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African Transformation: The Problem with Africa I

09 November 2012, 07:10

The African story is a tragic one. Africa’s problems are well publicised. A lot of people, Africans and non-Africans alike have asked themselves this question, “Is there hope for Africa?” I am one of those people. We carry the unenviable title of being the poorest continent with the richest natural resources. African countries have so far been the fodder for other countries’ astronomical growth for the past couple of centuries.

The African story is a painful one for me as I am irretrievably woven into its DNA by reason of descent. So troubled am I by this story that though I am not a political scientist, I have started off on my own journey of redemption. I want to play my part in contributing to the emancipation of this great continent.

It’s simple really. You accept that Africa is hopeless and live the rest of your life with the albatross of working in vain believing that all the hard work that fellow Africans are putting into constructing Africa will come to naught. Alternatively, you acknowledge the myriad of challenges Africa faces but refuse to let those in themselves enervate you to the point that you fail to lift a finger to try and change the status quo.

And this is my own story, born through a comprehensive thought process meant to shape me into the best candidate to carry, with like minded people, the developmental cause of Africa. And my departure point is asking questions; the right questions.

Let’s start with the problems. And let’s call a spade a spade.

When you think of Africa, you think of war. And there are two kinds of war that have ravaged our continent; liberation wars and civil wars. Liberation wars were very necessary because African countries had to liberate themselves from colonial masters and fight for the emancipation of the black race. It is not in the nature of the oppressor to grant freedom to the oppressed but the oppressed must take up arms and fight for their freedom. So that was very necessary though it came at the expense of many lives and resources.

Civil wars on the other hand are heart wrenching because it’s African against African slaughtering each other on account of ideological differences, ethnicity and control of resources. These really are unnecessary but a creation by us Africans.

With wars come famine and pestilence. The story of Somalia is a very sad one. The famine and disease that killed countless Somalis was completely man made. So intense was the hatred between the feuding parties that relief from well meaning donor organisations, among them the Red Cross, could not reach the affected civilians. People died.

Here are some more summarized facts that will awaken you to the African reality.

As at 2005, Sub Saharan Africa had grown poorer over the last 30 years despite virtually every African country being independent and power being in African hands.

Almost half of sub Saharan Africa live on US50 cents per day. That is equivalent to R4 a day.

The median African country has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2 billion, which is roughly the output of a small town in Europe. Gross Domestic product is defined as the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period, usually annually. It includes all of private and public consumption, government outlays, investments and exports less imports that occur within a defined territory.

40% of Africa’s privately held wealth is offshore. In other words, wealthy Africans shun Africa as an investment destination!

Africa contributes about 10% of world population but controls 2% of world trade.

According to Robert Guest in his book The Shackled Continent published in 2004, more than 30 million Africans were afflicted by AIDS, 75% of the world’s AIDS related deaths occurred in Africa and 5 Africans died every minute from AIDS related sicknesses.

Robert Guest goes on to make a startling statement to the effect that the AIDS death potential in Africa was equivalent to all of Africa’s wars multiplied by 10 in the early 2000s.

We know that in this regard, some African countries have really stepped up the fight against HIV-AIDS, a case in point being Uganda. In 1992 the HIV prevalence rate in the country was 30% of national population but by 2002 it had drastically dropped to 5%.

Nigeria and Angola earn over US$100 million a day from crude oil imports yet in 2004 they were ranked among the 30 poorest countries in the world by BBC News.

I could go on and on about the challenges that Africa faces and all I would manage to do is depress you more and more. But we have to face facts.

Naturally, we would all want to know why Africa is where it is in comparison with the rest of the world. Are we a cursed continent? If we are, then who cursed us, why did they curse us and how did they do it? Did God curse us? Did we curse ourselves through shading our fellow brother’s blood? Or did the Europeans curse us more than a hundred years ago?

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