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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is Poverty a Black Thing?

Lord Aikins Adusei

The poor performance of African economies and economies where the people are of colour other than whites have prompted people to ask whether poverty is a black or a colour thing.

This question about poverty being a black thing has gained credence in many circles. This question is also asked about Africa because it is characterized as the poorest continent on earth, where for 30 years there has not been any concrete economic development compared to the rest of the world, lagging behind all the other continents in terms of economic and social development. Most if not all the countries in African have similar economic problems namely high unemployment, high inflation, souring deficits, poor state of economic and social infrastructures including roads, harbours, education, airports, telecommunication, health and sanitation and rail system.

The continent is characterized as a place where people do not have access to food and clean water, and where people continue to die from common preventable diseases. It is characterized as a continent full of misery, desperation and hopelessness. It is a continent where very few children under the age of five survive the menace of the six killer diseases, and where people have no access to basic necessities of life. It has been portrayed as a region where people walk several miles for water and children have no access to education and medical services, where rural life is nothing but a condemnation to abject poverty, where people live in mud/thatched houses with bamboo/raffia leaves as roofing sheets. It is portrayed especially in the Western press as a continent full of wars and armed bandits, a continent of dictators and kleptocrats, a continent where corruption is rewarded and achievement is shunned, a continent where entry into public life/service is seen as a means to acquiring wealth and a means of getting top positions. It is depicted as a continent where life expectancy is low and corruption very high. More often than not the phrases 'Africa South of the Sahara', 'Sub Sahara Africa' and 'Black Africa' are often used as a case study when global poverty is being discussed.

So is it a colour or race thing? I must say that I do not agree or subscribe to the notion that poverty has any colour inferring in it and that the underdevelopment and impoverishment which is prevalent in African is deeply rooted in centuries of slavery and colonialism, Western backed coups, armed conflicts, brain drain, endemic corruption and mismanagement, dictatorial rule, Kleptocracy, foreign interventions and the fight for control of the continent's natural resources by the so called superpowers.

Slavery and Colonialism

Centuries of slavery and colonialism deprived the continent of her able human and economic resources. The able men and women were carried away to work in the plantations of the Americas (in all about 30 – 40 million people) and they helped to make America and Europe what they are today. Millions of young Africans were forced to abandon the continent of their origin and were transported several thousands of miles away into countries where they had had no historical attachment with. They travelled in very deplorable conditions, without adequate food, water and air. When they reached the so called new worlds they were made to work from morning till sun set the only time they had on their own was Sundays in which they had to do everything that they needed such as planting their crops, repairing their homes. It was a very nasty experience having to work for ours without pay. Some even worked till they dropped dead. The horrors of slavery and the trade that accompanied it enabled America and Europe to develop at the expense of Africa and other regions. The slave trade deprived the continent of her energetic men and women a vital resource in any development process and sunk the continent into intellectual wilderness.

When US President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Gambia on 13 January 1943, he was so appalled by the conditions of Gambians that he made this lamentation in press conference:

“I think there are about three million inhabitants, of whom, one hundred and fifty are white.'It's the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my life… The natives are five thousand years back of us… The British have been there for two hundred years – for every dollar that the British have put into Gambia, they have taken out ten. It's just plain exploitation of those people”, Source:America Almanac

Thus the hundred and fifty British who were in Gambia were controlling and exploiting the three million Gambians and made their life like hell.

A series of conversation between the anti-colonialist Franklin Roosevelt of US and pro-colonialist Winston Churchill of Britain, shows how the colonial powers notably Britain, France, and Belgium were hell bent on maintaining the policies that made their colonies poor and backward.

“I think I speak as America's President when I say that America won't help England in this war simply so that she will be able to continue to ride roughshod over colonial peoples. I think that I can see there will be a little fur flying here and there, in the next few days.”

``These Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It's because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonized Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are.''

Churchill, quickly responded:

``Mr. President, England does not propose for a moment to lose its favoured position among the British Dominions. The trade that made England great shall continue, and under conditions prescribed by England's ministers.''` "I did not become His Majesty's First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the Empire."

Roosevelt replied to Churchill, according to his son Elliot's eye-witness account:

``You see, it is along in here somewhere that there is likely to be some disagreement between you, Winston, and me. I am firmly of the belief that if we are going to arrive at a stable peace it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can't be done by 18th-century methods.''

Churchill interrupted, ``Who's talking 18th-century methods?''

Roosevelt answered Churchill directly:

``Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes wealth in raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of that country in consideration.''

Roosevelt continued to lecture Churchill on ``American System'' economics:

''20th-century methods involve bringing industry to these colonies. 20th-century methods include increasing the wealth of a people by increasing their standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation--by making sure that they get a return for the raw wealth of their community.''

But the British, the French, the Italians, the Spanish, the Portuguese and the Belgians would have none of that as the 18th Century methods of exploitation and domination continued throughout the colonial world. When the colonial powers use the word trade as Churchill frequently used they actually meant exploitation, they meant maintaining their favoured position and the system that classed colonial people as sub-humans who should be exploited and dumped.

This conversation also shows how much America has changed since 1945. A country that once advocated for the right of all peoples to self determination, liberty, economic and social progress changed course and begun to be an instrument through which countries were destabilised and leaders assassinated most of them in Africa, Latin America andAsia. Today US is vigorously seeking to build military bases across Africa in what they term as Africa Command or Africom for short, a programme that seeks to take wealth in raw materials out of Africa but which returns nothing to the people.

Looting of Resources

About the same time that slavery was being vigorously pursued, the natural resources including timber, gold, diamond, tin ore, ivory, rubber and many more were looted in large quantities by the European countries namely Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy. After slavery was abolished the looting of the natural resources continued unabated throughout the colonial period which lasted for centuries. The irony is that virtually all the income from these resources was used to finance the economic and social infrastructural development of the European countries with little or nothing at all being used to develop the various countries where these resources were taken from.

A clear example is the case of Democratic Republic of Congo where King Leopold II of Belgium enslaved the Africans, forced them to work without pay, killed about 10 million and looted the country of her resources and virtually nothing was used to invest in the country except guns which the Belgium army used to terrorise and kill the Africans. When the DRC was transferred from Leopold II to the Belgium state the looting and the killings continued till DRC gained her independence in the 1960s. Even that DRC was not left alone as Belgium used every tactics including war, blackmail, sabotage, bribery, arm twisting to gain access to the country's natural wealth. In fact DRC (Congo Free State) was the main supplier of rubber a vital raw material for the tyre industry and all the money from the sale of the rubber went to Belgium. King Leopold II was able to transform Belgium as one of the poorest countries in Europe into one of the wealthiest courtesy the enslavement and looting of Africans and their resources.

Belgium was not alone in what she did to the continent. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy all looted Africa of her gold, diamond, ivory, timber, cobalt, coltan, tin ore, bauxite, manganese and all the minerals you can think of.

The Africans who resisted the illegal activities were killed in their millions as happened in South West Africa (now Namibia) where the Germans in 1904 to 1907 committed the first genocide of the 20th Century by killing the Herero and the Namaqua people. Others were imprisoned for questioning the justification of their oppression and domination by a minority few. Nelson Mandela who is now a hero in Europe was imprisoned close to 30 years while many of his colleagues went into exile. Their crime was that they questioned the basis of apartheid: a system that resembles Jim Crow segregation laws of United States which denied Africans everything known to man and placed them at the bottom of economic and social ladder. What Nelson Mandela and his friends were asking for was for Africans to be allowed to govern themselves and determine their own destiny. They were only advocating for independence or improvement of conditions of Africans. But they were seen as enemies who were trying to challenge the system of the day in which few whites controlled more that 90% of the nation's economic and political system through institutionalization of race policies racial poverty, a system that placed 84% of the land into the hands of whites 10%. While Europe became richer Africa became poorer and the trend continued till the 1950s when the African countries started to gain their ‘independence’ beginning with Libya in 1951, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia all in 1956 and Ghana in 195. Even the attainment of independence did not come on silver Plata. Algeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Kenya, Namibia and to some extent South Africa all attained their independence from their colonial masters through arm struggles and in most cases the few infrastructures that existed were destroyed due to the conflicts.

With little or no investment in the continent the various post colonial governments inherited economies with practically no infrastructure: roads, rails, harbours, telecommunications, education, health and sanitation and airports. The only areas which saw some few infrastructure investments during the colonial days were those where raw materials were heavily extracted.

Foreign Involvement

As if slavery, colonialism and the looting of the continent’s resources were not enough the continent became a battle ground during the Cold War as the two super powers and their allies battled for influence and control on the continent mainly for her resources. As a result many African governments who were deem to be pro-Russia or America were overthrown using the military. A case in point was the overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana on February 24th, 1966, a coup in which recent declassified documents in the US names the CIA and the American Ambassador in Ghana as the main instigators and financiers.

Another example is the overthrow and assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Congo on January 17th 1961. CIA and the Western intelligence community have been implicated for engineering the assassinations and overthrow of elected leaders of Africa. For example Larry Devlin, the CIA Station Chief in Congo during Patrice Lumumba’s days spoke to Washington Post in December 2008 saying he refused an order to assassinate Patrice Lumumba but his refusal did not stop the CIA and the Belgium government from overthrowing and assassinating him. In 2002 Belgium apologized to the people of DRC for her involvement in the overthrow of Lumumba but such apologies will mean nothing so far as Belgium companies continue to supply arms to warring factions and support the illegal looting of Congo's resources.

The assassination attempt on Gamal Nasser of Egypt on 24th October 1954 and the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 were alleged to be the work of Britain’s M16 due to their refusal to hand over the administration of the Suez Canal to the British. The death of Sani Abacha and Moshood Abiola of Nigeria within a space of one month has raised questions about the official version of cause by natural causes more so when Abiola was drinking tea in front of visiting US diplomats. It is believed that the strategy the CIA recommended to the station chief in Congo for the murder of Lumumba in which he refused, that strategy was employed to carry out the murder of both controversial but colourful leaders of Nigeria. That is they both died of poisoning but who will do such a thing other than the Masters of the Universe?

The CIA, KGB and their allies encouraged and financed wars and political instabilities throughout the continent. Angola became the battle ground for the CIA, KGB and the Chinese as each tried to gain control over the country, her people and resources. The civil war that engulfed Angola in 1975 only ended in 1991 after 26 years of conflict. When the war ended the few infrastructures that remained after the war of independence (1961-1974) were gone. Mozambique also suffered enormously through the civil war that destroyed the country, a war financed by Portugal and her allies whose interest in that country was to keep the people poor while stealing from their resources.

On March 7, 2004 Simon Mann a British citizen, a veteran mercenary and former officer of Britain’s elite Special Forces (SAS), and 69 other mercenaries were arrested at a military airfield outside Harare, Zimbabwe .Their destination was Equatorial Guinea in West Africa. Their mission was to overthrow Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, a nation of 600,000 people. During his defence Simon Mann mentioned some powerful members of the British establishment as his financiers and backers including Jack Straw UK Justice Minister, Peter Mandelson former European Union Trade Commissioner and now Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, Sir Mark Thatcher a businessman and son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer a key Tory member who was convicted for perjury and Ely Smelly Calil a Lebanese oil trader accused of bankrolling the plot. Mark Thatcher was arrested in South Africa and charged with supplying the aircraft that carried Simon Mann to Harare. Mr. Thatcher pleaded guilty in South Africa and was later made to pay 300,000 pounds in exchange for a prison sentence. The coup plotters were to put Severo Moto, an opposition leader living in Spain in charge of the country. The coup was to give both the plotters and their backers unquestionable free access to the oil resource in the nation. If the coup had succeeded Mann and his cronies would have turned Equatorial Guinea into one of the usual sad stories in Africa- bloodshed, corruption, mismanagement, poverty and what have you. The governments of Spain, South Africa and others in the West were seriously implicated for being privy to the plot. Thanks to the vigilance of the Robert Mugabe's regime the coup was nip in the bud. Unfortunately, most resource rich countries in Africa have not been all that lucky as these masters of the universe continue to use their intelligence services and their mercenaries to destabilize Africa and destroy all the gains made since independence.

Among those mercenaries who sought to return Africa to their former colonial masters was Bob Denard. In fact, Simon Mann is just a small fish compared to Bob Denard, a Frenchman who made a career as a mercenary overthrowing leaders in Africa. When Bob Denard died in 2007, he had more than a dozen of coups to his credit. Four of those coups took place in Comoros Island alone. French author Jean Guisner, who has followed Denard’s career and written extensively about the French government, says Denard did nothing that was contrary to French interests – and he allegedly acted in close cooperation with intelligence services. Denard’s mercenary career took place between the 1950s and the 1980s. During that period, he is reported to have been involved in post independence Nigeria, Benin in 1977, Angola, Zaire – now DRC and the former Rhodesia – which is now Zimbabwe. Registering their frustration and lack of justice for the Comorians, Mr. Abdou Soule Elbak, former president of Grande Comoro said “This man sullied our history”. “I regret he was not made to answer for all the crimes he committed in our country, the murders and the torture which he was guilty of,” said Moustoifa Said Sheikh, leader of the Democratic Front Party. All these mercenary activities took place on the continent because of the natural resources which the West in their greed, selfishness, hegemonic thinking supported and financed.

The product of all this was the political instabilities and the wanting destruction of lives and property that have bedevilled Africa till today. As the elected leaders of the continent were assassinated, overthrown and subjected to all forms of cold war tactics including bribery, arm twisting and blackmail the continent degenerated and faulted on all aspects of human endeavour. The new crop of leaders who replaced the post colonial independence leaders and who were largely puppets of the European and American governments became increasingly authoritarian and corrupt. Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko who became the choice of the Americans after they helped to assassinate Lumumba ruled Congo for 32 years and in those years the country became poorer as Mobutu and his cronies got richer and the western countries notably USA and her allies had free hand looting the mineral resources most importantly cobalt a very important mineral needed for missile development. Little development activities was carried out by Mobutu as he siphoned the country's mineral revenue with the help of Swiss banks. As a result Congo today can only be accessed by boats and canoes mainly through the River Congo.

As tyrants and dictators gained the support of western governments and did whatever they wanted with their economies without questions their people became poorer and hopelessness and desperation were the hallmarks of their lives. As the little money that came into government coffers were taken by corrupt government officials and civil servants there was almost no money to carry out infrastructural projects, economic development and the poverty deepened. Poverty, desperation and hopelessness visited the people and coupled with their inability to change their leaders democratically, dissents were sowed among the population which serve as breeding grounds for more coups, civil wars and civil disturbances. The fertile breeding ground was exploited by defense companies and contractors in America who begun selling arms to armed groups mainly for profit purposes. This was evidence in Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, Algeria, Gabon, Togo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sierra Leone all experienced coups in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and even in the early 1990s. These waves of coups were followed by civil wars that hit Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Congo, Chad, CAR, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Niger and Guinea. These wars apart from it human cost also contributed to the destruction of roads, harbours, airports, rail lines, telecommunications, hospitals, schools and the livelihoods of the people. With the absence of infrastructures, and stable governments these countries have been unable to make any headway in terms of economic development.

World Bank, IMF & the Role of Foreign Corporations

The World Bank and the IMF (Bretton Wood Institutions) and foreign companies have also played their part in making poverty endemic on the continent. Most African countries incurred billions of debt through loans contracted from the Bank and IMF. Most of these conditional loans were used to service debts already owned by these poor countries. The loans were also used to pay foreign expatriates who came to the continent as ‘technical experts’.

Some of these loans were also used to undertake projects and programmes that benefited only the rich. Again part of the loan was also siphoned away by corrupt politicians and civil servants.

The structural adjustment programme (SAP) forced on the poor African countries by the Bank and the IMF forced the various governments to abandon their support for the public sector with serious consequences. The withdrawal of farm subsidies in particular has made it difficult for farmers to compete with their Western counterparts who receive millions of dollars of government subsidies every year. The unrests and disturbances over food shortage and high food prices that occurred in Egypt, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritania, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Sierra Leone in 2008 were the direct result of the Bank and IMF bitter pills prescribed to these poor countries.

Due to SAP and other policies of the Bank and IMF investment in education, health, transportation and other sectors of the economy declined considerably. The governments were also forced to privatise state owned companies. The sad aspect of this exercise was that almost all the companies went to foreigners and the proceeds used to settle debts already owned by these poor nations. Unable to pay their debts and more cash trapped these poor countries turned to the bank and IMF for more loans and the Bank response was open up your markets for foreign goods and accept globalisation.

The discriminatory and draconian policies of the Bank and IMF often seen in the many conditionalities attached to loans offered to African countries have forced them to carve out huge slices of their resources at auction prices to Western corporations who have spared no time to loot Africa's resources often with the connivance and collusion of dictators who enjoy support from the West and the Bank. Nobody in the West is asking why the mining and oil industries in Africa is dominated by Western corporations such as BP, Chevron, Shell, Total-Elf, Texaco, De Beer, and why human rights abuses, corruption, violence have become the norm in the countries where these corporations operate. Shell agreed to pay over $15mn for her complicity in the murder of the poor Ogoni people. Chevron activities in Angola is another example of why poverty continues to ravage throughout the country.

As a result the continent has become a dumping ground for foreign goods. Unable to compete with the influx of cheap foreign goods most local firms have no choice but to close down, laying off several millions of workers and devastating many families. Mr. John Jenkins the author of the ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ has written extensively about how the Bank, IMF and the various big cartels and corporations conspired to keep Africans and the developing world in the state in which they are today. Please watch John Jenkins on youtube as he tells his extraordinary story on youtube.

The presence of companies such as Shell, Mobil, Chevron, BP, Total, Rio Tinto, Texaco, BHP Billiton, Anglo-American and others have contributed to the high poverty levels on the continent. These companies who are mostly resource extraction in nature have destroyed the once rich soils of Africa, forcing many farmers to abandon their farms and loosing their livelihoods. Rivers, wells and streams used by the people for their everyday activities such as washing and drinking have been polluted by these profit making companies. Fishing in most mining and oil drilling communities has ceased as pollution has killed fish stocks in these rivers and lagoons rendering the fishermen unemployed. Communities which were once beaming with life are now ghost communities as land, rivers, lagoons and wells have been destroyed. Respiration, nausea and other mining related diseases are on the increase in many communities where mining and oil drilling are taking place but these profit making companies have abandon their corporate social responsibilities which they owe to the people. In August 2006 a Dutch company called Trafigura dumped highly toxic waste in Abidjan, Ivory Coast killing 17 people and causing tens of thousands to suffer various degrees of respiratory related illnesses. Such inhumane acts byTrafigura is just a tip of the iceberg.

Brain Drain

The poverty on the continent has also come about as result of serious brain drain that has hit the continent in recent times. The flight of doctors, engineers, architects, lawyers, judges, bankers, accountants, teachers, nurses, planners, agricultural experts and others have limited Africa governments' ability to implement development projects and programmes. The flight of these intellectuals has rendered many government agencies very weak. In some communities there are hospitals without doctors and nurses. In others there are universities and colleges without lecturers and teachers. Countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia have lost so much of their professionals to the very rich countries of Europe and America so much so that many of their sectors have resorted to hiring foreign expertise in order to cope.

For example there are more Malawi doctors in Manchester City alone than the whole of Malawi combined. The irony is that governments use scarce resources to train these intellectuals only for them to leave the country for greener pastures abroad. Britain and the US are major recipient of these intellectuals and even though they are aware of the tremendous negative effect it is having on these poor developing countries, they have done nothing to discourage it, in most cases they have encouraged it. It is on record that one-third migrants from Africa are the very intellectuals and professional that their nations need.

The US lottery programme has succeeded in luring doctors, nurses and other health professionals from Africa. In many parts of Africa the health sectors has either collapsed or is being maintained through the help of the Cuban government. The selective immigration policies of Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada which target professionals have turned many African institutions, government departments and ministries into professional wilderness and desert as these professionals have been poached away by these rich nations. The end result is that policies are improperly implemented, monitored and evaluated as there are no or very few professionals available to do the work.

Corruption and Mismanagement

Corruption is another cancer that has tragically made the continent very poor.From South Africa to Egypt there is no country where corruption is not endemic. According to the Africa Union (AU) around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by its leaders and civil servants. In 2006 Forbes’ list of most corrupt nations had 9 out of the first 16 countries coming from Africa. Since oil was first discovered in Nigeria about 50 years ago, several billions of dollars have been realised from its but today the whole population continue to live in abject poverty and the country has nothing to show for it. As a result able men and women are battling dangerous seas just to enter Europe and try their luck. Others have resulted to 419 a popular scam used to trick people into given out their money and valuables. Those who seem to have benefited from the oil are corrupt politicians, civil servants and the big oil corporations such as Shell, Mobil, BP and their American counterparts. In fact Nigeria has consistently featured in the top 1% of the most corrupt nation on the planet.

Between 2005 and 2007 several state governors and their immediate families were arrested by Scotlandyard in London on corruption and money laundering charges. Among them are James Ibori of oil rich Delta State and his wife Theresa who had their 35 million dollar asset frozen by the English court. Mr. Ibori earns about a thousand dollars a month but during his eight years as a state governor he managed to acquire wealth to the tune of $35m and was a key financial contributor to the campaign of the current president of Nigeria. He owns a private jet and lavish London home. Another corrupt governor is Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of oil-rich state of Bayelsa who was also arrested in London for money laundering charges. Mr. Alamieyeseigha broke his bail conditions and evaded capture in Britain by dressing up as a woman. When Police conducted a search in his London home they discovered one million pounds worth of cash in his home. Another governor who was arrested in England was Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. He was arrested in a London hotel for stealing money meant for development of his state.

In South Africa Jacob Zuma is still battling it out with the court for his part in the multi-billion arms deal in 2001 in South Africa. He was forced to resign as Deputy President of South Africa. The late Mobutu in his 32 years as President of Zaire, now DR Congo amassed several billions of dollars belonging to the Congo people.

In 2006 former president of Malawi Bakili Muluzi was arrested for pocketing $12m donated to his poor country by foreign governments. Again former Zambia president Frederick Chiluba was arrested together with two business men Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe and charged with 11 counts of stealing money meant for the Zambia’s development.

In Equatorial Guinea where oil export has earned the country billions of dollars, the 600,000 people living in the country continue to live in poverty while Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his cronies continue to siphon the oil revenue with no accountability. Gabon and Angola both Oil exporting countries are no different. In fact, the governments in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea can best be described as Kleptocracy that is government by thieves. In countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, The Gambia, Sudan, Uganda, Libya, Tunisia a Kleptocracy class of people have replaced anything democracy. In these countries very few people continue to remain in power and the people have no say in the way their country is govern or run. For example Gaddafi of Libya has been in power for 39 years now. Omar Bongo of Gabon 41 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea 28 years, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 28 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 27 years, Paul Biya of Cameroon 26 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda 22 years, Omar Al Bashir of Sudan 19 years, Iddriss Derby of Chad 17 years, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 14 years, and the list is unending. What is clear is that these unelected leaders continue to amass wealth at the expense of their poor countries and continue to mismanage whatever remains of their corrupt acts. Because most of the leaders are former military officers or former rebels with no grasp of economics and management, they are unable to formulate any good economic policies that will make their economies grow hence poverty has become a part of the people but their leaders know not what poverty is. A visit to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria shows that majority of the people are unemployed. Years of oil spills have made the soil unfit for any agricultural activity. Their streams and wells are polluted and the people have no access to basic necessities of life even though billions of dollars is realised from the sale of oil from that region every year.

In the 1990s economic hardship, abject poverty, and destruction of the environment forced the people of Ogoniland to demand a say in which Shell operates but the military regime led by Gen. Sani Abacha arrested the environmentalists led by Ken Sorowiwa and executed them. It is these monies meant for the development of the states that these state governors were caught trying to bank away in Europe. Every effort to get the Nigeria government to develop the oil rich areas fell on death ears until the unemployed youth took up arms against the federal state. They kidnapped foreign oil workers and demanded ransom before their victims were released. They disrupted the oil production forcing the oil companies to move several miles offshore for their own safety but they were not safe either. Eventually, the companies had to reduce their output by 25% in 2007-8. These disruptions affected supply of oil in the world market forcing the price to skyrocket to $140 a barrel in the summer of 2008.

In DR Congo it is estimated that gold and diamond deposits alone could fetch the country 23 trillion dollars not to mention the abundance of timber and other several minerals that are found in large quantities such as columbo-tantalite (coltan) and cassiterite (tin ore) yet years of corruption, mismanagement, conflicts and foreign involvement have made this resource rich nation one of the poorest in the world. Coltan for example is used in every mobile phone and a number of electronic devices in the world. Cassiterite used in electronic circuit boards is the most traded metal on the London Stock Exchange. It is often said that western nations cannot maintain their current level of lifestyle without Congo and most corporations in the West can easily go bust without Congo. The question is if Congo is the blood line of the west and the west is rich because of Congo then why is Congo so poor? And where are the billions of dollars from the sale of these minerals? The answer lies in the history of the nation which is corruption, slavery, colonialism, assassinations, armed conflicts and foreign involvements and domination by Belgium. Since her independence from Belgium in 1960 there has not been peace in the country. Several millions of Congolese have died about 4 million of them in the last eight years alone and most of the dead are civilians. The conflict in Congo is largely about who controls the vast resources in he country. The huge size of the country has made its administration very difficult. And the problem is exacerbated by weak, ill-trained, undisciplined and very corrupt Congolese army who abduct, terrorise, rape and murder the people instead of protecting them. The US is asking the government of Rwanda to allow her to establish military base with the sole aim of securing Congo's resources, a move largely seen as part of US tragic involvement in the affairs of the continent.

The various militia groups operating in the east of the country have made life very difficult and unbearable for the civilian population. These armed groups with backing from Rwanda and Uganda have largely operate in the region with impunity – abducting, raping, massacring and stealing from the poor people. Jean Pierre Bemba and Laurent Nkunda who are now facing war crime charges in The Hague were notorious warlords whose activities have not escaped the international criminal court (ICC).

A visit to Walikale town in the east of the country explains in vivid terms why the people are so tragically poor. People have abandoned their farms and moved to the mines but whatever they make from the mining activities is taken away from them by the Congolese army and the ever present predators i.e. the armed groups. These armed groups force the people to mine the minerals without pay. Unable to farm and not paid for their toil, most of them have to credit food in order to survive.

Everyday in Walikale about 16 aircrafts fly out of the city with loads of minerals bound for Rwanda. These stolen minerals further find their way in the western mineral market in London, New York and Geneva. The proceeds are shared by the warlords in Congo, the Generals, politicians and the businessmen in Rwanda and the rest is used to acquire weapons that are used to terrorise the people and prolong the war. These are the tragic events that has crippled Africa and denied her the opportunity to take her rightful place in the world community of continents.


No country or region can ever develop under the conditions I have discussed above. There is no way the people of Congo Kinshasa who have known no peace since the 19th century can ever develop. There is no way a country can develop if its leaders are routinely assassinated, overthrown or have civil wars sold to them. There is no way people can develop and achieve economic development if they are institutionally and racially marginalized and discriminated against as it happened in America, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. No country has ever developed if corporations loot resources, pollute water rivers and contaminate soils which are the source of livelihoods of the people.

Angola, Nigeria, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea can in deed develop into viable states if Total-Elf, Chevron, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Texaco, De Beer, Trafigura, BAE systems and the hundreds of Western companies in Africa stop bribing African leaders. There will be development if the governments and politicians in Europe and America stop their dishonest relationship with corrupt governments and the political establishment in Africa.

As I write these corrupt corporations aided by their governments, politicians and the Briton Wood Institutions are still looting Africa, raping her of her minerals and there is complete silence in the Western media about what is going on in Africa.

As I write the US lottery programme is still poaching Africa of her vital human resource and Britain is poaching Ghana and Nigeria of their valuable health professionals.

As I write Swiss banks are continuing their shady dealings with the corrupt leaders in Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Gabon, Guinea Conakry and are aiding them to steal and hide monies they have stolen from their countries, monies meant for the development of their people.

As I write General 'Kip' Ward of the US Army is busy lobbying African leaders to allow US to establish military bases across the continent so they can continue the exploitation started by Europeans.

As I write the corrupt leaders in French speaking Africa have bought hundreds of estates in France with stolen money and French political leaders and the judiciary have resisted any attempt to have these leaders prosecuted or the stolen assets returned to the people because French leaders do not want to jeopardize their corrupt relationship with these corrupt leaders.

As I write US, Chinese and European arms and defence companies are shipping arms to Congo and Somalia. Cabot Corporation and George Forest, De Beers are busy stealing Congo's natural resources. France through Total is busy stealing Gabon and Cameroon's oil with little revenue to the people. US through Chevron is impoverishing Angolans. Britain and Holland through BP and Shell are destroying Niger Delta and are making millions poor.

As I write Africa has become a dumping ground for European goods while African countries have been denied access to US and European markets through their discriminated trade policies. As I write toxic waste, from US and European countries are being dumped everywhere in Africa. It is the ongoing exploitation and cosy relationship between African leaders and their equally corrupt counterparts in America and Europe that have denied black people the chance to escape poverty.

It is clear that several forces within and outside the continent have contributed to making the continent earn the negative characterisation often seen in movies, TVs, in papers the West.

But there is no time to look back but a time to look forward and get our acts together, organise ourselves and start doing something. The progress that has been made by China, India, Korea, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia the Gulf countries including Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the last 30 to 50 years shows that poverty has got nothing to do with colour or race. Nations become poor because their leaders fail to formulate policies and programmes that address their problems. They become poor because they continue to depend on their colonial masters who have no intension of seeing them develop.

Even today in spite of her past troubles and difficulties, it is important to acknowledge that African countries have made progress since independence 50 years ago. Most of the countries inherited nothing more than bankrupt economies at independence yet have managed to build roads, hospitals, schools things which 300 hundred years of colonial and imperial rule failed to achieve. However, it is also important to acknowledge that African countries face serious challenges that need serious measures to solve them. Africa cannot continue to place its destiny in the hands of exploiters, imperialists and hegemonic thinkers. They need to chart a different course if they want to see their children educated and benefited from the huge resources that have become a curse through no fault of theirs.

To reverse the negative impact of centuries of slavery and colonialism on one hand and decades of coups, civil wars, corruption, mismanagement and foreign interventions on the other hand, the governments should take bold steps to free themselves from all the colonial policies and the exploitative instruments put in place to loot the colonies which are still in place today in many countries especially Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Guinea, Angola, Nigeria, South Africa among others.

The governments must focus their attention on reforming and modernising their countries by investing in science and technology. Investment in infrastructures such as roads, telecommunication, railways, harbours, health and education must be given priority for these can help to lay the foundation for economic and social development.

They must diversify their economies from its heavy reliance on agro raw material export to finished goods. The immediate post independence policies of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana led to many structural changes in the country. Under him new factories were built, universities were established, new towns were built, hydro power generation was built, hospitals and health centres were built, and roads were constructed. The British in their 150years of colonial rule did not do one-tenth of what Nkrumah did in nine years. There would have been no Ghana today without the nine years of Nkrumah. It is a good example that can be followed.

The leaders in Africa must make sure that every child has access to education since no nation or empire has ever developed or achieved greatness with an illiterate population. The governments must have education policies and programmes that address the needs of their countries. The governments must adopt and implement policies that allow parents to give birth to small number of children so they can take good care of them and give them proper education.

Workers must be encouraged to save as this will provide the banks with enough resources to loan businesses and individuals wishing to go into business. This has the advantage of creating jobs and provide families with income.

The leaders must do more to fight corruption and mismanagement, therefore they must establish independent corruption watchdogs, strengthen the judiciary, and be accountable to the people. They must end their relationship with the corrupt multinational corporations whose activities bleed trillions of dollars from Africa annually. Multinational corporation that pay bribes to win contracts must be prosecuted and banned from doing business anywhere in Africa. Therefore the continent must have a common business code that compels corporations to adhere to proper business practices. Fighting corruption must be seen as an all out battle because these corporations have shown that they do care about what happens to countries where their illegal activities are causing devastations. IF Africans work together, act with one voice, implement some of these policies these corporations will think twice before offering bribes.

This observation by President Obama to Ghana’s Parliament is valid: “But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt".PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.

The nations must expand and trade among themselves, deepen economic and cultural cooperation, work to integrate their economic and political systems through adoption of single currency, common immigration policies, and common agricultural and trade policies.

The era of despotic regimes and its associated corruption and human rights violations must be a thing of the past. This is why the Africa Union must let its influence be felt and let the dictators in Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Gambia, Angola, Libya, Egypt, Congo and Guinea know that it is time for them to hang up. There is the need for democratic reforms to allow free and fair elections to be organised.

The Africa Union must work to make United States of Africa a reality by adopting and implementing policies that will address concerns of all countries in Africa. Policies that will work to eliminate dictators, promote rule of law. The AU must take active role in the affairs of the continent. It must stop taking the back seat, should be more concerned about fighting poverty, promoting peace and development than just being a talking shop for corrupt, kleptocrats and dictators., freedom, democracy and guarantee free and fair elections across the continent.

African leaders and governments must recognize that there cannot be development without peace and stability especially in Congo, Somalia and other parts of the continents where conflicts are still going on. Achieving and securing stability and peace in Africa must be given priority if the continent can develop economically. This is why it is very important for certain countries and their political leaders like South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, DRC, Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, and Ethiopia to make sacrifices and work to bring peace, stability and unity throughout the continent.

The nations must establish research institutions and cooperate with one another to share information that will lead scientific breakthroughs in Africa. Research must also focus to find out how best to use the various natural resources to benefit the people. As the saying goes ‘resources are not but they become’ that is to say you may have all the natural resources in the world but if you do not have the ability to convert them into useful commodities/consumables to benefit the people they are nothing.

Western researchers have in most cases ignored the hard questions about the role Western governments, their corporations, business elite and politicians continue to play in Africa, instead they focus on what is already known: that wars, political instabilities, and corruption breed poverty. The question they must begin to ask is how much of the poverty is being caused by western corporations, who is bribing the African leaders and where does the bribe money go, which Western countries serve as safe havens for Africa's looted funds and which banks are involved in concealing the loots? Where are the weapons that fuel the instabilities in Africa coming from and which companies and contractors are involved? Who are the beneficiaries of the blood gold, diamonds, oil that has generated the phrase ‘resource curse'?

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