Nearly fifty years ago the United Nations stated in its Universal Declaration Of Human Rights “Everyone has a right to a standard of life adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family. The declaration further states that human poverty constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights.
As Africa celebrates Liberation day it is apt for us to ask what are we celebrating? I am an African who is simply exasperated, frustrated and angry about the abject economic and social condition endured by my fellow citizens on daily basis and the rhetorical nonsense coming out from the majority of bankrupt African Leaders. o
Although sub-Sahara Africa countries are quiet diverse by nature of population, climate and wealth they all have one thing in abundance- poverty, unaccountable governments and corrupt regimes. The only growth sectors in sub-Sahara Africa for the past four decades have been malnutrition, starvation, poverty, coups d'etat, civil wars and economic mismanagement.
The time has come for sub-Sahara African countries to define the values, which will underpin the running of their societies in this Millennium. Is it going to be much of the same? Will the continent continue to be the basket case of the world- the charity bowl of the world? Will millions of African Children continue to be deprived of food, shelter and clothing? Will the elite of the continent continue to flee persecution and oppression and seek sanctuary abroad? Will our mothers continue to die at child- birth? Will the television cameras of the 'first world' continue to beam back pictures of dying children of Africa?
Absolute poverty is no longer inevitable, the world has the material, natural resources and the ability to rid the world of abject poverty. I cannot sit by any longer when leaders like Mugabe destroy, pillage, humiliate and put all peace loving Africans into shame- “collective African shame”- the Black Shame. Minding your own business says Shaw's Saint Joan to the dauphin, “ is like minding your own body: it's the shortest way to make yourself sick. ”.
Fellow countrymen let us take a ride in down town sub- Sahara Africa and look at the facts- facts brothers and sisters. I will leave the readers to decide whether it is worth celebrating African liberation day?.
The Facts sub-Sahara Africa(SSA): · has 220 million people who are income poor(surviving on less than a $1 a day) and it is estimated that by the year 2010, half of the people in the region will be suffering from income poverty
· has the greatest incidence of human poverty and the most rapid growth in human poverty affecting 110 million people.
· 33% of its citizens are not expected to survive to age 40
q Every year more than 500,000 women die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth with huge regional disparities The situation yet again is worst in SSA, where a woman has 1 in 13 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth
q In SSA immunizations of babies has fallen below 50%.
q SSA is the only region where life expectancy is lower now than in 1990.
q Adult literacy rates, since 1975 rates have increased substantially in all developing regions except SSA.
q By the end of 2000 almost 322 million people would had died from aids HIV q In Botswana , the most affected country more than a third of adults have HIV/AIDS and a child born today can expect to live only 36 years- about half as long as if the disease did not exist. In Burkina Faso, the 20th most affected country, 330,000 adults are living with HIV/AIDS and life expectancy has fallen by 8 Years.
q 24 million people in SSA are HIV positive, 70% of the world's total. 13 million African's have already died of AIDS and 10 million more are expected to die within 5 years. The World Bank estimates that AIDS could shrink some African economies by up to 25% over the next 15 years.
Every year there are more than 300 million cases of malaria, 90% of them in sub- Sahara – Africa In SSA only South Africa has less than a 10% incidence of child malnourishment In six SSA countries that figure is more than 40%
Income per head
In 1990, the average income per head in sub-Sahara Africa was $560, by 2000 it had declined by a massive 24% to $450. Between 1980-2000, food production per person in all other developing regions went up; it rose by 65% in the Near East, 49%in Asia but fell by around 12% in black Africa. .
q Unemployment across sub-Sahara Africa stands at 50%.
Sanitation and Welfare systems
In Ibadan a city of more than one million people less than 1 per cent of households have sewerage facilities. The poor always pay a high price for their poverty and entrepreneurs always seem to find a creative way to extort it. In Ghana where the poorest pay for each visit to the neighbourhood latrine they spend more on sanitation services each year than do residents with toilet facilities in their homes.
The International Labour Organisation ILO has said that the single most effective way to stem the flow of children into abusive forms of employment is to provide a seat and improve schooling so that it will attract and retain them In sub Sahara Africa , an extra $2.5 billion would provide a seat for every child in a classroom. Relocating one third of the region's military expenditure would do the same.
SSA damage to education has been particularly significant: the percentage of 6-11 yr olds enrolled in school has fallen from 60 percent in 1980 to less than 50 per cent in 2000. In Africa fewer than half the classrooms has a usable blackboard, and in most SSA pupils must provide their own notebooks, pens, slates.( I have seen it with my own eyes in my native Ghana and neighbouring countries)
This disastrous economic performance of sub-Sahara African countries has been compounded by a perverse development process, which has excluded the poorer members of society; enriched the unproductive elite's and neglected the issue of basic needs and human rights.
This skewed development has contributed far much to the increase in poverty of the poorer members of society than any external shocks. LET US HAVE A QUICK GLANCE AT 2 PREMIER NATIONS
PREMIER NATION-GHANA Take my native country and beloved Ghana. The first black African nation to achieve independence. In 1957 it was West Africa's premier colony, the showpiece of Britain's colonial empire. At independence, Ghana was the richest country in Africa (sub-Sahara Africa) and had the best-educated population in the continent. Its income per head was almost exactly equal to South Korea $490.
In 2002 South Korea 's income per head was $10,000. That is perhaps less extraordinarily than the fact that Ghana's income per head had actually fallen by nearly 20% to $400. Between 1970 and 1982, real income per head in Ghana fell by 30% real wages fell by 80%, investment slumped from 20% of GDP in the 50's to 4% by 1982.
By 1996 Ghana was an economic wasteland with factories operating 80% below capacity. Ghana's pitiable economic situation was both cause and effect of political instability, endemic corruption, administrative and bureaucratic incompetence. With the arrival of the government of John Agyekum Kufuor things are looking up as press freedom, transparency and accountability have become the norm.
What about Kenya? Kenya at one time had one of the strongest economies on the sub-continent. Years of mismanagement, corruption and nepotism have an effect on the economy. By 2003 more than half of all Kenyans were living poverty compared to a decade ago.
OTHER LESS GLAMOROUS STATES
In other less glamorous parts of Africa the story is the same. In Somalia, anarchy reigns, there has been no central administration since 1992, warlords rule the goose and life expectancy is below 35. Liberia was anarchy gone mad
Rwanda was Africa' s shame, 800,000 victims fell to madness and machetes. In Sierra Leone troops –some as young as 10 high on narcotics amputates arms and legs, gouged out eyes, sliced open pregnant women and stewed bodies for food. Currently there are fighting going on in Angola, Sudan, Congo. As the co- Chair for the African Congolese Association in Bedfordshire I have seen horrific videos pictures and images that made me broke down in tears. Millions of our brothers and sisters are being slaughtered like pigs and chickens daily in Congo as I write and our “so called” leaders have the guts and nerves to celebrate the Liberation Day-
What Liberation? Whose Liberation? What freedom? When did the poor mothers of Rwanda, Sudan, Liberia, Congo, Angola, Northern Uganda, Eriteria, etc had any freedom or peace?
Judging from the above indicators it can be argued that by any human improvement standard sub-Sahara Africa is in dire straits. Despite years of political independence and political freedom from the colonial power the cruel fact remains that the economic, political and social conditions for the majority of Black Africans have worsened. Tyranny, judicial and state-sponsored terrorism has increased and poverty is on the rise. My judgement is on liberation day is simple:to many of us (black Africans) independence has meant throwing off the colonisers yoke and putting on the chains of the new colonisers. Independence has simply meant political oppression, economic deprivation and an increase in famines and starvation by our kith and kin- our “so- called black leaders” our own blood brothers . I leave the reader to make his won mind up as we live in a democratic state. Appiah- Danquah Kufuor – Co Chairman Bedfordshire African Congolese Association Head of European Division Luton Borough Council Bedfordshire Beds- UK Watch out for the publication of my book on the Africa Condition. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.