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Mphatjie Monareng
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African solutions

26 October 2009, 15:08  - Mphatjie Monareng
Madonna adopts Aids orphans in Malawi. A few months later, Madonna opens a school in the same country. Before that, Oprah also opened a school in South Africa. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

The rock band U2 has also done similar stuff, taking part in a campaign to "make poverty history". And such is the futility of these grandstanding gestures that many of these campaigns themselves become history.

After all the pomp and ceremony, long after the cutting of the ribbons, years after photographers have filed these wonderful moments of "goodwill", the fact remains: Africans are (or should be) responsible for their own destiny.

Even the so-called aid does not work.

Whatever conclusion the world comes to regarding African poverty and underdevelopment must be premised on one key principle: African solutions for African problems.

Outsiders, even the ones who appear genuinely compassionate, cannot make any significant dent on the levels of poverty in Africa - and, more often than not, some of their gestures are underlined by a sense of self-promotion.

No other competitive economy anywhere in the world has triumphed on handouts.
It is one thing organising an HIV and Aids concert in London to raise awareness about increasing levels of infection in Africa; but having Africans change their behaviour requires none other than Africans themselves.

Many politicians have gathered in many Western capitals, over three-course meal lunches, to discuss hunger in Africa and other under-developed parts of the world. They have also gathered in five-star hotels to discuss homelessness.

For Africa to emerge out of this darkness that we're in now, we need genuine, home-grown democracy, starting from the grassroots upwards - genuine democracy in which a vote for a political party does not amount to a five-year licence to loot the public purse and disburse patronage, nepotism, tribalism and corruption.

It is high time Africa developed its own methods of self-government. Democracy as imported from the West, raw as it is, is not always suitable to conditions here in Africa. We need strong African unity, strong African leadership and innovative African solutions to African problems.

Using old colonial identities to define ourselves (such as Anglophone Africans, Francophone Africans, Arabic Africans, Portuguese Africans) helps widen divisions, cause mistrust and deepens xenophobia.

It is about time we shed the colonial baggage - much of which is self-imposed - and move forward. Living on handouts from western celebrities and charities is not sustainable. We must find our own way forward.

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