What has led to a constant state of political unrest and economical fluctuations?
The notion that sub-Saharan Africa is a region riddled with difficulties for good governance and economic expansion has been coined “Afro-pessimism.” The term gained popularity in the 1980s, when western countries believed there was no hope for uniting democracy and attaining maintainable commercial development in the region. Advocates for Africa have criticized the dominant pessimism in the West on Africa’s economic development. Africa has been seen by other countries as poor, but the truth is Africa is a rich continent inhabited by poor people. Why are they poor? What has led to a constant state of political unrest and economical fluctuations? Is the blame to be placed on the current government or do we squarely put the fault on western colonization? Africa’s irony is exasperating. Inside the continent there is immense mineral wealth yet obstinately stuck in filth, dejection, scarcity, and disorder. While a few countries of Africa have moved ahead, the overall economic performance remains appalling, straggling after those of other regions considered third world. The causes of this lack of development have always induced fiery and sensitive debates. There are those who depict Africa as a victim of controlling external forces and schemes, yet there are also those who believe Africa’s crisis exist mostly within Africa, such as its governance or how African leaders run their own matters. The externalists believe that Africa’s afflictions are due to the haunting effects of Western colonialism and imperialism, the effects of the slave trade, inadequate flow of foreign aid, waning terms of trade, and expatriate owned banks that discriminated against African entrepreneurs. Let’s not forgot the long and unnecessary African Slave Trade. Thousands upon thousands of innocent African men, women, and children, taken from their homes to slave away in another country, many of whom didn’t even survive the trip. The slave trade took over 10 million Africans from their lands and left them unmanned and unfarmed, reducing the agriculture production that could have helped the economy.
Many African leaders also held similar views of Africa’s adversities to external factors. Since gaining its independence in the 1960s, almost every African disaster was suspected to have been caused by the act or complicity of extrinsic agents. The British were under the impression to “hold that our right is the necessity that is upon us to provide for our ever-growing population…”, instead of the natives right to their own land. Education provided during colonialism was geared toward training males for colonial administration. The Belgians and Portuguese did not endeavor university education as it held the possibility of teaching African natives their political rights. Once Tanzania gained its independence in 1964, there had only been four university graduates. With this thinking, leadership was released of any responsibility for the condition of Africa. The other group of people, the internalists, believe the colonialism-imperialism excuse has been exaggerated and has lost its significance and credibility. The internalists hold the belief that Africa’s problems are a direct ramification of incompetent and unethical political leaders who seized/maintained political office by way of the gun. These are people that are angry with African leaders who fail to take responsibility for their own losses. While external factors have played a part, the internal factors have been more substantial. This thought sustains that while, yes, Western colonialism and imperialism did cause damage, Africa’s state of deterioration has been made more critical by these internal factors such as foolish leadership, mis-governance, corruption, economic negligence, failing infrastructure, and desecrations of human rights.
There is gap that has grown between the government leaders and the people that has made the leaders anxious, sensitive, ruthless, and less amenable to the wishes of its people. The African mass, in turn, view their leaders with fear, reservation, and uncertainty as they believe they are no longer valid or applicable in their lives. The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who once started out leading the Zimbabwe National Union party and was seen as a “liberating hero” , slowly fell under the spell of power and became a cruel dictator. It was only the West which supported revolting dictators in Africa. An African leader is supposed to follow the interests of his people, not his own. Instead of removing a dictator from power, it was argued that since the West put Mobutu, for example, in power, it was their responsibility to remove him. If Mobutu was helping Western interests, why would the West be willing to remove him? Even if they did remove him, wouldn’t they just exchange him with another that would serve their purposes? However, it wasn’t the West that told Mobutu to loot the treasury in Zaire in order to benefit himself nor did they order Idi Amin to butcher over 200,000 people in Uganda. It is the leaders of their countries that need to be held accountable for their actions, not the West. At least, not for current struggles. Africa is now tantamount to war, famine, refugees, malnourishment, and chaos in need of handouts. Africa has not been producing and you can’t trade on the international market if you have nothing to sell. The physical volume of exports has been declining and therefore it is not a question of Africa not being able to earn enough because of low prices. Burundi’s coffee exports, Ivory Coast’s cocoa exports, and Sierra Leone’s diamond exports have been devastated not because of low world market prices but by civil wars have devastated the countryside and uprooted millions of people. Trade blocks are marginal to the core issue of Africa’s under development. Africa’s exports are comprised mostly of cash crops like cocoa, cotton, and coffee and minerals such as gold, diamonds, and copper. Trade barriers and agricultural appropriations affect only a few African exports, such as cotton, peanuts or groundnuts, sugar, and tobacco.
Neglect of agriculture caused by the emphasis on industrialization, the constant civil wars, decaying infrastructure, and erroneous socialist policies has subjugated Africa’s farmers through a network of price controls. Prices of cash crops were fixed at artificially low levels; markets were cornered by giant western corporations, paying low wages and raking huge profits. While prices Africa received for its exports remained low, the prices Africa paid for imported manufactures soared astronomically. Black Americans, drawing upon their own horrific experience, unfortunately have a much different perception and understanding of Africa’s anguishes. Most black Americans are unable to differentiate between African leaders and the African people and see Africa as a target of colonialism and imperialism – just as they see themselves as victims of racism, white supremacy, and the lasting effects of slavery. However, Black Americans haven’t lived under brutal oppressors such as Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, or Mobutu Sese Seko and are unable to empathize to true black despotism The African people know that government is the primary obstacle that stands in the way of poverty reduction in Africa.
January 28, 2023