What Should We Do About Our Africa?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“When the world needs people to knock and kick around, they look for the Africans…Africans have not wised-up, they have not awoken from their comatose state.”

According to John Isbister, at the top of almost every country’s priority list has been economic development, by which it means increases in production and income, standards of living, and the provision of other economic and political goods and services. And so the overarching goal of development is improvement in human well-being: high standard of living, expansion of choices and freedoms, economic security, eradication of poverty, improvement in human rights and basic needs, and so on and so forth. Isbister went on to say that the plight of the third world is not only economic; it is social and political as well. The independence movements and post-independence governments implied and promised a new age of freedom for Africans, but in its place produced tyranny and terror, poverty and illiteracy, ignorance and defeat. And so it is that three to five decades after political independence, the vast majority of Africans are beaten and defeated. Almost a decade into the twenty-first century, there is no let in sight in terms of their suffering.

One cannot be an African and not feel sorry for the Continent. And even for non Africans, the findings of empirical data, along with the reality on the ground, makes them wonder what the problems are, with Africans. Even with its bounteous resources, the continent is still a sea of debilitating poverty, primitive-ignorance, sadistic conflicts, internal and external exploitation, ecological disasters, contagions of known and unknown sources, and of self-immolating tendencies. True, rehashing the continent’s problems is not the solution, it solves nothing; but the problems are there and true. Everyone seems to know what the solutions are; but for whatever reason, the continent’s challenges seem to have defied all developmental theories and strategies. What works in other parts of the world doesn’t seem to work in Africa. The continent, it seems, have developed resistance to routine solutions. Africa, it seems, is caught in a web of infinite tempests and destruction.

Development, most scholars agree, has four dimensions: economic, political, social and cultural. On all four counts, the continent is severely wanting. And in fact, not a few scholars have argued that Africa is not an underdeveloped continent, it is undeveloped. By any measure of empirical standard, Africa is not developed. And psychologically, Africans are said to be undeveloped. This is so because, generally speaking, Africans have a low self-esteem of themselves; deferring to non-Blacks on all matters — even on matters that concerns their everyday existence. It is as if slavery and colonization has not ended; or could it be that what is being observed within and amongst Africans are the lingering effects of subjugation and mental defeat? Otherwise, why does Africans routinely defer to the rest of the world? Why has Africans allowed the re-colonization of their continent by new and emerging powers — be it state or non-state actors, powerful individuals or business entities?

Much of Africa had no dog in the Second World War entanglements, but it suffered by virtue of it being a colony. More than any other continent, Africa bore the brunt of the Cold War. For more than 500 years Africans have been at the mercy of every small, weak, or strong State. When the world needs people to knock and kick around, they look for the Africans. After all these years, Africans have not wised-up, they have not awoken from their comatose state. Today, the State of Israel — smaller in virtually every category than Senegal — has Africa in its pocket. And then there are the Lebanese and the Indians. China is today roaming the continent as though it own the continent’s resources. The British, in all their duplicity, still quietly pull the strings of governance. And the French? Sad! The French, unlike the British, are not even coy about anything: they still consider their former colonies their territory; they relate to the leaders of French-speaking Africa countries as though those leaders are their puppets and errand boys. And they are. Sadly, these African leaders are just too happy to be pooped on.

There is no room here to blame external factors and external forces and dynamics for the plight of Africans. No! African leaders themselves are to be held responsible for the suffering of their people, and for the backwardness of the continent. By that I mean that African leaders desecrated the continent and their respectful countries. Men who are not bright enough to run a kiosk-based business became presidents; men and women who are mentally challenged became leaders and administrators in government. Traitors, leeches and urchins became the celebrated. In addition, the African people also have themselves to blame for the condition in which they have been living in (at least) since gaining political independence. They allowed religion, ethnicity, regionalism, private economic and political interest and clan sentiments to cloud their judgments in terms of who to vote for and who to support. Most loved their clan and ethnic group more than they love their country, and so they were willing to tolerate and forgive the stupidity and criminality of their third-rate leaders. In the end, Africa became the sanctuary to more than 95% of rogues calling themselves president, prime minister, minister, and party-chieftains the world over.

According to George Saitoti, “The first step in dealing with Africa‘s problems is for Africans to appreciate the challenges facing them. This appreciation must also include an acceptance of the various policy failures that have contributed to the current state of affairs. Only then can it be possible to chart new development strategies… The basic concern now is how to mobilize and manage both Africa‘s human and material resources towards solutions for the structural ills that currently plague the continent. This is the central question for Africa to address. A bold vision is now needed for African economic development involving a comprehensive reassessment of international and domestic policy approaches in order to translate the current situation into strong and sustained economic growth.” Saitoti went on to make several suggestions:

  1. establishment of peace and stability is important since no viable economic activity can take place in the presence of wars and destructive conflicts. To achieve peace, Afiican governments must focus on solidifying democracy, constitutionalism, and respect of human rights.

  1. investment in people, particularly in education and health, including combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, is important in that such investment will equip everybody and especially the poor with the capability to participate fully and effectively in economic activities.

  1. regional integration is important in order to create large markets that can attract investment. Benefits of economic integration and cooperation are essential in efforts to reduce poverty. Thus, there is need for strong commitment from African leaders and their people.

  1. the critical importance of the private sector as an engine of economic growth and job creation. However, this does not preclude the critical role of a strong and effective state in facilitating the efficient functions of markets.

  1. while responsibility for development in Africa lies with governments and their people, the contribution of the international community is important. Poor African countries will be unable to escape the vicious circle of poverty unless they and the international developmental partners join forces.

  1. since we live in a globalized economy, competitiveness is key to effective integration of Africa into the global economic system. Thus, for Africa to raise the living standards of its people, improving competitiveness must be a high priority on the development agenda.

  1. stabilizing the macroeconomic situation. This is essential if African countries are to be competitive in the globalized economy. High inflation rates, unproductive spending, fiscal imbalances, and large balance of payments deficits need to be contained, and

  1. Finally, emphasis must be placed on political and institutional reforms. It is crucial to note that economic reforms are necessary for economic growth but are not a sufficient condition. To complement economic reforms, political and institutional reforms are necessary.

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Yemi Oyedele. December 11, 2007 - 10:47 am

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You are almost always on point on any subject and this last one is not any different.

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