Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE BLACK MAN'S BURDEN- does the white man owe the black man anything?

Good governance is the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development"
Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General


I remember sometime ago I listened to Prof George Ayittey's "Cheetah vs. Hippo generation speech" on TED talk . He put out a question. It seemed somewhat simple in the first instance. But if you took a shot at it, then you would realize the difficult algorithm involved. The question was basically easy, but the answer came with difficulties! He asked an online audience to name just 20 of the over 204 African heads of state, who have manned the affairs of the African continent since 1960 Accountability and Democracy have not been at their best in most nations in Africa. It still baffles me when I realize that the poor African countries that have received funding for the past three decades or so are no better than they were before the reliefs started flowing in. Who or what is really to blame for this unfortunate incidence in Africa?

Slave trade: The debate for reparation and compensation of Africa by the West is still under debate. As to whether the west owes us anything currently I cannot tell, I guess Ali Mazrui is a better person to answer this question. There is something that however is certain for a fact. The slave trade really caused the producers of the main raw materials, a fortune. Ships docked on our shores with whiskey and tobacco and left with muscles, beauty and Gold. A trade imbalance I would say. The European intrusion obviously did some harm. Their presence also gave us the opportunity to experience formal education, showed us "the way to salvation", built monuments and provided us with better health care. Does the "In" balance the "Out".

Corrupt leaders: Greedy and corrupt leaders have come and gone and with them the secrets behind their fortune. Sani Abacha, Mobutu Sese Seku, and Iddi Amin are names that ring bells. They will be remembered for the skilful and smart manner in which they robbed us all of our treasures. Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga embezzled over $5 billion USD from Zaire, making him the third-most corrupt leader in his time and the most corrupt African leader in the past few decades. Sani Abacha was more lenient though with Nigeria; He is reported to have hidden more than $4 billion USD belonging to the very people he promised to serve. If the purses of these two "great" leaders were combined would Africa still be as poor (or as rich) as it is today? The Africa's Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the NEPAD are two main weapons designed to audit African leaders and their books. With our fingers crossed let us just hope it will serve the purpose for which these brilliant concepts were born.

Should African leaders be begged or teased to do the right thing? Should they be promised expensive End of Service Benefits (ESB) before they come up with policies that will be in the best interest of their own countries. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is tasked every year to look out for an African leader worthy of its mouth watering package;prize consists of US$ 5 million over 10 years and US$ 200,000 annually for life thereafter. It does not end there, a further US$ 200,000 will be awarded per year for good causes espoused by the winner during the first ten years. Is this what we need to prevent another Abacha or Mobutu crises?

Apartheid: Although the slave trade was abolished in 1833 it continued for a few more year in different form though. In fact there are a few who still believe Africans are still under some form of master-servant relationship with their former colonizers. I am sure this temptation stares at us all in the faces giving the fact that our leaders always go knocking on IMF and World Bank's doors with suitcase in hand. The apartheid in South Africa, against which Pan-Africanists such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela fought against, is a big scare on the face of Africa. The citizens of South Africa are yet to fully integrate as a people. The black corner in the ring in May last year attacked the white corner. Thousands died, more lost their homes and some are still homeless as we speak. These stories move me to tears sometimes and I then forced to pop the unavoidable question; who is an African? Is it the skin, the passport or perhaps the behavior? Apartheid, until it was abolished in 1994, I believe pulled South Africa backwards and subsequently the rest of the landmass which was tightly tied to the development of this country full of natural resources.

Coup d'├ętats: When there is a coup anywhere in Africa, is it caused by a foreigner or rather an individual from that very country. Thirty three out of the 53 African nations have experienced such acts of sudden, unconstitutional deposition of  legitimate (or not so legitimate) governments, by a small revolt groups whose members hail from that very country. These revolutions are often followed by famine, death and epidemics. If the West is to compensate Africa for carrying its kinsmen across the Atlantic for over a decade, then don't you think that our own countrymen also owe us a fortune for for harm they have caused to Africa and its children?



Gameli Magnus Adzaho said...

Extensive diagnosis of the complex problems facing Africa today has become both herculean and unprofitable. What i think is needed is a step-by-step conscious effort to provide our rural folks with water, schools for the kids and health facilities for the diseased. African governments must, in concert, develop economic and technological measures that would contribute to the upliftment of the continent. We need homegrown solutions, not foreign handouts!

Tagoe said...

The earlier the black man got to know that grants and loans arent the solution put the problem, the better.

abena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
abena said...

This article reminds me of the book I read-The White Man's Burden ..Good job bro

Eche Sica said...

Good post Mr. Tagoe. You touched on some very interesting things. I agree with you that leadership continues to be the bane of development in Africa. The developing world must move beyond the issue of reparations. Sure some apologies and some help will always be useful but that will not erode the inequalities in the global economic system. We need to fight the war from its roots. How are we going to quantify this reparation and what happens if African leaders receive it and decide to selfishly spend it?

I agree that it will be foolhardy to blatantly dismiss discussions on reparations but without dealing with those deep seated internal problems we will never move ahead. In short Africa’s problem is as much internal as it is external.