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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Columnist: Atchulo, Joseph

The plight of Africa

Many times people have wondered why I speak so passionately about the plight of Africa, many times people have asked why I burden myself with the plight of our continent, the answer is simple, it is because I am African, an African who is concerned about the staggering poverty and underdevelopment in the land and the inability of our governments, federal states and local authorities to function at the level they ought to, when you look at Africa today, whether you are looking at Ghana , Nigeria, Sierra Leon, or indeed any country in Africa, how is it that our gold, timber, oil, and other natural resources are taken away from us and given to those that have.
In Africa today, our richest men and women are the men and women who occupy public offices, while every other continent in the resent past have moved a step in the right direction, Africa still remains in the words of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blaire as “The scar on the conscience of humanity”. Go to the DR Congo which is by far the richest resource country in the world, and the DR Congo is famous for producing some of the greatest thieves the world has ever known, Go to Nigeria with all its oil, and though Nigeria is a great country, it is also famous for producing some of the greatest thieves the world has ever known, go to all African countries, and you will realize corruption is a cancer that is alive and well, a cancer that has permeated deep into the membrane of the African Continent, a cancer that has destroyed our morals and conscience, and that Africans are in the business of canonizing thieves and demonizing its saints.
I have always admired the bravery of Anas Arimeyaw Anas, an anti-corruption campaigner who has staked his life on the altar of sacrifice to fight corruption. A very long time ago, a great Greek philosopher said, that it is in the nature of man to hang the small thieves and to elect the big ones into public offices, we do that in Ghana, we do that in Nigeria, we do that in Sierra Leon, we do that in Africa, and no wonder Africa still remains the poorest continent on earth.
We are confronted with an Africa where the youth have no hope in Africa, an Africa where our young men and women have no pride and no interest in Africa, an Africa where statisticians and romantic economist say is growing but which in truth is stagnating, an Africa where Africans have lost their self-pride, an Africa where our young men and women are constantly humiliated and embarrassed at the embassies of European countries and the United States of America as they seek the almighty green card. Not so long ago, over 400 Africans drowned in the Mediterranean because they were running away from Africa, not so long ago, a group of other Africans drowned next to the Island of Malta because they were running away from Africa, this time round Africans are not wailing and kicking as they are been taken away to be enslaved, but this time round they are been seen wailing and kicking as they seek to enslave themselves in Europe and America, this is the tragedy of Africa.
Fifty years ago many African countries attained independence on the promise that they will feed their people, fifty years later Africa is still complaining, fifty years later there are no shortage of Universities that describes themselves as Universities of Agriculture and Technology, fifty years later there is no shortage of research institutions which are donor funded, fifty years later many Africans are dying younger than they were dying in 1960, fifty years later the nutrition level have gone down, fifty years later we have acquired PhD’s and Professors in different areas of Agriculture, but fifty years later, Africa is a basketcase, the question is what is the problem?
Africa needs to go down to the basics, it is only when we go down to the basics and begin to talk to ourselves honestly and sincerely that Africa will begin to understand our potential. I can confirm to you in our supermarkets in Accra, we still have eggs from Romania and imported chicken and butter from Denmark, what are we doing in livestock? when we still have individuals engaging in poaching as an ethnic sport in the 21st century, even if we move into aquaculture, in most rural villages in Africa they still fish like Adam and Eve did, whiles china is producing fish from fish farms and there are no shortage of Professors in aquaculture, if you go to the area of maize production, right now it is forecast that in Ghana we will have food shortages, yet the whole idea of food security is older than Jesus Christ, go and read the book of Genesis and see how Joseph dealt with it, and one can go on and on, in many areas in Africa in my village and perhaps including your village, we still have farmers going about throwing seeds into the air with the hope that by divine intervention they will grow, while in Israel they are using drip technology, these are the questions we must ask ourselves.
So what must African do going forward, Firstly we must liberate ourselves from the chains of donor dependency, as long as Africa is fed by donors Africa is going nowhere, I have always said and will say again that the IMF and the World Bank are not the solution to the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty in Africa, we must learn to look within ourselves if we must grow. Since the 1940s, approximately US$1 trillion of aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. This is nearly US$1,000 for every man, woman and child on the planet today (Dambis Amoyo, Dead Aid). However the poverty levels have only grown from bad to worse since aid is attached to certain conditionality that inhibits the growth of the recipient country.
Secondly, until and unless Africa learns to begin to move in the right direction in embracing science and technology Africa is going nowhere. Ghana where I come from is one of the better Africa countries, and yet Ghana is very far from where everybody else is going , so this competition that Ghana is ahead of other countries is a competition of dwarfs complaining about which one is taller than the other.
Thirdly we must also deal with regional and international markets, Africa could trade with ourselves, intra African trade is only 4% some now say is 10%, also we must develop our transport system, President Obasanjo once said he wanted to commence a poultry farm in Nigeria and he lost 40,000 chicks because there were no roads, reliable transport system is the way forward. We must also invest in irrigation, we are still waiting for God to send rain on earth and His divine instruction was go ye and subdue the earth, but we have allowed the earth to subdue us.
The other thing is the source of energy, Africa combined produces less energy than Japan, my own country Ghana has an installed capacity of 2100 MW(Wikipedia 2014) perhaps that is what runs the Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. We are not going anywhere until and unless we embrace all these things and of course enhancing extension services.
A few things must happen if Africa must develop, we must grow the economy and shrink the way we spend money, the problem in Africa is not about the north verses the south , it’s not about Christianity verses Islam, it’s not about NDC verses NPP, the problem in Africa is right verses wrong, today the issue is not about religion , the issue is very simple, we have a small minority of people, the leadership of Africa consuming all the resources of our nation and leaving the rest of us in abject poverty, that cannot work, we must learn to be humble, we must learn to conserve what we have, and we must learn to be kind enough for the rest of us to have enough food to eat and cloths to wear, our children to go to school, healthcare facilities for everyone, education, Jobs, infrastructural development for our people and a population control policy. For instance in Ghana out of 25 million people most of us leave on less than 2 dollars a day, not enough money to survive.
And yet we get angry when we get robbed, we don’t understand why a young kid has access to an AK 47, a grenade or a bomb, making it possible for them to get guns and kill us because we do not look after them, we pay no attention to the least of us, and the response of our leadership is to live in big mansions with electrical wire fencing and bullet proof cars, have more body guards and a good proportional amount of police guards protecting them and not the poor, that cannot work, we must come together and understand that we must all grow and develop together as a people, anyone you leave behind, you create a problem for the rest of us, it is not enough for you to send your children to schools in Europe and America, buy your houses in Dubai, live a life of extreme wealth and don’t expect those you leave behind to want to take you out. Many times our leadership think they are smart and think that their lifestyles are not been watched by those they govern, when you seek public office you lead by example and not to be lords over the people who vote you into office.
Poverty breeds hunger and anger, hunger and anger breeds violence and in the end we cannot control it, we must be conscious of the people we lead, it is not enough to make great speeches, I see politicians on TV, on special occasions they say let us pray, maybe some of them are not familiar with the concept of prayer, you pray for the food you are about to receive not the food you ate all by yourself, we need to change. Whiles every other continent in the recent past has moved a step in the right direction Africa still remains the scar on the conscience of humanity, the world has changed and we must change, and for us to change we must understand what drives our people, because there is too much hunger in the land.
The problem in Africa is the rich verses the poor, the crises we have is the class warfare, and let me say that if our political leadership do not control our consumption behavior, this young kids might not be able to read and write, but they have access to the internet, they know how to make a bomb, they know how to make a grenade, they know where to find a gun and where to pull the trigger, when they get hungry and angry the rest of us become the victim , we don’t have enough money to hide and run. The world has changed but Africa has not changed, when our leaders go abroad to look for aid, they go to congress or the British parliament, the man they speak to goes to work by bus, by trains and taxis, however the tragedy and irony at once is that our leaders go in there representing poor Africa, they go in a private jets, wear a million dollar watch, their women carry a 1000 dollar bag, we look like we have no conscience, the qualification to seek public office is school certificate, however the question is which University teaches us about compassion , we must care about the least of us, if we don’t we will pay the ultimate price of destruction.
I look forward to a day, when Africa shall no longer be a winner in the equivalent of Olympic medals in the wrong things as corruption indices as measured by Transparency International, I look forward to that day. I look forward to a day, when the words of Chinua Achebe in his book things fall apart and no longer at ease and a man of the people shall no longer be true that the African is corrupt through and through, I look forward to that day.
We need a change of heart, a total change, a DNA transplant, a paradigm shift in our thinking and attitude, so that our dominant instinct becomes the instinct to do that which is good and right. And I believe that it can be done, and it must be done, and it will be done, because if it is not done we are done.
Atchulo Joseph