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Rich Africa, poor Africans

In a century experiencing huge technological advancements and globalisation Africa is still struggling against poverty, wars, corruption, in a word, against underdevelopment. Responsibility for all these resides on national governments and on the International Community.
27 November 2006 - Peter Mafany Tome
Source: Africafiles

The idea that Africa is a continent with plenty of natural resources is unarguable. Yet people in Africa are characterized and battered by endemic hunger, genocides, wars, corruption, massive underdevelopment and all sorts of untold sufferings. Judging this beautiful continent from its natural resources, one would expect to see people cruising in an age of high mass consumption. Instead, Africa is full of people still struggling with their take-off process. Much of the population lies in poverty, hopelessness and underdevelopment that have remained a constant even in a 21st century experiencing huge technological advancements and globalization.

Under dictatorship,as under democracy, Africans have failed to tap their natural resources for the benefit of the general public. African governments have failed to come up with constructive reform powerful enough to shape a better and prosperous future for Africans. The dormant international community cannot be left out of the responsibility for Africa’s underdevelopment and suffering. Despite all the beautiful tagged roadmaps, all development plans that have been drawn to drag Africa out of its net of poverty have failed. They have turned out to be sterile plans both in conception and implementation.

Several financial institutions have provided ideas, studies and all sort of recommendations to African governments to find the right way toward development. These institutions include the World Bank, IFC. Economic Commission for Africa, ECOWAS. Sadacc, and the AU. These ideas have not worked because they were not focused on the African concept of development but they had naturally an inherently western approach in themselves.

These unconstructive and sometimes unrealistic plans, are coupled with the political decisions made by African leaders to cover the interests of western multinational corporations, which has kept Africans in desperate poverty. Some international institutions have deceived many African governments to privatize their most important resources with the promise that it would increase growth and spread prosperity. An example of this could be observed in Cameroon where the national airlines company (Camair), the national electricity company (Sonel) and the national water company (Snec), just to mention some examples, have been privatized. This move has not been working till now so that increasing taxes on the working class has seemed to be the solution.

Natural Resources are important aspects of a nation’s power. Africa as a whole has a vast amount of resources and these can allow this continent to be a major force in world affairs if they are well utilized. African leaders are still unaware that the natural resources of each African state are a source of power for its international relations. If the question is whether they are aware of this, then the answer is that their corruptive tendencies override their national interests of which they are sworn to uphold. Rather than exploit their natural resources to solve their problems, African leaders have opted for foreign aid that have plunged the continent in abhorrent debts in the long run. Africa is a continent that contains the majority of natural resources compared with other continents. Recent and continuing civil wars in Africa, notably, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo, Sudan, Liberia,have been intensified because of its natural resources basically gold and diamonds.

Post colonial Africa is loaded with natural resources which can allow Africans to solve most of the African crises of poverty and famine from themselves without resorting to foreign aid, foreign grants and continued foreign loans.
On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the poorest place on earth, is a most profitable investment destination. It offers, according to the World Bank's 2003 Global Development Finance report, "the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world". Africa is poor because its investors and its creditors are so unspeakably rich. Western leaders are partly responsible for perpetrating this. I have been tempted to declare these leaders like those who constitute the G8 and some African leaders as a noose around our necks because the lethal economic policies that have already taken so many lives, through fro example lack of medicine, clean water, and for lack of justice.

According to Naomi Klein, in her article titled “Africa's Natural Resource Wealth Should Benefit Africans”, about 70% of Nigerians still survive with less than $1 a day while Shell is still making super profits. Equatorial Guinea, which has a major oil deal with Exxon Mobil, "got to keep a mere 12% of the oil revenues in the first year of its contract", according to a report on the CBS news programme 60 Minutes -- a share so low it would have been scandalous even at the height of colonial oil pillage.

After analyzing the appendix below, listing resources country by country, it is possible that African people are still anguished in the face of this cornucopia of natural resources? This is unjustifiable. Why do Africans need western ideological help, often alien to them, to move ahead? Where is an African plan for development done by Africans and for Africans? It is time to adopt new development concepts and strategies with an African flavour (Abudu, 2002)
If the international community through big organs like the World Bank is interested in helping, why it doesn’t try an alternative approach like that proposed by Teke Ngomba who says that both corruption and aid- conditionalities undermine the fight against poverty hence a mediated or negotiated approach is needed in Africa’s case to assuage poverty

The idea that Africa is a victim of corruption, bad governance, debilitating diseases like AIDS and malaria is not new. It is time to get beyond from the constant dispute over the causes and effects of Africa’s poverty. It is time to propose relevant and sustainable development programs that have Africans as the focal point. Poverty remains without doubt the greatest challenge facing African countries. The inability by most Africans to bridge the gap between availability and affordable has resonated to all corners of the planet. Africa needs policies and reforms that can lead to sustainable growth.

The road to progress and reduction of poverty must include measures that can guarantee, secure and maintain more economic, political, individual and social freedom. Sustainable economic policies or reforms must include transparent privatization, trade liberalization, lower taxes and also reduced government intervention, All forms of anti-trade or anti-business distorting policies should be eased, in an end to address the problem of African poverty honestly and practically. Without economic freedom, African countries will hardly achieve poverty reduction.

A prosperous economy cannot exist without this freedom and control over GDP, which is the case with most African nations. Despite the obvious benefits of economic freedom, too many African governments are implementing unsound, even disastrous policies that have deterred both foreign and local investment. In the face of this tight economic atmosphere, it is difficult for Africa to integrate the market economy. The repressive economic environment has led to less foreign and local investment.

Addressing the issue of local investment as a desideratum for economic prosperity, I think that apart from foreign multilateralism, Africans themselves have not invested enough in their countries. The rate of capital flight in Africa is more than any other continent. How can the continent develop when Africans are unwilling to invest their own money in their own continent? This inertia coupled with African governments insistence on A stultifying aND NOT conducive economic environment will only lead to more economic suffering. Africa needs a more liberal economic system /environment that will favor both foreign and local investment.

African leaders made significant commitments to transparent and accountable governance with the creation of the African Union (AU) and the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a comprehensive economic and political reform program. NEPAD included a significant commitment to good governance, peace, security and democracy as prerequisites for effective economic development. All these commitments have not been respected. African leaders have continued to embezzle public funds to the detriment of their national economies. It is time for the implementation and adherence to these cannons prescribed by the NEPAD and AU. Good governance equals transparency, transparency equals accountability equals economic growth for Africa.

Good governance = Transparency = Accountability = Economic growth
Inherent in this model is that good governance is a linchpin to Africa’s poverty struggle. Of course if Africa has to experience good governance, an emergence of new leadership is needed to turn around a continent that many associate with poverty, wars, corruption and AIDS/HIV pandemic. Old style African leadership has to give way to new leaders.

Beyond sustainable economic reforms, more local investment, good governance and legal measures, I think the inculcation of a culture of personal and moral responsibility that recognizes the damage done to the common good by corruption, has to be an indispensable part in Africans. Africans should recognize they can prosper and uphold this responsibility. Poverty of the mind must not prevail among Africans. Africans themselves must live with the conviction that they can grow like, India, New Zealand or Australia all enjoying substantial per capita income after DE-colonizisation from Britain. This solution is an inward option to growth.

It is time for rulers like Paull Biya, who have spent so many years in power without achieving any significant progress for their countries, to honourably give way to a brighter perspective. The continent needs a new breed of leaders (not western puppets) who can recognize Africa’s economic potential and make use of it. If some steps toward progress are not made soon, then Africans will become more and more a disillusioned population as a consequence of the disjuncture between availability and affordability.

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