Africa’s major problems lie, not in the absence of infrastructure, of foreign investment, nor in education, or healthcare, or even in bad leadership, the root cause of Africa’s problems, lies in the mindset of the majority.
It is mental; it’s a malaise that stifles positive action. It’s the greed, selfishness, lack of foresight, learned helplessness, myopia, and shallowness. The peoples attitude, of impatience, an unwillingness to help each other, the absence of humility in those that do succeed to educate themselves and obtain successful careers, yet fail to help those who are less well off. I’m not trying to trivialize our other problems, I‘m just saying that there is a more salient issue which needs to be addressed first and foremost.
Tribalism is also a factor, “my turn to chop/eat money attitudes”, and patronage, cronyism etc, this also lies at the heart of Africa’s lack of development. This prevents grass root initiatives from being effective, which could in turn challenge government policy. Top down solutions won’t work.
Change comes when people are informed and aware, form a united front, and are able to take action, one person can only do so much on his or her own. A leader cannot act alone, he needs the cooperation of his ministers, the cabinet, the parliament or assembly and so on, no matter how good his intentions or ideas might be. In countries like the UK, if a petition has 100,000 signatories, then it has to be debated in parliament. Extra parliamentary activities and where ethnic minority communities push for change, this can cause governments to concede. If people remain silent, then they give away their power, giving tacit consent for their situation to continue.
Advanced economies, have a particular mindset that works for them universally. If people are disgruntled, they turn to the ballot box, removing what they regard as incompetent leadership. In the developing world, we turn to warfare or Coup d’état.
We all know that African economies are young democracies, and institutions are still being developed, e.g. due process of law and an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, civil liberties and so on, but how have other continents succeeded?
I believe that it is the abandonment of Traditional Educational Systems which is a key factor in this malaise. In a malaria advert, by a well known charity aired on UK TV channel, a woman said that her son had died of malaria, and that she had since learnt to put her other remaining child, under a mosquito net. Malaria isn’t a new disease in Africa! We have had malaria around since we first existed on the continent, and we have developed cures for the disease using traditional medicines, how else have we survived up till now? We have failed to develop our traditional medicines and traditional educational systems, and knowledge bases, and herein is where the troubles also lies. Until we take ownership of our own destiny as other people have done, little will be achieved.
Other factors have a contribution in hampering African development, such as capital flight, the interests on loans which we pay to the west and the fact that Africa is being creamed by western countries. More wealth leaves Africa than actually comes in.
A typical example is the Franco phone countries, that actually even till now have three quarters of their revenue going to France. Africa pays more on interest on loans than it gets in aid, multinational corporations fail to pay the appropriate taxes, and siphon off money to off shore accounts, creating capital flight. Mineral resources are taken from African countries such as Zambia, for pennies are cut abroad and then resold for huge profits overseas.
We often complain that the media does not show Africa in a positive light nor does it report on anything good coming out of Africa. The question is how do we want to be perceived? Are we ready to do that which is necessary to help ourselves? Asian countries have succeeded partly due the fact that the west recognised that it could not maintain its prominent status unless it had countries to buy its products, hence the substantial and heavy investment in Asian countries.
Secondly Asian countries have developed pro-welfare policies, where a fairly informed population willing to push for reforms have helped their economies to grow. They have also invested heavily in technology, science, education and industry hence the growth of call centres, Tata cars and computers of India. Many Asian and Latin American countries have also developed their nuclear power, such as Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia.
Some positives to come out of Africa is in the containment and eradication of Ebola in Nigeria. It was the first country in West Africa and the world to eradicate the virus, where it was declared Ebola free, last month without the help of foreigners. People came together regardless of ethnic origins and religion. At one point, they had 1000 people in quarantine at one time. Also African business men pledged over 28 million in aid to African countries.
Also Burkina Faso is an example of where the people, tired of Blaise Compaore, their dictator President who had been in power for 27 years and his bid to extend his power, for yet another term, rebelled and burnt down the parliament building. The military has stepped in and put in place an interim government, and Compaore has since fled the country to Ivory Coast. This shows joint action by the people, and what can be done when people are of one mind.
Until we recognise that every government, country, institution has an agenda, working behind the scenes, whose objectives serve their own interests, and this decides what governments and countries will and won’t do, our malaise will continue and we will be manipulated and dictated and continue to have foreign interference in our internal affairs.