Feature Article of Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Columnist: Saka, Honourable
Poor Africans struggle to make ends meet in the midst of plenty
By Honourable Saka
Anyone who is familiar with American politics must have come across the expression: “the American Dream”. The term “American dream” has been used in many ways, but it essentially conveys the idea that anyone in America can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy and successful life. Indeed the American dream was one of the stepping-stones for American revolutionists in the likes of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. whom while fighting against racial injustice, proclaimed in his famous “I have a dream” speech.
Of course like the American people of yesterday, the African people have always had a dream. This dream however is not the so-called “democracy” which is usually proclaimed in the corporate media every now and then. But what exactly is the African dream and why is it taken so long to become a reality for her people?
What The African Dream Is Not It is not an African dream to see our leaders running to Europe every week for expensive “routine medical check-ups” while the ordinary African is left at the mercy of the collapsed health infrastructure. It was never an African dream for our leaders to continue running to China and America, begging for loans to help fight malaria and HIV/AIDS. Never had it been the dream of our forefathers to see young children of school-going age hawking the streets, selling dog chains, sachet water, and doughnuts among others in search of school fees, while our leaders steal the people's wealth and deposit it in offshore accounts every year.
When the African child was born, it wasn’t her dream to survive on less than $2 a day while the politicians and their families swim in luxury, holidaying and shopping in Dubai every now and then. The African teachers did not dream for once that in the midst of plenty oil and gas, gold, bauxite, diamond, copper, Colton, uranium among others, their annual salaries would still not be enough to buy a simple laptop nor to talk of buying a car when the monthly allowances of their colleagues in politics are enough to buy luxurious four-wheel-drives and several mansions abroad. Where is the African dream?
It is never an African dream to have many educated Africans stranded in Europe, sweeping the streets, cleaning and obediently washing dishes abroad every year despite having degrees and qualifications that can tremendously transform the African continent. Who said it was an African dream for Africa to import toothpick, genetically modified foods, chemically induced chicken, second-hand clothing (including underwear), refined crude, shoes, clothing, etc. when Africa had what it takes to locally produce these things 50 years ago? Is it an African dream for the African people to continue borrowing from the World Bank and use the money to import American rice at the same time? Is it an African dream to be living in darkness when Africa has what it takes to provide electricity for herself and the rest of the world?
After 50 years of our flag independence, almost every single project that could potentially bring relief to the African people has either been abandoned or being held in the pipeline. Thanks to IMF-imposed policies. Our local oil refineries have been forced to shut down operations. Our leaders therefore ship the raw crude to European refineries after which the refined product is imported back to Africa. Many of the factories which were built in Africa to process the bauxite, the copper and other strategic resources have been forced by IMF-imposed policies to shut down and left to rot. For many years, Africa has remained the producer of raw material and the dumping ground of European, American and Chinese products. Is this the African dream?
For the past 40 years, Africans have been lamenting their frustrations over the failure of leadership especially in Ghana, the so-called "model of African democracy". Ever since Kwame Nkrumah's government was brutally overthrown by CIA mafias in 1966, Ghanaians have been living in total darkness (all major power generating projects initiated by Nkrumah has been abandoned). As I speak today, we’re still struggling with unreliable power supply; there is no reliable water supply, despite having plenty of gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, crude oil and being the world’s second largest producer of cocoa: the only resource which Nkrumah used to transform Ghana in less than 8 years. Today, our leaders usually measure their level of success by the amount of Chinese loans or World Bank grants they are able to lobby for, though a high percentage of such moneys usually end up in offshore bank accounts of the very politicians who signed such deals.
We have many rivers and lakes, yet our leaders cannot generate reliable electricity for the people. We have too much sunlight that shines across the country 350 days a year, yet the government doesn't see the need to examine how we can generate solar energy to augment the power shortage which as become a major crisis for more than 25 years. Many companies are being forced to shut down operations and relocate to elsewhere due to unreliable power supply. When are we going to have visionary leaders in Africa?
For many years, electricity in Africa especially in Ghana operates like disco lights. Even within the capital city, people are forced to stay in darkness for at least 15hours a day, usually 4days a week. Is this the African dream which our grandfathers were brutally murdered for?
Yet, politicians make all sorts of noise parading Ghana as “a model of good governance and democracy”. They boast of plenty democracy, though there is no electricity to show for it as people continue to grope in darkness 4 day a week. I find it so hard to imagine that there are many public officials and engineers at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) whose main duty is to ensure that several parts of the country are shut down without electricity on a daily basis for the past 15 years. And they get paid for doing this job. What a country!
While Asian and Latin American leaders are busy building gigantic roads and bridges, our leaders here in Africa are only interested in building gigantic statues which serve the ordinary person no useful purpose.
African leaders of today are always keen to mount statues in honour of Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara among others whiles they ignore the social intervention programmes launched by such revolutionary leaders that were to bring about relief to the African peopleuntil their assassination/overthrow.
The Shuttered Dream of the African Child child labour rapidly grows in South Africa The last time l checked, every African child is dreaming of the day when s/he can have equal access to quality education, quality healthcare, portable water supply, reliable electric supply, security among others. Most of all, the African child, like his American and European counterpart, is yearning for a 3-quare-meal a day without necessarily being the son of the president, a politician or some wealthy African king. The African child also deserves to dwell in a clean environment and a comfortable home. This is therefore a call to our stakeholders to sit up because the current standards forced upon the throat of the African child are simply unacceptable.
The African youth and unemployment
Youth unemployment in South Africa The youth need jobs; not mere political speeches. Governments must concentrate on policies that will create more jobs for the youth. There should be good-governance structures that will enable every youth the opportunity to harness their God-given talents. The current level of youth unemployment in Africa which stands at 50% is simply unacceptable. No wonder armed robbery, internet fraud, prostitution and other social vices are becoming the order of the day. Therefore any government which does not clearly lay out a plan that demonstrates how youth unemployment will be tackled within a given time frame cannot be considered to be a serious government. There are many young ones out there with brilliant ideas, and excellent innovations, yet the states do not have systems in place to support such people. How can Africa developed if her youth are constantly abandoned when many of them launched initiatives which have the potential to transform more African lives?
If you were to ask majority of African voters what they expected of their governments, many would tell you they need jobs, potable water, reliable electric supply, quality healthcare just to mention a few. Democracy, mounting of gigantic billboards and gigantic statues are definitely not any meaningful thing the African would want as a priority. Yet look at how much billions of dollars our governments have been wasting on elections and political rallies very year. Are these moneys not enough to build hospitals, school and good quality roads?
In 2012 for instance, the World Bank gave about $100m in aid to Ghana “to help fight malaria and other communicable diseases”. Shockingly, the sector minister suggested that the amount was still not enough for the said purpose. Yet within the same year (2012), Ghana spent more than $600m on democracy.
This however does not include the amount which the various political parties wasted on political rallies, TV commercials, gigantic billboards and so on. At the same time, it was reported that many students could not write their final exams due to lack of funds. Are we serious as a people? Is Ghana truly the model of good governance and Africa’s democracy?
The African dream is found in our rich cultural heritage, the rich minerals of Africa and in the minds of the young, talented African youth whose burning desire has been ignored by our leaders. Our old men in government have hijacked this beautiful dream and handed it to their foreign donors to whom they owe their loyalty and allegiance.
The Way Forward Indeed, the African dream has remained a pipe dream for far too long. It will only take a serious revolution to remove all these batch of incompetent old men from the corridors of power to pave way for youthful, dynamic and vibrant leadership to take Africa to the dream land. Our people seriously deserve better than the usual lip service. The time to live the African dream is now; not in some 500 years to come. Governments must concentrate on building more gigantic roads instead of mounting gigantic statues. We must concentrate on investing in solar and other forms of renewable electric energy to solve these power crises once and for all. Our local industries cannot flourish with the current level of unreliable power supply.
Most importantly, we need to reform our colonial educational system to place more emphasis on practical science and technical education. The current book-oriented educational system which lacks practical demonstrations has failed Africa. It is time for real practical solutions to be taught in the classrooms. Various legislation must be introduced across Africa that bans all politicians and public servants from depositing moneys abroad. Any politician who is found to be owning fat offshore accounts must have his/her assets frozen. This in a way will help ensure that, all those Africa’s looted funds shall remain here in Africa and be used for the benefit of the African people.
Let us begin to live the African dream now.
Honourable Saka The writer is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands. The PPA seeks to provide the biggest platform that will give international exposure to all hidden but exceptional talents in Africa. Please visit us at: www.projectpanafrica.org and support the project. PPA is grateful to ITech Plus, ZBC News GhanaWeb, ModernGhana and all our partners that support our vision for Africa. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org