Another AU summit: African economies still stuck in a hole
When it was transformed from Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to African Union (AU), there was sensational hope for pragmatism on the continent. For the umpteenth time, heads of African states and government are meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the home of the continental grouping. Despite perennial meetings, pre-planning, planning and counter-planning, little has happened in Africa to indicate meaningful strides in development. This is a direct indication that Africa has a serious problem. The continent is still ravaged by poverty and disease yet her afflictions continue on the increase. Can anything different come out of the latest AU summit?
Africa’s maturity has indeed gone past its prime. Her people should justifiably begin to enjoy the benefits of her abundances in natural resources and mineral wealth. Should she begin to be managed properly, Africa shall surely outshine her global counterparts.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, a dictator in the sight of his own people, has renewed the late Kaddafi’s ideology for one president for the entire continent. Mugabe is the oldest amongst current African leaders still in office. Should it be adopted, can such an ideology change the fortunes of the gigantic but afflicted continent? Can the euphoric theme of “Recuperation” be brought to life after this summit?
For decades, Africa has remained dormant amid a technologically driven and fast changing world. Her citizens have continued to suffer at the behest of their leadership. Numerous agendas have been drawn up with eloquent speeches delivered at many a summits and conferences. Too many solutions have been proposed on paper yet still, her people continue languishing in poverty. Basic social amenities largely remain a pipedream in Africa with the majority of countries depending on medicines from European and American donors.
Food security is not guaranteed and unending wars keep breaking out everyday. Russia and China continue to record brisk business through artillery sales to Africa. Driven by foolish desires to hold on to power, African presidents find nothing wrong with having bigger military budgets ahead of health, education, food security, technological research and development.
In her hope of creating sustainable and functioning democracy, Africa continues to elect new leaders (Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe and Angola excluded). Caught up in the cycle are Africa’s billion-plus citizens. They elect governments that end up betraying them with inefficiency and abuse of office. Before being elected, leaders promise milk and honey. Once in power, they concentrate on furthering individualistic elitist agendas that result in nothing but widened economic disparities between the rich and the poor. Governments continue collecting taxes whose benefits have not been seen.
While her governments plead for debt relief, Africa’s apetite for borrowing using her minerals as collateral remains a major concern. Who then shall we say is enjoying Africa’s proceeds? Could this be another form of Africa’s own colonialism at the hands of her own flesh and blood? Are the sons and daughters of presidents automatic success stories because of their intelligence or siphoned wealth through family lines?
Not many African leaders have chosen to put their people first. Individually, and judging by trend, most appear to concentrate on lining their pockets. Africa’s mineral wealth has continued being plundered unabated. The lives of Africa’s people do not tally with mineral riches she possesses. Her resources have not been used to harness technology to eliminate the syndrome of dependency. Exports continue to register in the form of unprocessed minerals. Because of desperation, Africa is trading her minerals at a quarter of their actual price on the world market. The Chinese are biggest culprits, with most African governments signing batter agreements with them, thereby literary taking over the continent.
What is so wrong with the African leadership that cannot be fixed after these summits? Most of the leaders and their cabinets have displayed high-end credentials yet their countries rank among the lowest in terms of social livelihoods. What sort of education is it that they obtained which cannot transcend into effective leadership? Most of them manage their countries as if they were graduates of economic mismanagement.
African masses are living in abject poverty in complete contrast with the philanthropy their presidents enjoy. Africa still has more shanty towns where shacks are erected to accommodate the majority poor. With a few exceptions, the majority of African countries have failed to manage and sustain development. Infrastructure from colonial times is dilapidated and industries have crippled yet leaders continue to claim uncontested recognition as heads of state. Are they really heading states or just promoting poverty?
Nepotism, extortion, red tape and corruption dominate the characteristics of doing business in Africa. Governments appear not ready to take people out of the dilemma. Everyone must remain stuck in the hole. Not a single African country has determined itself to relegate poverty to peripheral margins. Everything belongs to government and if one is not prepared to engage in corruption, they will lose all they have. The majority of citizens have no valuable fixed property, a factor that worsens their plight. Many have no access to sources of project funding. Conditions of borrowing for business are deterrent to more than 80% of the continent’s population. Statistics of unemployment are undesirably shocking and disturbing. To whom shall the people of Africa turn amid a carefree rejection by their own leadership?
Those seeking to bring system changes are quite often labelled as puppets of the developed world. Is this supposed to be the African agenda? If not, what is the African agenda? Does it mean that poverty must be a precursor condition for one to be identified as African? How much longer shall the people of Africa groan before their destinies change? When will resolutions from these summits ever be holistically implemented to benefit the poor majority? The concept of opening gates to free trade on the continent has forever been discussed, yet still, it remains a wild card. Is Africa doomed forever?
Who amongst African leaders of today can truly stand up and say they have shifted their people’s lives from ordinary to exceptional? Who amongst them can stand up and say they have empowered their people with the basic means of economic survival? When will the African problem be solved if it cannot be solved now? Which generation will bring sanity to Africa’s governance?
Where is Africa going as a continent? Are we going forward or backwards? While there is acknowledge that Africa has a problem, what are the politicians doing as leaders to change these conditions? This should be the main question the continent’s leadership must ask themselves as they gather and deliberate at this 2013 Addis Ababa summit. Africa cannot continue inviting tourists to come and see her poverty spectacle.
Leaders must begin to work with a common purpose of liberating the continent’s citizens economically. Africa’s economies cannot afford to continue being stuck in a hole.
Farai Mamina is an independent political analyst, information, PR and marketing expert based in Namibia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook.