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Opinions of Saturday, 24 June 2017

Columnist: Kwadwo Agyapong Antwi

Should Africa bring back the Europeans? (Part 2)

THE MYTH OF A RISING AFRICA

The 21st century dawned with its own opportunities and challenges for the continent. Boosted mainly by commodity price surges and a more stable political environment, there was a general sense that the continent was finally beginning to rise economically. The story of this most blessed continent is surely not ending in doom and gloom you’d say?

Well, let’s look at the available statistics. With fertility rate higher than anywhere else in the world, Africa’s current population of 1.2 billion is set to double to some 2.4 billion by 2050 – the socio-economic implications of this surge deserves its own article. As at 2012, over 500 million people, almost half of Africa’s population, were living under the poverty line. About one-third of Africans are undernourished. One in 16 women dies during childbirth, for some perspective, only one in 4000 is likely to die in the developed world. More than 3000 children die a day from malaria related illnesses.

Africa accounts for about 90% of all malaria deaths globally - Europe has since eradicated malaria across their continent. As at 2013, about 12.5 million Africans were internally displaced. In 2015, the GDP of the whole Sub-Saharan Africa was $1.5tn; that of Germany was $3.4tn. Africa imports some $50bn worth of food annually – 70% of citizens are farmers….

These statistics paint a very horrendous picture but, the good news is, we have also made some significant strides in other areas including; reduction in infant mortality, increase in primary school enrollment rates and election of people with bigger bellies.

However, much of the progress has been painfully slow and simply unsustainable – except the last one of course. Unfortunately, the little progress the continent has made leads some in the international community to paint a picture of a rising continent which simply does not reflect events on the ground. For a significant part of the population, the purported rise of Africa is merely a mirage.

Africa might be rising but the benefit of this development is accruing to only a few hands – the corrupt politician and their crooked local and foreign business people, who are only interested in plundering the wealth of the continent without any incentive in given back to the larger society.

An estimated 25% of Africa’s GDP is lost to corruption each year! Many of our people live and work in horrid environments for years without the ability to provide better opportunities for their children.

It is essential for anyone still living under the illusion of a rising Africa to understand that there are actually two Africa’s – the Africa the majority of the population know and the Africa the few economic elite would like to portray to the international media. It is essential for such a person to look beyond the few plush neighborhoods on ‘main city’ to the squalor of ‘inner city’. Remember Africa is a land of contradictions. It can also be a land of deception.

MY MODEST PROPOSAL

Africans are optimistic people. We are survivors and would thrive under almost any circumstance. This is both our protection and foundation of our tragedy.

The continent’s experiment with democracy has unfortunately morphed into a form of politics that puts party before country. We have managed to drag politics through the mud so badly that the best people are not expected to participate in the so called ‘dirty game of politics’ – forget about the fact that this ‘game’ has the destiny of over a billion people at stake! Fact is, unless there is some radical change, our quest for development will continue to elude us.

Now, I am no expert in developmental economics but, after this tirade, I feel it’s only fair that I make a proposal to alter this decades- old hiatus. So this is my modest proposal – let’s run the executive arm of our governments like how the biggest international companies are run- like one big corporation.

Instead of electing a president and members of parliament along party lines, let’s employ an expert, without consideration for nationality, colour or creed to run the affairs of government. This person should be given the power to appoint competent people, in consultation with ‘civil society’. This ‘civil society’ should be ‘independently elected representatives’ whose role will essentially be to set performance indicators and monitor progress.

Now, before you give that look of bewilderment and start analyzing my mental state, ask yourself whether you would rather your services are governed by a competent ‘green person’ who is capable of delivering positive results or a ‘’pink person’’ who does not, just because you happen to be pink? I believe such a system will definitely disrupt the existing inefficient order and ensure an all-inclusive governance that harnesses the potential of all citizens, without regard to party, religious or tribal affiliations.

Do I believe this is the best strategy to restore Africa’s glory and achieve socio-economic progress for all her people? Far from it! I only think it would be an interesting alternative experiment to our quest for development, especially when all the ones we have experimented with have failed us for years. What do you think?