“If we do not approach the problems in Africa with a common front and a common purpose, we shall be haggling and wrangling among ourselves until we are colonised again and become the tools of a far greater colonialism than we suffered hitherto’’ Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Africa is a land of resources; a land richer than any continent or richer than any part of the globe. It is a land of gold, bauxite, manganese, cocoa, forest resources. It is rich in different plant and animal species than any other continent. We are told by the experts that more than 60% of the world’s gold comes from Africa with South Africa and Ghana being leading producers. We are also told that 42% of the world’s hydro-electric power potential is in Africa and that; the Congo Basin alone can produce food to feed half of the world’s population. What then is our problem? What then makes Africa and her people the poorest in the midst of plenty? What is the future of Africa? These are questions that need to be answered by every African and African leaders in particular.
To start with, good governance is one ingredient that can help Africa out of poverty and open up opportunities for her people. Accountability, rule of law, freedom of the media, efficient judiciary inter alia all play important roles in strengthening efficient governance in Africa. These are elements of democracy. Democracy however has been thrown to the dogs of Africa and right from Cairo to Cape Town and Dakar to Addis Ababa; all is not well with our people as far as democracy is concern. People’s rights are violated because they probably do not belong to or support the ruling government. Our leaders often massage the constitution to enable them stay in power forever. This is evident in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Niger, Gambia, Cameroon among others. ‘‘Powerful leaders’’ such as Col. Qaddafi, Paul Biya, Robert Mugabe, Blaise Campoare, Hosni Mubarak have stayed in power for over two decades. In the words of President Obama, what is needed in Africa is strong institutions and not strongmen.
Corruption, nepotism and tribalism are enemies of development but which are deeply rooted in the continent of Africa. Corruption for instance has become a part of our life and most, if not all, of our leaders are victims of this canker. It will not also be wrong to say that some of them are in politics to amass wealth and property. Some often oppose every bill that is to be passed in parliament for the interest of the people but will support one that will grant them loans to buy cars for themselves and families. These are not the kind of leaders we need in Africa if we want our future to be free of poverty. It must be made clear that no amount of foreign aid and grants can take Africa out of poverty. Our future depends on how our leaders are able to use our resources efficiently and effectively for our benefit. Africa needs selfless and dedicated leaders and not tribalistic and inward-looking leaders who are interested in themselves and God for us all.
Furthermore, conflicts in Africa must give way to peaceful co-existence. How can we develop when people are fighting in Sudan, Congo, Somalia etc.? What affects one in any of these countries affect all of us indirectly for in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr., ‘‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’’. It is about time we used dialogue and non-violent means to fight for our rights. Now is the time to change the status quo and bid good-bye to conflicts and wars in Africa. Africa must unite to fight the common enemy of development.
In addition, education is the surest way of overcoming poverty. The development of Africa depends on the quality of her human resource. Countries like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea made it to the commity of developed and middle income countries because of the investment their governments made in their educational sector. Our educational system has collapsed and our leaders keep on reforming it almost every year. Corporate institutions instead of investing in education fail to do so but complain when graduates under-perform in the job. Students should be made to do vacation internship to make them fully equipped by the time they complete their courses of study. One thing certain is that, our leaders often send their children abroad for them to acquire the best of education and allow majority of us to our fate. This can not help us if we want a prosperous future for Africa.
Also, ‘the resource curse thesis’ seems to be working effectively in our part of the world. This is because most of the areas with abundant resources such as oil, diamond, manganese etc suffer a lot when it comes to the issue of development. The resources in such areas have become a curse rather than a blessing. Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta, Chad, Liberia, Angola and Rwanda are some of the resource rich areas yet, people in these areas are walloping in poverty. Some reside only a few metres away from the oil wells. But they lack electricity and indoor toilets. They have no hospitals, no running water and no schools. And there is unemployment too (African Agenda, 2006, Vol.9, NO. 4, page 5).
Agricultural development is one area that can put Africa’s future into a prosperous one. It is unacceptable that in the midst of vast land with plenty resources, Africa still receive food aid from America and other developed countries. In West Africa for example, over 60% of her population are employed in the agricultural sector whereas only 3% of the population of America are employed in that sector yet, the total produce from the West African countries can not even measure half of what is produced by the 3% of farmers in America. What a shame! Our problems are indeed numerous. Irrigation dams, credit facilities and modern farm implements should be made available to our farmers if we want to increase productivity in that sector.
In his speech to the parliament of Ghana, president Obama said, aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it’s no longer needed. I want to see Ghana and for that matter Africa not only self sufficient in food, I want to see you exporting food to other countries and earning money. You can do that (Daily Graphic, 13th July, 2009, page 9). Value should be added to our agricultural produce to make our goods competitive on the world market. Industrialisation should therefore be vigorously pursued across Africa.
Conclusion could be drawn by quoting the words of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah that; ‘‘the resources are there. It is for us to marshal them in the active service of our people. Unless we do this by our concerted efforts, within the framework of our combined planning, we shall not progress at the tempo demanded by today’s events and the mood of our people. The symptoms of our troubles will grow, and the troubles themselves become chronic. It will then be too late even for Pan African Unity to secure for us stability and tranquillity in our labours for a continent of social justice and material well-being’’.
by Francis Xavier Tuokuu
Francis is a graduate of the University of Ghana where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography and Resource Development with a minor in Philosophy. He began his career in journalism in October 2010 as a Senior Reporter/Acting Editor and was the West African Correspondent writer of “The Development Analyst Magazine”. Email: [email protected]