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Opinion | Jan 15, 2018

Africa: Tales Of The ‘Wealthiest’ Beggar

By Adnan Mustapha
The Author
The Author

The shape of Africa explains its situation. A big question mark with Madagascar representing the dot at the tail end. A conundrum, with its affairs and destiny left in the hands of monstrous imperialists and a savage greedy political class. Pity, isn’t it? Today’s Africa represents a complete betrayal of the toils and sacrifices of the agitators for independence from colonization. It is an Africa plagued with bad leadership superintending over the affairs of an unpatriotic and an ill-informed populace. A continent that survived the brutalities of slavery, outlived the theft of colonization yet shackled and bandaged to the schemes of neo-colonialism.

Sixty years ago, the story of this great continent was one filled with hope, joy and euphoria. Many nations had started attaining independence from white rule. A new dawn had arrived with a sense of unison. A converted sense of optimism for a better tomorrow. Ghana, a small country situated in the West African coast had paved the way through their charismatic leader, Kwame Nkrumah, a visionary and an astute patriot, determined to change the destiny of his people and by extension, the rest of the continent. Ghana soon became the catalyst and inspiration needed to awaken the new African.

Sadly, the independence honeymoon was short-lived. Hopes were soon dashed through a series of military upheavals. Wealth bequeathed to the continent by nature and for a while managed by the colonial masters were mismanaged with impunity. Leaders arrogated to themselves the status of demigods with a no-nonsense approach to dissent. Despots who ruled without an iota of decency, respect and sympathy for their people. Kleptomaniacs whose only objective was to amass wealth with the support of their western myrmidons while the ordinary people lived in abject poverty without access to fundamental social facilities.

By beginning of 1980, many African nations with huge potentials had been bedeviled with civil unrest, catastrophic levels of poverty, pervasive corrupt practices and in some cases, labelled as death grounds. The Democratic Republic of Congo, a country endowed with huge natural resources had seen living standards plummet under the stewardship of Mobutu Sese Seko, a totalitarian who took power after a coup against the nationalist government of Patrice Lumumba in 1960. The situation in Ethiopia was no different. Mengistu Haile Mariam, a communist military dictator, stood aloof with pride while millions of Ethiopians died from one of the worst famines ever to rock the continent and in Uganda, HIV/AIDS infections had reached endemic levels. Robert Gabriel Mugabe liberated his people but stayed in power until 2017 when he had to be ousted by the very people who once revered and idolized him. These dictatorial actions exhibited by our leaders robbed Africa of a great opportunity to harmonize its resources for the good of its people. By mid 80s, most economies in Africa were in a distress situation; institutions were ill- equipped and underfinanced, the infrastructural capacity of the continent was below average and brain drain gathered momentum. Africa’s long term development partners; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were compelled to change tactics and approach. They called for economic liberalization so as to allow for private participation. The structural adjustment program among others were introduced. In the end, most countries that signed for these programs failed to deliver the desired results. Rather, debt stocks rose to unimaginable levels with little or nothing to show. Martin Meredith in his book “The State of Africa” best described this period as “The Lost Decade”.

However, regardless of all these atrocities and mismanagement encountered by many countries on the continent, Africa continues to produce a significant proportion of the world’s mineral resources. Its reserve stock is profoundly amazing. Nigeria and Angola are the leading oil producers in Africa, Ghana and South Africa follow suit with gold, Ivory Coast and Ghana are the largest cocoa producers in Africa and both in the top 10 producers in the world. Diamond, iron ore, bauxite and other minerals are extracted in large quantities as well.

Regrettably, with all these vast wealth, Africa remains the poorest continent. It has insanely recorded some of the worst ailments in world history. Foreign Aid constitutes a substantial portion of our national budgets. Both unemployment and underemployment remain the continent’s biggest challenge. Food security, unreliable power supply, fuel shortages, high rates of infant mortality, filth and lack of basic social amenities are all major debacles confronted by African governments.

Interestingly in the last two decades, a few countries have made strides in their democratic dispensation. These gains have breathed new life at a time when all hope seems to have been lost. Once again, Ghana led the way when its former military ruler, Jerry John Rawlings decided to return the country to the path of democracy after seizing power in both 1979 and 1981. Since then, Ghana has gone on to witness consistent successful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the other. Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and recently Liberia have all seen a smooth transfer of power in a manner that has gained the admiration of the whole world. The continent has also recorded some of the world’s billionairs.

President Kagame of Rwanda and Magufuli of Tanzania have both chartered new paths of prosperity for their people through principled and visionary leadership. Rwanda’s economic gains have made it a model for most African countries now. Magufuli’s war on indiscipline, wastage and corruption has brought hope to his people.

It behooves African leaders to embrace the dictates of democracy and rule according to its provisions and principles. The notion of seeking governance for wealth accumulation ought to be discarded. The African mind needs reorientation and discipline. African leaders have to sanitize the system by putting in preventive measures to avenues that allow for individuals to constantly loot their respective nations. Anti-corruption mechanisms should be put in place or strengthened. The amount of money lost through corruption related activities annually is far more than aid and grants received. Corruption should be tackled relentless and tamed. Strong will, courage and love for one’s nation are the qualities needed to defeat corruption.

Also, African governments must assiduously work to build capacity in negotiation, strategy and policy experts. This will enhance our ability to envisage the right strategies and ensure the African interest is not quashed on the negotiation table. Research has predicted that by 2060, Africa will possess the most industrious population in the world. Its populace will be more youthful than any other continent. But like our resources, if we do not work to build visionary, ethical, skilled and entrepreneurial ilk among the next generation, the exploitation by others will continue.

Africa is all that we have and it will take our resolute determination to overhaul the current situation.

Long Live Africa,
By: Adnan Mustapha
([email protected])

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