Since the evolution of man as science has it, no human setting has ever existed without the application of religion or politics. So far as there is the need for leadership brings into the picture, politics and religion. Every organization, institution, state and country practices politics since it is pertinent doing so but it becomes counterproductive however when politics and religion is influenced by sentiments and selfishness, the need to enrich one’s pocket at another’s expense using these two elements. In the Ghanaian and African Traditional Religion in general, the need to fall on deities to offer sacrifices, prayers and protection brings into light “religion”. These two elements, “Politics and Religion” somewhat contributes to the pace of development in communities and individual wellbeing. So in effect, the degree to which those who practice these two elements attach emotions and commitment at the expense of logic, fairness and justice thus become however detrimental to the progress of the society they may find themselves. The question is asked as to whether in entirety, politics and religion can/and have contributed to Africa’s current developmental state. Mostly, arguments are made between two countries on the date both attained independence and how far they’ve both come economically.
On records, Ghana and Malaysia attained independence the same year (1957) but economically, these two countries are not on the same level. Malaysia after independence had troubled beginnings with not enough resources to boost its economy. Once heavily dependent on primary products such as rubber and tin , Malaysia today is an upper middle-income country with a multi-sector economy based on services and manufacturing . Malaysia is one of the world's largest exporters of semiconductor components and devices, electrical goods , solar panels , and information and communication technology ( ICT ) products( Wikipedia: Economic History of Malaysia) whereas Ghana attained middle-income status as a result of the oil find which the nation gets the least percentage out of its extraction annually. Though the years under comparison may not be the same for both countries, an average of 2002 to 2016 being compared to growth in GDP of 2015 gives a fair idea of the economic development of both parties. Malaysia’s annual household income per capita was averaged at a value of USD $3,033.08 from Dec 2002 to Dec 2016 (Malaysia’s Annual Household Income per capita) with an undisputable increase in early years whereas according to the IMF report, Ghana’s per capita income as of 2015 was USD $1,340.00. a clear indication that Malaysia is doing far better than Ghana is doing but frankly, independence between these two countries were attained same year, so what did Ghana (as an African country) do wrong in being at par with Malaysia?
Sudan also attained its independence a year before Ghana did but Sudan today battles with economic issues such as devaluation in its currency, inflation was high and surpassed 35% in September 2017 leading to a rise in consumer good prices. Economist estimate an unemployment rate in Sudan to be as high above 20% of its existing population. Policies implemented and measures taken by authorities to correct the situation and revamp the economy rather leads to worse economic situations in Sudan. 62 years down the line, should this have been Sudan’s fate? Most African leaders and head of states are power drunk, such selfishness to be in power over a long period of time has also contributed to the continents predicament. In looks more like, In Africa, governance is synonymous to Kinship where an individual because of his selfish interest and agenda wish to rule for a long period of time and not ready to give up power even under severe economic conditions. Ex-President Robert Mugabe ruled as president for almost 40 years in Zimbabwe and was relentless not to give away the mantle to a better man to shape the economy even though the country experienced an ignominious hyperinflation with the monthly rate of inflation of 77% and the annual rate of 348%, as of October 25, 2017.
Another African country with lots of economic challenges is Nigeria. Nigeria attained its independence on the 1st of October 1960. According to a report by Nina Kalau; Nigeria is a middle-income country, with emerging market and mixed economy. It has expanding manufacturing, service, financial, technology, communications and entertainment departments. But still faces the worst economic challenge that a nation with such resources shouldn’t be facing. Few of its numerous economic challenges are related to corruption which is more like a culture practiced in the country, Lack of consistency and greed on the part of politicians, lack of effective communication between the government and the private sector. Lastly, unemployment which is the major economic issue of the country that is damaging its economy.
Comparably, countries like the South Korea and China who gained their independence in the years 1945 and 1949 respectively could be used to compare other African countries in terms of social interventions/policies, infrastructural and economic development. These two powerful nations attained independence few years (11 and 7 Years) before Ghana, Sudan or any African nation did. Their leaders (also from political parties) have adopted measures and initiatives focused at economic progress. Regardless of Asia’s (specifically China) natural disasters in the past including floods and earthquakes which claimed millions of lives each year and as well impeding social and economic progress decades ago, today, its economy is compared to that of Russia, the United Kingdom and the United State because of the pragmatic policies that were adopted, the resilience nature of its policies ensured an economy which sort after self-reliance and the economic sense of importing less but exporting more, adopting the hourly wage system and the hardworking nature of its labor force. For example, in the year 2016 alone, China exported $2.27 Trillion, making it the largest exporter in the world. During the last five years, the exports of china have increased at an annualized rate of 1.7%. But comparably, most African countries rather do more imports than exports which goes a long way to affect its Balance of payment, local currency, inflation, prices of consumable goods and further on employment. According to Dr.Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, minister of Food and Agriculture, Ghana imports over US$1,162 billion worth of rice annually since 2015 which we could have cultivated to create employment and consumed locally. No African nation has ever faced China’s past predicament and loss but yet our very own attitude as individuals and as leaders (The need to be corrupt, greedy and selfish) has retrogressed the economy of our nations and continent as a whole.
I will say that, Politics and Religion have both contributed to Africa’s current state. No nation can do away with Politics and religion but it’s more like most African nations apply different ideologies to practicing these two items.
THE ISSUE OF RELIGION AND POLITICS AND HOW IT HAS RETARDED GROWTH OF THE CONTINENT
Let me haste in to add that, a greater percentage of these Asians are not Christians but practices Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism and other faiths aside Christianity. Christianity is prevalent in Africa with uncountable number of churches because of greed and the need to make money has resulted in many unemployed graduates and illiterates establishing churches as a business venture and applying psychology to make money from the already impoverished. It appears most Africans believe in miracles than putting themselves to work to increase productivity, the reason we find most women and young men in the churches of so called prophets who keep deceiving and extorting monies from these individuals. The worst thing is, monies taken from the public by these so called “men of God” are not reinvested in productive ventures to create jobs or increase annual productivity. These proceeds are used instead to buy luxurious apartments, embark on expensive trips/travels, buy expensive cars and live an expensive lifestyle which adds nothing to the economy but extra cost and increasing our energy consumption in totality.
Aside these bad practices, most of these profit seeking churches also do not have their churches registered and thus contributing to a huge number of tax invasions which goes further to affect annual tax revenue. Worst of all, most individuals instead of working prefer to spend lots of hours at church praying for a miracle forgetting “Heaven helps those who takes initiatives directed at helping themselves”. What these one man churches have done is the failure of the churches to help the needy from their proceeds gained in church on Sundays, by establishing companies to absorb unemployed church members, building schools or introducing scholarship benefits to brilliant natives in the country or narrowly scholarships to brilliant but needy church members.
Politically, our crop of leaders elected as presidents of most of African countries are more self-centered lacking the political will to implement policies that will go a long way to benefit future generations. Most of the African leaders are selfish and main purpose for being head of states is to enrich themselves and family. Undoubtedly, the below political factors have impeded the economic development and growth of most African countries and these include:
- Most of these elected officials are motivated by greed and the need to own estates (assets) for themselves. This problem has resulted in most politicians engaging in corrupt practices and awarding contracts based on bribery. Apparently, most of these contracts are not backed by a proper cost-benefit analysis or inappropriate feasibility to ascertain how efficient and effective such contracts/projects awarded will go a long way to enhance economic growth and living standards of the indigenes.
- Abandoned projects. For political reasons, most elected leaders turn to abandon projects that were started by previous governments, reasons being that, the electorates will give credit to the one who started, so if that is the case, then, the project will be left in ruins whilst the new government starts a new project forgetting these projects are financed from the tax payers money and/or through international borrowing which needs to be repaid by future generations. If however abandoned, how are these projects/facilities supposed to work and pay-off borrowed funds. So in effect, we keep increasing the public debt from our own visionless projects we establish and abandon from time to time.
- Africa as a continent is underdeveloped because most of its countries experience constitutional leakages. The structure of the constitution creates conflict of interest. The constitution established independence of the arms of government but same constitution gives the executive arm (the president) the power and leverage to appoint key personalities including the Chief Justice and the Electoral commissioner which I feel is a constitutional leakage which requires amendment. This is because, most of these appointed personalities by the president feels to owe the president some form of allegiance which has the tendency at some level to lead to rigging of elections, adjudicating cases unfairly jus to please the master which has resulted in war, destruction of properties, loss of lives and further impeding economic progress in most countries.
- Too much borrowing and imports has also affected most African countries including Ghana’s economy. According to a GN report published on the 25th of June 2018, Ghana’s economy can be revamp by clinging on Agriculture to promote local consumption, reducing imports and as well reducing the demand pressure on the cedi. The report also indicated that, Ghana could become economically sound by exporting more and focus on nontraditional exports like yam, banana, and pineapple, among others should yield more foreign exchange for the country. And this should provide a sustainable source of inflows of foreign exchange to support the local currency which is currently facing a depreciation.
- Lack of political will to implement certain policies for fear of losing future elections though such policies when implemented will go a long way to positively affect our economy.
ARE THERE BRIGHTER DAYS FOR AFRICA?
To develop is to have a change of mindset and way of doing things. It is possible to be economically better than the Malaysians, South Koreans, Chinese and the United States when pragmatic measures are put in place focused on economic development and we let go of our too much political and religious attachments but come together as one people poised for development.
Nigeria has started taking great initiatives focused at revamping growth of the economy through creating employment and improving upon its transportation system. The Government under the leadership of President Buhari has developed its railway system into a world class level which I personally believe is a laudable initiative which will go a long way to reduce traffic in the townships in which it will operate and also create employment for the indigenes.
I strongly believe the best way to develop from your challenges is to first face those challenges and find pragmatic means of correcting them. Let me use Rwanda (An African nation) for example, on the challenges they faced and where Rwanda is now. Rwanda attained its independence on the 1st of July 1962. Rwanda as an example to Africa’s hope to development is because, Rwanda has come a long way, it has faced political and economic challenges including a worldwide unforgettable history on genocide which crippled its humanitarian resource and caused a greater detriment on its economy. According to a report by “Comparative Political Economy of Affirmative Action” on the Rwandan Genocide, the genocide began on April 6th 1994 in the capital city of Kigali. This is how devastating the genocide was; infants were picked up by their feet and thrown against walls, others were thrown alive into latrines, pregnant women had their fetuses cut out of their stomachs, and mutilations were common with breast and penises often being chopped off. This was mainly because, a dominant tribal group didn’t see the need to co-exist with the minor tribes. The treachery and atrocities meted out to the minor groups as well as the method used to kill victims were devastating and painful in such a manner that, victims had to pay their killers to rather shoot them instead of cutting them to bleed or die a slow and painful death. In brief, the Rwandan genocide caused 800,000 to die within just 100 days. But Rwanda today is described as the most beautiful and fast growing countries on the African continent according to CNN and BBC reports. It is worth noting that, Rwanda is one of the countries which have scored the highest increase in their Human Development Index over the period 1980-2011. For example, between the years of 2000-2011, Rwanda achieved the second highest growth in the human development index, with an average annual increase of about 2.92%, progresses made in education, health, and economy accounts for this increase in recent years.
In terms of education, Rwanda now, can boost of about 97% of its children attending primary school. In terms of the health sector, in 2008, the government spent 9.7% of national income on health care compared with 3.2% in 1996. Health insurance is mandatory for all Rwandans in present years. In 2010, 90% of its population was already covered under the scheme. Rwanda has roughly 440 well equipped health centers which are operational with enough beds and ambulances at each center. In terms of economic progress, Rwanda’s economy is driven by the export of tea and coffee. Foreign aid which constituted to 20% of its gross annual income in 2011 as well as trade in tourism. The Rwandan government has adopted economic and social policies geared at expanding its national economy for international investment by reducing corporate taxes and eliminating taxes on exports to promote exports and protect local industries, equip the private sector to employ more and produce more eventually.
All these were possible after the genocide through the able leadership of Paul Kagame. No wonder he is listed among the most influential leaders in the world.
Rwanda’s story above is a relieve that, Africa as a continent can do better to making the entire continent a better place to live in. when this is done, it will reduce Africans immigrating to the European countries and the United States for greener pastures and the inhuman treatment some Africans have being subjected to in the past. It also inspires the remaining leaders on the continent to be bold in implementing humanitarian and social policies that are supposed to revamp their economies, think of exporting more than importing, implement tax policies that protects local industries and promote international investment. Implement measures to enhance trade in tourism and also have the political will to do what is necessary. With our magnanimous hospitality, improvement in the tourism sector will help increase our foreign reserves. Our religious leaders and churches must as well contribute towards the development agenda by contributing towards tax payments and really using their God given gifts to the benefit of society and not for their selfish interest and exploitation of society.
Writer: Emmanuel De-Graft Quarshie