The era of colonialism and the sporadic conquest of Africa and its people has gone but Africa is still in a state of quagmire. It has been an endless struggle since the era of imperialism entering into the 21st Century neocolonialism and neoliberalism. In the face of these tumultuous challenges and uphill battles for growth and development, the continent still possesses an enormous potential to change the narratives from a begging bowl continent to a self-sustaining and efficient continent. The book “PLUNDER PLANET’’, written by Paul Collier, outlines the prospect of Africa as a well-heeled continent and its outstanding capacity for social and economic development. Unfortunately, the continent is devoured in an infinite state of miasma.
The tragedy of African is not a new phenomenon. Paul Collier brings to the discourse a powerful insight and analysis that shape the debate about Africa’s shortcoming and how it can be address. He writes “The current reality for these people (Africans) is poverty; the issue is whether this will also be the fate of their children. The path that the rest of the world took to lift itself out of poverty-industrialization-is proving much more difficult for these latecomers (African countries). Industry has globalized and China’s combination of huge scale with low wages makes it hypercompetitive when pitched against new entrants (African countries). Farming offers them little promise. In Africa, home to most of the bottom billion, agriculture productivity has already fallen far behind international standards. Global warming is likely to widen the gulf, making Africa even hotter and drier, while warming the vast tracts of North America and Eurasia that are currently too cold for cultivation. Nor is aid likely to rescue them; it is under increasing attack, sometimes for good reason, and is being squeezed by the need to rein in fiscal deficits. The countries of the bottom billion (Africa) have one lifeline: nature. Nature has the potential to lift most them to prosperity. But nature doesn’t come a platter. Mankind was not born into an Eden, but into harsh environment in which we struggled to survive even in tiny numbers (Collier, Paul Chapter 1, Page 3&4)” The contemporary Africa is a place with little or no hope for its people. The analysis provided by Paul Collier are thought provoking and it clearly speaks to the fact the continent is underutilizing its potential considering the vast natural resources at its disposal. On the contrary and most disappointing note, the Africa of today is widely known for issues of corruption, dictatorship, war, and diseases. Every day and each day, the continent and its people sink down the valley of destitution while, the rest of the world continue to progress and developed. Sadly, the narratives of Africa still remain the same even after the era of imperialism. Like Paul Collier said, Africa’s only lifeline to prosperity is nature (endowment of natural resources). Has Africa actually been able to efficaciously utilize its only lifeline to prosperity?
Sadly, No! Whenever Africa comes under the spotlight, references are drawn from the era of colonialism to slavery-the most horrific and sadistic moments in African history. European nations and its allies are never exempted from the hostile exploitation and inhumane treatment towards the continent and its people. The infinite desire for wealth to boast economic and political dominance over the continent has largely contributed to the pillaging of Africa’s natural resources where most African countries where directly and indirectly controlled by western powers. The high level of underdevelopment that has engulfed the continent is attributed to the masterplan and sophisticated manipulation of western nations. This is an undisputed fact that can’t be circumvented. As mentioned in the 20th Century most important and influential book on African history (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa), written by Walter Rodney, it pointed out that “power politics and economic exploitation of Africa by Europeans led to the poor state of Africa political and economic development evident in 20th and 21st Century”. Walter Rodney suggested that the only path to true human development and liberation for most of the people of his country was through the transformation of their own lives in a struggle to replace and reshape the neo-colonialist government that dominated their society and prescribed their existence. Neoliberalism has become a rebirth of colonialism in a different structure and scope. It has placed the continent at the mercy of Bretton Wood institutions (World Bank and IMF) through the structural adjustment program, which imposed policies on foreign governments in the conduct of its economics, social and political activities. Africa sits at the precipice of doom and devastation especially, in the hands of its predators (Global North). The ebb and flow of African seems not to only rest on the shoulders of the Global north but equally, at the hands of African leaders who have failed to reconcile with the historical realities of the African liberation struggle. The 21st Century African leaders, most, if not all, are contradictions to the philosophy of African revolutionaries like; Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Touré, Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba. Most of Africa’s 21st Century leaders are what Frantz Fanon called “COLONIZED INTELLECTUALS”- These are, by western standards, the more educated members of the native group who are in many ways recruited by the settler to be spokespeople for their views”. Many of the leaders in Africa are brained wash into spokesmen-ship and implementors of draconian policies of the west against their people. Thomas Sankara and the likes were few of the unadulterated men that Africa could boost of as heroes. These were fearless African revolutionaries to the teeth. They became targets as pro-United Africa crusaders in the eyes of the imperialists. Their downfall was mastered minded by imperialist forces and even those who attempted to walk in their shoes to advance the call of a united continent. For instance, Col. Muammar al- Gaddafi of Libya.
When the idea of a United Africa was conceived by the likes of Dr. Kwame Krumah and Sekou Touré where Africans around the world can have a place called home, reactionary forces and elements of deceit emerge among the brothers. The famous and historic 1963 conference that was held in Addis Ababa, was a defining moment for the continent. The opportunity was never captured. It was derailed and squandered. The split between the Casablanca bloc and the Monrovian bloc was the reason why the dream for a united Africa ended in a deadlock. The members of the Casablanca bloc calling for the United States of Africa, headed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah were unsuccessful in their attempt to convince the Monrovian bloc. The failure to seize that moment brought damaging and unrepairable consequences to the continent and its people. Quoting the words of Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof, one of the late Gambian Historian, nationalist and Pan-Africanist, he said “It is barely 75 years when the European Powers sat around the table in Germany each holding a dagger to carve up Africa for its own benefit.. Your success will inspire and speed up the freedom and total independence of the African continent and eradicate imperialism and colonialism from the globe... Your failure, which no true African in Africa is praying for, will prolong our struggle with bitterness and disappointment. I therefore adjure that you ignore any suggestion outside Africa and holding that the present civilization, which some of the big powered are boasting of, sprang up from Africa, and realizing that the entire world has something earthly to learn from Africa, you would endeavor your utmost to come to agreement, save Africa from the clutches of neo-colonialism and resurrect African dignity, manhood and national stability”.
His prophetic warning about the ramifications that will befall the continent has come to catch up with the reality of today. The prolong struggle is even beyond bitterness and disappointment. Africa is nothing but a begging bowl of the West and its allies amid the endowment of abundant natural resources which Paul Collier consider as “lifeline to prosperity”. It is exactly 56 years since this intellectual and lucid prophecy was made by the erudite and Pan-Africanist, Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof. The stark reality on the continent of Africa is unbearable and undesirable by the people of Africa. The reality sinks in as the visible signs continue to loom across the continent. His recommendation for African leader to ignore the manipulation tactics and outside influence was never heeded. It is of no surprise that Monrovian bloc will object such a priceless cause if only external forces were not involved. They were cajoled and made to believe out of consciousness that it was a wrong destiny for the people of Africa. Sadly, the accepted out of ignorance. This is the tragedy of an African man. Like PLO Lumumba said, “We are the co-author of our own problems”. Evident of such instance is true and it is a classic example to indicate and authenticate his assertion. The 21st Century description of Africa is poverty, diseases, war, corruption, and bad governance. The characterization is such that people who lived in the western world view the continent and its people as a group living outside the new age of modernity and civilization, where they eat rats, monkeys, bats and different other species. This is what we see on mainstream and gigantic western media about Africa. Such an unfair and malefic propaganda can only come from people whose project is to use the continents as its feeding ground. No different from a vampire who constantly seek human blood to survive. Such is the case with Africa and the Western powers. Not to dismissed that some of these issues are not visible, but the hyper-mainstream propaganda has had its way out of check in damaging the image and reputation of the continent. There are social, political and economic issues on the African continent but to think that the worst things about life are found in Africa is a deceit and mere chicanery to lure us into submission and dependency visa-vee the power relations between the Global North and Global South.
Moving forward, Africa must take the bull by the horn-it must be aggressive in its determination and collective resolve to resist outside influence and dominance on the continent especially, the constant melding of foreign institutions in the affairs of Africa. What wasn’t achieved in 1963 in Addis Ababa doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved. The way to solve a problem is to first identify that it exists. The continent is at war with itself and the reactionary forces from the Global North. Africa must endeavor towards the establishment of strong institutions, strengthening of its justice system, building regional synergy among African leaders and their countries to promote good governance, economic, social and political rights of its people through equitable distribution of state wealth and full participation in the decision making and development of the continent. Overcoming dependency syndrome is a victory that will put Africa on its perfect trajectory. Focus should be placed on capacity development of all Africans; it should be used as a base to support the society and the nation building process of the continent in its holistic form. African leaders must take the courage to expel and disassociate itself from all neoliberal policies that has put so much wealth in the hands of capitalist and foreign business at the expense of the resilient people of Africa under the disguise of building Africa’s economy and empowering its people. Natural resource extraction by foreign mining companies should be put to halt and review their current standard operating procedure; if it is only taking resources out of Africa without processing raw materials and transforming it into finish product for commercial purposes, it should be revoke and place on a drawing table for ratification. Most African countries natural resources are exported and not process on the continent. For instance, Rubber and Iron are two of the most viable commercial resources Liberia has been blessed with as a country. Ironically, not even a rubber plate or steel rod has been manufactured for commercial purpose in Liberia since 1926. Firestone which is an American owned and operated rubber company is a classic example why we to need review all foreign firms operating on the continent of Africa. It is exactly 93 years since Firestone came to Liberia. This is just one of the many instances to point out relative to what is unfolding on the continent. Industrialization must be a key component in the resource’s extraction in Africa. Strong emphasis should be placed on the regulation of natural resources by African leaders against illicit mining and exploitation by Africans themselves and foreign multilateral corporations. It is never late to do the right thing. The liberation struggle of African is a history associated with dark moment and memories. Our generation have a sacred duty to shoulder-on and take the struggle to a logical completion for the total redemption and transformation of a land of warriors and brave men who lost their lives while protecting and defending the dignity of the continent and its people
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Keifala Kanneh is student of Economics and an emerging development practitioner. He obtained his first degree from the University of Liberia in Economics. Currently he is pursuing his Masters’ in International Development at Clark University, Massachusetts, USA. Keifala Kanneh is an erstwhile and retire student leader from the University of Liberia Student Union where he served as a Student Representative to the University of Liberia Council. He holds a strong background in leadership, politics and public speaking. He has worked both in Liberia and the US with nonprofit organizations for the past (2) years as a seasoned NGO professional. Also, he has worked in the public sector as an Administrative Office Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Minister for Urban Affairs, Republic of Liberia. Keifala Kanneh can be reached @7743037215 or @ [email protected]