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
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
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
“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
Thus the hundred and fifty British who were in
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
``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:
``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?''
``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.''
''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
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
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
The Africans who resisted the illegal activities were killed in their millions as happened in South West Africa (now
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.
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
Another example is the overthrow and assassination of Patrice Lumumba of
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
The CIA, KGB and their allies encouraged and financed wars and political instabilities throughout the continent.
On March 7, 2004 Simon Mann a British citizen, a veteran mercenary and former officer of
Among those mercenaries who sought to return
The product of all this was the political instabilities and the wanting destruction of lives and property that have bedevilled
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
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
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
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.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTbdnNgqfs8
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
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
For example there are more
Corruption and Mismanagement
Corruption is another cancer that has tragically made the continent very poor.From
Between 2005 and 2007 several state governors and their immediate families were arrested by Scotlandyard in
In 2006 former president of Malawi Bakili Muluzi was arrested for pocketing $12m donated to his poor country by foreign governments. Again former
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
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
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
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
No country or region can ever develop under the conditions I have discussed above. There is no way the people of
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
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
As I write the
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
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
As I write
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.
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
The leaders in
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
This observation by President Obama to
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
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
African leaders and governments must recognize that there cannot be development without peace and stability especially in
The nations must establish research institutions and cooperate with one another to share information that will lead scientific breakthroughs in
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