more importantly, while FT’s list of 50 financial players in the world today is full of European movers and shakers, the list is also filled with representatives from Asian countries and institutions. {snip}

Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister of China (2nd), and Wang Qishan, Vice Primer of China (10th), are both on the list. Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of People’s Bank of China is there (15th) as is Masaaki Shirakawa, Governor Bank of Japan (18th).

The presence of Asian players on the list tells all of us what most of us already know: Asia is a serious economic player in the world. Asia is the reason President Barack Obama is trying to address energy, health care, and education issues in his domestic reform agenda. U.S. companies are suffocating under the pressure of Asian economic development. The U.S. borrows money from Asian banks regularly, and that, we all know, is financial suicide.

The second issue the list exposes–the lack of any real economic players of African descent on the list except for Barack Obama–is disappointing to say the least.

Months ago, China successfully pressured the U.S. to bailout mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because a significant portion of China’s GNP is invested in those companies. Fannie and Freddie couldn’t fail because China might tank. And if China’s financial system tanks, where will the U.S. turn for quick cash?

In contrast, the most noteworthy news story coming out of Africa last year was economic as well: Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe, and the man viciously subjecting his people to cholera laden water, starvation, and authoritarian rule, had somehow driven the inflation rate in that country to an incomprehensible 200 million percent.

Years ago, I recall poet Haki Madhubuti, the Chicago based black institution builder, noting that there is not a product or company of global notoriety that originates in the African world. It didn’t take me long to understand Madhubuti’s point.


Note, of the top 100 Global corporations, as reported last year by Forbes Magazine, not one is African based or a company founded in Africa by black Africans. {snip}

Instead of challenging the obvious, African countries and Africans collectively should seek to become political and economic players of serious consequence in the near future on their own terms or on the world’s terms.