Is Africa great? Yes. Can Africa be made great? Yes. Is Africa helpless? This is where there is no straightforward answer. Africa is helpless and yet Africa’s strength comes from her human and material resources. But why is Africa not making the required progress?
Africa is often painted as a continent in need of development, as a rising economic power which is affected by poverty, hunger and disease. While Africa is often patronised and or praised by some of the global groups, Africa is also often presented as a continent that needs help. Indeed, Africa needs help.
Many commentators have tried to answer questions pertaining to Africa’s lack of progress and slow development but yet, over the decades, Africa continues to make progress but more on its reliance to foreign help than help from within.
One may ask why with the abundance of human and material resources, African nations should be a part of the leading nations in the world which would not necessitate the often patronising words or pandering to the helplessness of the continent.
“Slavery played its shameful role in depopulating Africa; capitalism denuded it of its wealth; colonialism deprived it of birthright, and imperialism emasculated its will to live as a human being and to enjoy its fair share of the bounties of the good earth.” Nnamdi Azikiwe said in his 1962 The Future of Pan-Africanism speech.
Africans suffer from a slave mentality. That they were once reduced to slaves and were taken away to other places of the world, causing mental and spiritual dislocation, should not determine the consciousness, confidence and courage required in today’s Africa that have millions of her people wallowing in helplessness. This happens due to the quality of their leaders who don’t seem to have the progress of Africa at heart but see themselves only as the elites unperturbed for the sufferings of the man on the street, the plundering and exploitation of the abundant natural resources.
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“When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice… We’re mentally imprisoned” Kanye West said in an interview. He later clarified his statement when his comment elicited a backlash. He wrote on Twitter that he “brought up the 400 years point because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years.”
While many viewed West’s comments negatively, Africans have behaved as being mentally imprisoned and that slave mentality has become a choice which has been sustained by the conducts of its leaders and its peoples.
The mental imprisonment has led to the backwardness and vulnerability of Africans who often don’t think they are sufficiently capable of governing themselves, utilising the God’s given human and material resources without the endless reliance on foreign AID.
Foreign AID has not helped Africa. Rather, it has kept African countries in perpetual debt and in servitude to other countries.
Each year, each of the ‘first world’ countries invites African leaders as a whole to a meeting. They will all leave the continent and go. Most times with little to no benefit.
To ‘revive the stature of man by guaranteeing to African citizens the fundamental rights of man’, as Nnamdi Azikiwe hopefully proposed ‘a federation or confederation that birth pan African community in regional or continental basis’, he believed, “has many blessings for the continent of Africa and its inhabitants, will politically raise the prestige of African States in the councils of the world; make Africa a bastion of democracy.”
While Africa achieved the Organisation of African Unity and later changed to African Union (AU) on continental level and other regional organisations, the AU is still reliant on funding from outside of the continent. “The AU is heavily dependent on donor funding to run its programs and operations and this is further compounded by the fact that >40% of Member States do not pay their yearly contributions to the institution.” as written on its website.
Sixty years of the organisation’s existence, African Union has failed to realise the hopes of Nnamdi Azikiwe to “protect the people of Africa not only from external aggression and internal commotion, but also it would safeguard the whole of Africa by a system of collective security…raising living standards and ensuring economic security for African workers…restore the dignity of the human being in Africa.”
For Africa to progress in such astronomical expectations, Africans should see themselves as one without the entanglements of the colonial past in de-recognising the dichotomy of the Anglophones and Francophones. They should disentangle themselves from other foreign defence pacts or military alliances for African collective security.
These expectations seem unrealistic. Many African leaders are corrupt and are more interested in exploiting the resources and stashing money away while showcasing classism in the number of their properties outside the continent. Doing these, they deny the country’s resources to improve the quality of education, health care, infrastructure, electricity, clean water, food and many others. Yet, they fail to contribute their fair share to the AU. This approach has affected many initiatives that bring Africa together, to fend for Africans and that continues its helplessness.
There could be hope. As Nnamdi Azikiwe talked on the advantage of Pan-Africanism, “Economically, by abrogating discriminatory tariffs, we create a free trade area over the entire continent and thereby expand the economy of all African countries involved, thereby raising living standards and ensuring economic security for African workers.”
The continent has embarked on the gradual elimination of tariffs on 90 percent of goods, to boost intra-African trade. African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), the AU declared the year 2023 as its year. ACFTA is aimed at eliminating barriers to trade in Africa with hope towards its successful implementation.
The elimination of Africa’s helplessness lay in its continuous march towards Pan-African unity, choosing excellent leaders and protecting, preserving and utilising the vast natural resources for the benefit of the people.
Image: Josiah Wedgwood and William Hackwood or Henry Webber: Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society, c. 1787.