It is often tempting to overstate the importance of geopolitical events, but there is no question that the election of billionaire businessman Donald Trump as president of the United States is one of the most dramatic developments in recent decades.
None but his most ardent circle of supporters saw it coming. The political establishment of both major parties in the US, the whole media corps on the right and left ends of the ideological spectrum, pollsters and foreign heads of state were all left in shock when Trump had carried the day.
There are important lessons in this for Africa.
This has been a year of significant disruption to what was seen as a settled international post world-war era.
In October, voters in Britain voted to exit the European Union, confounding all expectations and defying the leaders of both major parties in that country.
Now, the Trump era promises a resurgence of right-wing nationalism far beyond America with attention likely to focus on major elections due in France and Germany.
This is a timely wake-up call to African leaders. For far too long, much of Africa has been in lazy dependency mode, exporting raw materials to markets in Europe and inept governments at home expecting foreign aid to fill the gap that could not be catered for in the budget by internal resources.
Nothing triggers change more effectively than necessity. The disruptions on the world stage coupled with the steep fall in oil prices over the past two years show the dangers of Africa’s acute state of dependency on others.
The long-repeated mantra on the need for Africans to trade more within the continent and the need to improve cross-continental transport must now urgently be put into action.
Governance must be improved urgently. If Kenya stopped losing a staggering US$3 billion annually to corruption, for example, it wouldn’t need American aid to subsidise its healthcare.
It would also offer its citizens a better standard of life and fewer would need to travel abroad in search of jobs.
The election of an avowed isolationist like Trump might be just the wake-up call Africa needs to understand that it is not a good idea to depend too much on the largesse of others.