As is the case with many academic disciplines, there is an ongoing debate within the halls of African Studies. With Africanists, the debate mostly centers on how best to observe, analyze, and predict — and whenever possible — what solutions to proffer vis-à-vis the concerns and problems emanating in and around the continent. The venerated Ugboaja F. Ohaegbulam “identified four interdisciplinary models that are implicit in many of the intellectual constructs advanced by Africanists” in order to meet these challenges: the traditional and colonial models, and the Marxist and pan-African models.
It would be foolish and irresponsible to paint African scholarship with unsavory brush; nevertheless, a huge chunk of it is nothing more than intellectual junk and intellectual commotion — a sort of copy-paste intellectualism. The major problem with most Africanists is that they tend to aver from well-worn orthodoxy. Most fear taking scholarly risks, they fear going outside the bound of popular tenets; and so they see the continent from about the same lens; therefore, radical analysis and conclusions are, for the most part, frowned upon or completely discouraged or disavowed.
Considering the politics of tenureship (i.e. publish or perish), it is understandable why some African scholars (in the West) write the way they write; hence it is not surprising that commentaries about Africa have similar tone and fiber: redundant, impracticable, and wholly academic. Consequently, it has not been easy to find new thinking and disposition about the continent. But what excuse is there for home-based scholars. Why must their position on a continent that is theirs — a continent they know so well — fall in line with the position of visiting scholars? A new type of empiricism should be directed at the continent: a newness that calls for boldness.
In a previous essay, I proposed five steps Africans must take in order to retake and save their continent from squalor, poverty and hopelessness. They are the things Africans owe their continent. Today, I offer seven more steps. The primary aim of these essays is to provoke debates about the future of the continent, and does not in any way serve as the Holy Grail to our collective travails. A rigorous and honest debate about the continent is needed; and such thinking must take place outside of conventional orthodoxy since conventional thinking has proven to be futile.
Loans/Foreign Aid: Most foreign aids are not aids in the real sense of the word since most of the allotted money/material/service never makes it to the intended enclaves; and even when they do, such aids never achieve the intended impact. Moreover, there is the insidious politics involved in foreign aids. Over the long run, foreign aids do not serve any real purpose. The corruption and politics of foreign aid aside, what good would it do any self-respecting people to continually depend on handouts? What does our penchant for handouts tell the world about us?
Today, most African countries depend on foreign assistance to stay afloat. These aids are injurious to a country’s psyche: it encourages laziness and indolence; and makes receiving countries dependent on donor countries. Over the long run, receiving countries become indebted to donor countries and in due course become an appendage to the donor countries. The West, as a rule, does not give a cent out of the sheer goodness of their heart. These are capitalist countries and not charity organizations; and capitalism is all about profit and self-interest. Additionally, African countries should shun loans — especially those with more than 1% interest rate over the life span of the loan.
Consolidate Nation States: There are countries in Africa that shouldn’t have been nation-states in the first place. These are countries that are just too small, too poor, and vastly undereducated, lacking human and natural resources and are not ready to be truly independent states. Some of these countries should have formed confederations or at best, teamed up with other countries to form one independent state. But pride and undue nationalistic feelings “convinced” them they needed independence. Unfortunately, flag independence does not pay workers salaries, pave roads, build schools and hospital and eradicate diseases, and provide for public infrastructures and other life’ necessities.
Now, decades after “political independence,” these countries do not have the wherewithal to administer their own affairs as they are constantly in need of foreign aids and other forms of assistance from the West or from other countries that would listen to their pleas for help. For instance, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda would have been better off as one single country; just as Republic of Benin and Togo should have been a single country, ditto Senegal and Gambia. Same can be said of Burkina Faso, Mali, and a host of other African countries. Aside from historical reasons, what business does Swaziland and Lesotho has being independent countries? Wouldn’t’ they have been better off as an integral part of South Africa?
Profits from Foreign Direct Investment: Profits from FDI (or any sort of investment) should be restricted from being taken out of the continent (no more than 35% in 5 years). Such windfalls should be reinvested in the continent. True, capitalism and globalization allows for unimpeded investment and roaming of profits, the fact is that the continent is not economic strong and political buoyant to allow for such unregulated economic practice. Globalization or not, Africa needs this sort of protection from global sharks.
Abolish The Military: In virtually every African country, the military (navy, air force and army and paramilitary) has been used to oppress and punish the populace, and are sometimes used to usurp constitutional rule. Only the Police and the foreign intelligence service should be retained. No sub-Saharan African country truly needs an army. None! A small militarized peace keeping unit may be constituted, and controlled by regional bodies like the Economic Community of West African States or the larger African Union.
Budgetary Control: I am proposing that upward of 75% of the total budget be spent on education, health care, and water and sewage treatment plant and on other fundamentals of development (basic human needs). Of this amount, no less than 25% should be spent on education and healthcare. This could be reduced by 5% each year after the 11th year but must at no time fall below 10%. Other areas of the economy — i.e. transportation, housing — should be privatized. And indeed, it should be illegal for governments to engage in White Elephant Projects like stadiums, airports, shopping malls, and seaports.
Reshuffle and or Dilute Ethnicity: Questions and references to ethnicity and religious affiliation should be deleted in all private and government documents, i.e. employment applications, voter’s registration card and school admission forms. In contesting elections, only residency and other qualifications should matter. Also, more than 50% of secondary schools must be boarding schools with no more than 70% of the student body being indigenes. Boarding schools helps with the detribalization process.
Reverse Migration of Africans: Oversea-Africans must, on their own volition, return to their respective countries to help with the economic, social and political process. For too long, the general argument has been that the political, economic and social space is not conducive, secured or big enough for all those who may wish to return home. This sort of reasoning is outdated, a copout. Some of the continent’s best and brightest are in exile, leaving some of the continent’s dumbest (and brightest criminals) to rule and to plunder.