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05.11.2007 Author

Africans Should Confront Painful Facts


Kofi Akordor asked in his admirable article in the Daily Graphic of October 30, 2007 whether any one had heard of James Dewey Watson. I heard of Dr Watson before he won the Nobel Price with Crick and Wilkins in 1962.

Crick was researching in molecular biology at Cambridge in the forties and my proud and brilliant English lecturer thought the findings of his compatriot, Crick, were simple but profound. He, therefore, modified his lectures on topology to dwell at length on the double helix.

Eventually Crick and Watson proposed what came to be accepted as the double helix structure of the DNA molecule.

The discovery enabled scientists to explain how genetic information is transmitted in living organisms and how genes replicate.

James Dewey Watson, therefore, knows a lot about the building bricks of living organisms including human beings. When Watson implies however obliquely that our genes are somewhat not quite normal we should investigate the claim.

Prejudice and preconceived notions are not always removed by knowledge and scholarship. In his exhaustive study, designed to expose racial bigotry and which resulted in the book “The American Dilema”.

The Swedish Social scientist Gunnar Myrdal, exploded the myth of black inferiority which was often claimed to be based on scientific findings.

But as Kofi Akordor suggests, the myth cannot be completely eradicated until the eyes see the black man as the equal of the white.

Dr Watson complains that he has been wrongly reported. But it takes a man of his calibre and stature to bring uncomfortable truths or perceptions to the fore.

We should thank Dr Watson for airing, even if obliquely, what many believe and cannot say.

In my lifetime I have heard Europeans disparagingly refer to Indians and Chinese as Asiatic. The Japanese were described as the yellow race. Today no one who rides in a Toyota will consider the Japanese as inferior.

If anything they are feared as formidable competitors.
Even the ignorant in the former citadels of power has some respect for Indians and Chinese. And why the change?

These countries have in a lifetime built economies, as well as social systems, institutions and governance, which have given self-confidence to their people.

They have developed social and administrative structures, which underpin economic progress while maintaining their cultural identity in today's global village.

These countries have pockets of poverty in their midst but they have the means to deal with the problem. They do not go around begging to make ends meet. They maintain their self-respect and self-confidence. Therefore, others respect them.

I am afraid even if the my dear Watson of Sherlock Holms discovers the elementary fact that African genes are no different from other genes but many would look down upon Africans who cannot remove the filth from their cities.

A generation ago, Kutu Acheampong tried to build our self-confidence and self-reliance through “Operation Feed Yourself” and defiant trade and monetary policies.

We cannot repeat what he did today but we can recall the restoration of the pride of the Ghanaian.
At Independence Kwame Nkrumah, realising how the slave trade and colonialism had affected our mental and social outlook, extolled the virtues of the African personality.

Self-confidence was promoted and the belief in African capability strengthened. African achievements in the past were recalled and even exaggerated to boost confidence.

Recently, Africans in the Diaspora have sought to strengthen self-confidence especially during African or “Black History Month”.

Researches have shown that the achievements of black people have been suppressed. It is not generally known that many black people fought against the slave trade and slavery.

The slave trade was not abolished by the efforts of a white philanthropists alone. The slaves tried to help themselves.

It appears that Africans on the continent have surrendered their future to alms givers or donors euphemistically called partners.

The only African country on the continent which appears to be helping itself is South Africa. And over there Dr Watson and his friends can point to the flair and skills of the white minority which is primarily responsible for the expansion in production and trade and economic growth.

What most of black Africa has to show is poverty, squalor and disease. And Africans have governments (as Akordor says) whose presidential motor-cades rival those of their benefactors.

It is a farce. They are glad when their benefactors tell them that they are doing well. They do not plan except do what donors want so that more money may come in.

When a meeting with donors is to take place, the entire government machine is mobilised to produce the statistics and write-ups which the benefactors require.

When the donor team leaves, our African leaders and their cohorts are concerned not primarily about implementing the projects agreed but in the “spoils pertaining thereto” in the form of consultancies, contracts and purchases.

Corruption is rife and the aim of many African leaders in government is to make money. Donors elaborate intricate plans to eradicate corruption and promote good governance and democracy.

But these donors forget that they have similar corruption in their countries and their democracy is not that ideal. The major difference is that these countries have many sincere leaders and the people are generally awake.

When the corrupt are caught, they are dealt with according to law. And the laws are enforced by court systems not tainted with corruption.

The way to help is not to impose philosophies or ideas of development which have not been tried in any country at a comparable stage of development.

In Ghana, at independence we relied a great deal on the state to spearhead development. It was more successful than we are made to believe today.

But we have to admit that it did not work that well.
We have been trying the private enterprise way for some time. We are told we are doing well.

But many of us remain annoyingly poor. But for donor support the system would have collapsed.
It is clear that in our circumstances the state must plan and show the way.

It cannot and should not get directly involved. But it should not abdicate responsibility either. It should direct or persuade state institutions or organisations such as Ghana Commercial Bank, SSNIT and ADB (Agricultural Development Bank) to invest in planned areas and should not think of them as entities which must be privatised.

Private enterprise should be encouraged and helped to invest in appropriate areas and not assisted to make money through corrupt ventures such as the reported proposed pulling down of the Trade Fair Centre for a money making bonanza.

Many of the countries which advise us have developed their economies through the slavery of our people and their own people.

Many have had to sweat for it. They all adopted methods which suited their condition. When depression struck in the thirties, President Roosevelt did not hesitate to intervene because of a silly idea that governments should not directly intervene in the economy and industry.

He established the Temessey Valley Authority (TVA) which tamed floods to provide cheap electricity industry agriculture and jobs.

Africans should rid their minds of the rubbish that privatisation solves every problem of inefficiency bad management and the like.

Many of our state institutions have been set up for good reasons. If they do not deliver the goods we should look for the cause, whether it was through interference by government or corruption or incompetent directors and management.

We should put what is wrong right and not sheepishly follow advice which no nation in similar circumstances practices.
Only Ghanaians can develop Ghana and make it prosperous and proud.

It is the same for other African countries. We have to emancipate the mind, regain our self-confidence and do things for ourselves.

Only then can we successfully confront the painful fact that at the moment we are far behind in the march of man. And the fault is not in our stars or genes. We have imposed an inferiority complex on ourselves. We should rid our minds of the dependency syndrome.