By Ituah Ighodalo and Ayodeji Jeremiah
AFRICA – THE CRADLE OF CIVILISATION
Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. With 1.07 billion people (as at 2012), it accounts for about 15% of the world’s human population. It has 54 fully recognized sovereign states (“countries”), 9 territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. Africa’s name is derived from an ancient area in modern day Tunisia known as Ifriqiya or ‘sunny place’. Africa is considered by many scientists to be the oldest inhabited territory on Earth, with the human species originating from the continent. Most of the available scientific evidence suggests Africa, and in particular the eastern and southern regions, is the cradle of humankind. “So far the evidence that we have in the world points to Africa as the Cradle of Humankind,” says George Abungu, Director-General of the National Museums of Kenya.
THE COLONISATION OF AFRICA
Pre-colonial Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterised by many different sorts of political organization and rule. The coming of the nineteenth century saw immense changes in Africa. Some were driven by famine and disease. Some changes were the result of the territorial ambitions of African rulers. As the century progressed, alliances with merchants and missionaries from Europe began increasingly to have a bearing on how African leaders achieved their goals with such in most cases being mercantile and exploitative in nature. At the beginning of that century, Europeans were still hugely ignorant of the continent.
The systematic colonisation of Africa, which gathered momentum in the 1880’s, was not even on the horizon in the first half of the 19th century. Europeans had confined themselves to trading mainly along the coast. Inland the trade in slaves and commodities was handled by African and Arab merchants. In the last two decades of the 19th century conflicts and rivalries in Europe began to affect people in Africa directly. In the 1880’s European powers divided Africa up amongst themselves without the consent of people living there, and with limited knowledge of the land they had taken.
The European imperial powers occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial territories, and leaving only two fully independent states: Ethiopia and Liberia. Egypt and Sudan were never formally incorporated into any European colonial empire; however, after the British occupation of 1882, Egypt was effectively under British administration until 1922.
The Berlin Conference held in 1884–85 was an important event in the political future of African ethnic groups. Convened by King Leopold II of Belgium, and attended by the European powers that laid claim to African territories, it sought to bring an end to the scramble for Africa by European powers by agreeing on political division and spheres of influence. The conference set up the political divisions of the continent, by spheres of interest that exist till today.
THE AFRICAN CRISIS
Although it has abundant natural resources, Africa remains the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent. Africa has a large quantity of natural resources including oil, diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, and petroleum. Agricultural resources also abound including cocoa, oil palm, coffee, rubber, groundnuts, timber and tea. Much of its natural resources are undiscovered or barely harnessed.
Since independence, most African governments have not been able to transfer their national wealth into meaningful developmental activities in the life of their citizens.
• 80.5% of the Sub-Saharan Africa population is living on less than $2.50 (PPP) a day.
• As at 2010, literacy rate in Africa is 63% with most of the gains being made over the past 15 years.
• As at 2009, 31 countries reported child mortality rates of at least 10%. All of these countries were in Africa except Afghanistan.
• The WHO states that only 16% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to drinking water through a household connection (an indoor tap or a tap in the yard).
• According to a World Bank report published in 2012, the Life expectancy at birth; total (years) in Sub Saharan Africa was last reported at 54.17 in 2010 compared to a an average global figure of 70.
• Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy put the present unemployment rate in Africa at 60%.
Every year, the United Nations releases a report called the Human Development Index. The report is the outcome of studies conducted by different arms of the world body using different indices to measure a country’s well being. It is like a Doctor’s report after a general check-up. 187 countries were included in the 2013 study released in March. Indicators used to arrive at each country’s position include life expectancy, educational enrolment, adult literacy, health care delivery and income per person amongst others. All the countries with low development rankings are African countries (the bottom 25 nations). The average HDI value of 0.475 is the lowest of any region. Some of the things common in all of these countries include civil war, HIV/AIDS, coups and counter coups, drought and famine, landmine problems, ethnic conflicts, tyrannical political leadership and huge debts crisis. According to the United Nations Development report, African countries may not be able to conquer poverty until the year 2165. It is that bleak.
The Paradox of Africa: The Equatorial Guinea Example
Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Sahara’s largest oil producers. With a population of 650,702, it is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranks 69th in the world; however, the wealth is distributed very unevenly and few people have benefited from the oil riches. The country ranks 136th on the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index out of a total 187. The UN says that less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20% of children die before reaching five. This is the paradox in which Africa has found itself. African nations are the richest in terms of natural resources but its people continue to live in abject poverty.
1. The Resource Curse Paradox: The term resource curse was first used by Richard Auty in 1993 to describe how countries rich in natural resources were unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources. From 1965 to 1998, in the OPEC countries, gross national product per capita growth decreased on average by 1.3%, while in the rest of the developing world, per capita growth was on average 2.2%.
The negative effects and causes of resource curse include:
• Internal conflicts (the Niger Delta debacle);
• Taxation: In many economies that are not resource-dependent, governments tax citizens, who demand efficient and responsive government in return. This bargain establishes a political relationship between rulers and subjects. In countries whose economies are dominated by natural resources, however, rulers don’t need to tax their citizens because they have a guaranteed source of income from natural resources
• Dutch disease is an economic phenomenon in which the revenues from natural resource exports damage a nation’s productive economic sectors by causing an increase of the real exchange rate and wage increase. This makes tradable sectors, notably agriculture and manufacturing, less competitive in world markets
• Corruption: In resource-rich countries, it is often easier to maintain authority through allocating resources to favoured constituents than through growth-oriented economic policies and a level, well-regulated playing field. Huge flows of money from natural resources fuel this political corruption.
• Monolithic Economies: Economic diversification may be neglected by authorities or delayed in the light of the temporary high profitability of the limited natural resources. The attempts at diversification that do occur are often grand public works projects which may be misguided or mismanaged.
• Excessive Borrowing: Since governments expect more income in the future, they start accumulating debt, even though they are receiving natural resource revenues as well. This is encouraged, since, if the real exchange rate increases, through capital inflows or the Dutch disease, this makes the interest payments on the debt cheaper
Kofi Annan said in the recent Africa Progress Panel report ‘Equity in the Extractives’, that while natural resource booms across the continent had led to rocketing GDP figures, inequalities had in many cases deepened, warning, “a decade of highly impressive growth has not brought comparable improvements in health, education and nutrition.” He added that combating international tax avoidance and evasion, corruption and weak governance are crucial if Africa’s people are to benefit from the continent’s vast natural resource wealth.
2. Infrastructure: Africa’s share of global manufacturing is drastically disproportionate to its population. While 15 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, only about one percent of global manufacturing takes place there. That is largely due to poor transport, communications and energy infrastructures. Power is Africa’s biggest infrastructure weak point, with as many as 30 countries facing regular power outages, according to a 2010 report by the World Bank and France’s development agency. Companies operating in most African countries where power supply is unreliable have resorted to purchasing diesel-operated power generators, which increases operating costs drastically. High energy costs combined with other infrastructure deficits, such as rail and road problems, have lowered productivity rates at African companies by as much as 40 percent, according to UN estimates. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that the continent requires about $100 billion annually for the next decade. Some estimates put the budget for Nigeria alone at $15 billion per year. President Goodluck Jonathan who spoke last month at the Infrastructure Summit of the World Economic Forum in South Africa, described infrastructure as a major challenge facing the African continent. He said for Africa to effectively tackle the various challenges bedevilling the continent, it must build the necessary infrastructure across transport, communication and energy sectors.
3. Underdevelopment: A renowned Christian leader, Dr. Mensah Otabil mentioned in 2006 that just before the beginning of the 21st century, an analysis of the state of the world done by CNN and talking about development gaps between nations used the USA as the pinnacle and how long it will take other nations to catch up with them. The analysis said that Africa was on the same level with the West 100 years ago. Today, though Africa is chronologically on the same level with the West; developmentally we are still 100 years behind. It means that while the rest of the world seems to be making progress; we seem to be actually retrogressing in terms of the qualities of life.
4. Hunger & Food Insecurity: Most African states have turned to the exploitation of their natural resources with borrowed money and ideas from the West. And since they have very little to export save their rare minerals or petroleum, Africans continue the colonial tradition of cash cropping. However, cash crops for export take more and more of the best land from local food production, forcing peasants to bring additional marginal land under cultivation. A highlight of the MDG Report for 2013 shows that food insecurity is a recurring challenge.
Other problems abound:
• Weak Institutions
• Insecurity & Internal Conflicts
• Poor Healthcare Delivery System
• Poor Quality of Education
Africa is still very much dependent on the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Our dreams at independence have all been truncated.
1. Deliberate Exploitation: Having a low human density, for a long period of time Africa has been colonized by more dynamic groups, exploiting African resources. Some economists have talked about the ‘scourge of raw materials’, large quantities of rare raw materials putting Africa under heavy pressures and tensions, leading to wars and slow development. Despite these abundance of natural resources, claims suggest that many Western nations like the United States, Canada, France and the United Kingdom as well as emerging economic powerhouses like China often exploit Africa’s natural resources today, causing most of the value and money from the natural resources to go to the West rather than Africa, further causing the poverty in Africa.
The coming of the colonialists added a new dimension of dependency to the pre-colonial societal problems of Africa. They set up a system that made us depend on them and to make us feel we are inferior and they are better than us. In a paper titled Neo-Imperialism and the Arrogance of Ignorance by Chuck Spinney in TIME magazine, he said many of the ethnic and tribal tensions in Africa, are in part a legacy of artificial borders created by the European interventionists of the 19th century. These interventionists deliberately designed borders to mix up tribal, ethnic, and religious groups to facilitate “divide and rule” colonial policies. They often deliberately exacerbated local animosities by placing incompetent and incapable people in politically and economically advantageous positions, thereby creating incentives for payback in the future. Warring tribes were often “placed” in the same nation while other tribes were split by these artificial boundaries. Also, colonizers placed certain tribes in positions of power, which has caused uprisings in areas such as Rwanda and Nigeria. For centuries, Africa has been integrated into the world economy mainly as a supplier of cheap labour and raw materials. Of necessity, this has meant the draining of Africa’s resources rather than their use for the continent’s development. The drive in that period to use the minerals and raw materials to develop manufacturing industries and a highly skilled labour force to sustain growth and development was lost. The impoverishment of the African continent was further accentuated during the Cold War when the two super powers, US and USSR propped up authoritarian regimes with weapons and aid. Several legitimate governments were toppled between the 60s and the 90s and replaced with inept and morally bankrupt rulers willing to do the bidding of the Western powers.
Nothing illustrates the policy of deliberate exploitation more than the following quote by P.W. Botha, the former hard-line apartheid president of South Africa:
“The fact that Blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. If God wanted us to be equal to the Blacks, he would have created us all of a uniform colour and intellect. But he created us differently: Whites, Blacks, Yellow, Rulers and the ruled. Intellectually, we are superior to the Blacks; that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt over the years. Most Blacks are vulnerable to money inducements. The old trick of divide and rule is still very valid today. Our experts should work day and night to set the Black man against his fellowman. His inferior sense of morals can be exploited beautifully. And here is a creature that lacks foresight. There is a need for us to combat him in long term projections that he cannot suspect. The average Black does not plan his life beyond a year: that stance, for example, should be exploited.”
2. Post Independence Instability & Poor Political Leadership: Great instability ensued soon after independence, leading to coups and counter coups and civil wars, most of which were as a result of the marginalisation of ethnic groups, which on its own was caused by the divide and rule tactics of the colonial masters, which was carried over by the early independent rulers. Another cause was graft under most of these post colonial leaders most of whom simply replaced the colonial administrators who were leaving. Since independence, most African states have frequently been hampered by instability, corruption, violence, authoritarianism, poverty, diseases, hunger, and malnutrition.
Between the 1960s to the late 1980s, Africa had more than 70 coups and 13 presidential assassinations. It was widely believed that the military was the only group that could effectively maintain order and it ruled many nations in Africa during the 1970s and early 1990s. However, whether military or civilian, parliamentary or presidential, Africa has not been able to stem the decline or get it right in terms of leadership.
In a paper by Robert I. Rotberg, (Professor of Governance and Foreign Affairs, former Director at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and former President World Peace Foundation), he noted that there is a demonstrated link among poor governance, poverty, and nation-state failure that makes strengthening the quality of governance in the developing world an urgent task. “In weak, troubled states, there is a strong likelihood that an excess of grievances will offer fertile ground for the nurturing of terrorism. Thus, improving the governance capabilities and effectiveness of developing countries is crucial not only to fostering their economic development, but also to reducing the potential for local and global conflict”.
3. Lack of Strong Political Will: The supposed lack of political will on the part of African heads of state to support and implement most development and reform programmes is a challenge to fast tracking of its growth and development. Though often invoked as a concept, political will refers to the desire and determination of political actors to introduce as well as embark on reforms that will bring significant and persistent changes in the society. It is difficult if not impossible to divorce political will from sustainable development. In Nigeria for example, power sector and civil service reforms have been stalled or moving at a slow pace in the past several years due to a lack of political will of the government in doing the right thing. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the non-political private sector-led economic think-tank and advocacy group representing key sectors of the economy, held its 18th economic summit in December 2012 and pointed out in its report that the current cost and size of government was not sustainable at all three tiers and levels stating that the imbalance between recurrent and capital expenditure is a drag on economic growth and does not create jobs, and recommended fast-tracking the implementation of the Steve Oronsanye Report. The Steve Oronsanye report had recommended the scrapping of several government agencies and parastatals and the merging of several others. The report itself has been buried under bureaucratic red tape and political wrangling due to its political incorrectness.
The political commitment of most governments today still hovers around the same mantra-exploit the little you have today for the brief time you have it, because that is the only way you can feed yourself and your family today. Tomorrow, the next generation must look after themselves.
Lack of political will can:
• Stop the flow of capital investment
• Kill industries and drain financial institutions.
• Hinder the development of rural areas that have the potential to become cities.
• Tighten reforms and waste resources.
• Frustrate the ability of societies to cope with the challenges of the future.
• Provoke civil strife and, at the extreme end, genocides.
• Make it difficult to envisage democratization
4. Greed & Corruption: A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the amount of stolen funds from the Nigerian treasury stands at $600 billion between 1960 and 1999. Mobutu Sese Seko, was President of Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), which Mobutu renamed Zaire in 1971, from 1965 to 1997. According to the most conservative estimates, he stole $4–5 billion. Forbes magazine ranks Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as one of the wealthiest heads of state, with a net worth of $600 million. He has been President of Equatorial Guinea since 1979 when He ousted his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, in an August 1979 military coup.
Speaking at Transparency International’s (TI) Annual Anti-Corruption Lecture, John Githongo, Kenya’s former anti-corruption tsar, spoke with cautious optimism. On the one hand, he proclaimed: “Today we are witnessing a unique convergence of potentially positive developments in the fight against corruption – one that has not existed since the end of the Cold War”. Yet at the same time he also emphasised that we are still facing “the continuing reality of systemised corruption”.
According to the Africa Progress panel’s 2013 African Progress report at the World Economic Forum on Africa that took place in Cape Town, the continent is losing more through illicit financial outflows than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment. Western companies have been severely indicted in bribe paying, falsifying corporate books and corruption in order to win contracts in several African countries. Corruption is such that such western companies are on the lesser-examined supply side of bribes while African governments are on the demand side.
In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index of 2012, 90% of African countries scored below 50, (0 being “highly corrupt”, and 100 representing a lack of corruption.
5. Illiteracy and Ignorance
38% of African adults (over 300 million) are illiterate; two-thirds of these are women. Africa is the only continent where more than half of parents are not able to help their children with homework due to illiteracy. Adult literacy rates are below 50% in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. Only 1 % of national education budget of most African governments is earmarked to address the issue of literacy.
“Education is the most wonderful weapon which you can use to change the world”
– Nelson Mandela
In a treatise written by the former governor-general of Nigeria, Lord Frederick John Lugard, he said and I quote:
“In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. Lacking in self control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewellery. His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals’ placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the State he has reached. Through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural. “He lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realize its responsibility , he will work hard with a less incentive than most races. He has the courage of the fighting animal, an instinct rather than a moral virtue, In brief, the virtues and defects of this race-type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy, Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his lack of ability to visualize the future.”
The above quote by the British colonialist represents his appraisal of the African. While it seems over generalised, the characterizations are grave and unflattering. Nevertheless, unless we do not want to be honest with ourselves, it is much closer home to the truth than we may want to agree. In the light of our progress (or lack of it) in the last 60 years since the independence of most African countries, our fathers and grandfathers may be forgiven for that portrayal but for us present generation not to have moved beyond that perception is damning to say the least.
THE WAY FORWARD
Africa needs a new group of leaders and thinkers (The Singapore Experience) – philosopher-kings if you may as Plato described in his dialogue, The Republic, like Marcus Aurelius of ancient Rome who will:
(1) Engender a new mindset: To really solve our problems in Africa goes beyond just going to school. I have seen some people who are well educated with strings of degrees and have several alphabets after their names behave in the most primitive manner. This is because they learnt new knowledge on top of old assumptions such that their assumptions never change. And that is the most dangerous person because he has an intellectual defence for the indefensible. He tries to use his mind and makes his old assumptions very intellectual. That level of intellectualism which we find a lot in our continent is extremely harmful to our development. We have not been able to change and challenge our assumptions. Europe was able to move forward because they were able to challenge their old assumptions through the renaissance and reformation.
(2) Re-orientate and Educate the Citizenry: A man that limits his thoughts to himself might be rich in resources like the prodigal son but poor in intellect. And if a man is poor in intellect, it would eventually reflect in his wellbeing and that’s why a lot of formerly rich people die extremely poor especially in this part of the world. How are you still thinking and what are you thinking about? What is the total summation and the collection of your thoughts? Are you lacking in self control? Are you wanting in discipline? Are you lacking in foresight? Are you full of personal vanity? Do you have little sense for veracity? Are you fond of excessive music? Are your thoughts concentrated on the events and the feelings of the moment? Are you suffering from little apprehension of the future or grief of the past? Are you lacking in organization, deficient in management, deficient in the control of man and resources. Africans need to be generally enlightened.
(3) Protect Current Democracies: While multi-party elections and democracy are welcome in Africa, certain fundamentals, which have been largely ignored, have to be put in place. Strong democratic institutions such as the judiciary and the media have to be put in place or strengthened in most African countries.
(4) Challenge Weak Leadership & Act as a Pressure Point and Voice of Reasoning: We must be ready and willing to change and we must see the change. There must be a willingness to leave the past and move into the future. Change cannot happen if the people are stuck in a time warp unwilling to move forward. This is where vision comes in. We need people who can communicate that change to others. Myles Munroe said “you can only lead people to the degree of the future that you have gone yourself. The act of leadership is taking people from where they are to where they have never been before. The result of true leadership is discomfort and change. The most important source of leadership is vision.” The change we yearn for must be something that can be easily communicated to others. Historically, the world has not seen a well-developed economy without a corresponding strong government. In addition to easy access to education, healthcare, and natural resources, a strong government that can balance its own power by virtue of the bureaucratic structure of itself is essential.
(5) Develop a New Set of Leaders based on New Values: This will done through
• Identifying the appropriate value system
• Identifying a new set of leaders based on this value system
• Teach and encourage this next generation of leaders
In a paper by Stephen Asek in The Panorama, he writes that “The missing ingredient in development policies in Africa is sustainability. And who are those to take responsibility to ensure this? The leaders. When the leaders are bad and narrow-minded, policies will be poorly made and loans will be defectively managed, as was the case in Zaire under the dictatorship of Mobutu. When the leaders have no genuine political desire to equally distribute socio –economic and political advantages, they create artificial difficulties in the lives of the population. Political will that is selfish, egocentric, myopic parochial and careless of the feelings and future of others is a serious antithesis to any fundamental initiative towards sustainable development.”
(6) Resource Mobilisation: The resources, including capital, technology and human skills, that are required to launch a global war on poverty and underdevelopment exist in abundance and are within our reach. What is required to mobilise these resources and to use them properly, is bold and imaginative leadership that is genuinely committed to a sustained human development effort and the eradication of poverty, as well as a new global partnership based on shared responsibility and mutual interest.
(7) Eradicate Greed, Poverty and Corruption: There must be a zero level tolerance for corruption
(8) Strengthen the Judiciary, Putting in Place the Appropriate Rules & Policies & Following the Rule of Law: Arguments are made that maybe democracy is alien to Africa. The tenets of democracy are universal: freedom of speech, free enterprise, rule of law, strong institutions. A bad democratic government that is accountable to the people is better than a benevolent dictatorship that does whatever it likes. The operative word here is ‘accountable to the people.’ That is what democracy and good governance is all about. It doesn’t matter what system of government is being operated, a good government, a strong democracy must be able to deliver measurable, quantifiable returns to the people and bring out the best in people.
(9) The Role of Technology: At the public presentation of Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka’s latest book, Harmattan Haze, Professor Pat Utomi in his contributions as a discussant at the event noted that Africa has the opportunity to fast track her development through the use of technology especially with the high internet usage and telecoms density in countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. Despite past failures, Nigeria and other African countries can leap frog their development through technology transfer and reliance on intellectual power and the development of a literate citizenry.
(10) Eradicate Evil: We must do away with all evil thinking with a firm belief, faith and trust in God and God alone.
Politicians and policy makers have to understand that every decision they make has systemic repercussion. There will always be consequences, negative ones of course, when policies are made to disadvantage the society. Developing societies, particularly within Africa, can benefit from a change in attitudes – what Africa needs for its development are true sons and daughters: people who see themselves as Africa itself and not as passive citizens of Africa. The hopes of the continent are not the loans and debt cancellation schemes of advanced nations that the leaders are scrambling for.
Africa’s hope is that someday Africans will harness their God given material and human resources with all sincerity and like-mindedness for a glorious development of each component that makes up Africa. Sensible, collective and judicious use of what we have from within the continent and the Diasporas will restore hope to the African population. We are our own hope and future.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development states that we (Africans) are convinced that an historic opportunity presents itself to end the scourge of underdevelopment that afflicts Africa.
Africa can indeed be great with a firm belief and faith in God.