Africa: A Diamond in the Rough

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 27th Dec 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Culture

A look at problems faced by many African countries.

I never knew of a morning where I woke up and wasn't happy to be in Africa

Despite the doom and gloom that is portrayed on international news, Africa is a pretty cool place to live. The change in the standard of living in itself is mind blowing. Where there were no higher education facilities some 70/80 odd years back, there are now universities, colleges, and other educational resources producing educated populations in the millions. Where there was no drinking water, electricity, or roads, these things now exist and are becoming more and more available. Many indigenous cultures have gone from almost entirely agrarian societies to integrating modern industries and technologies. Lifespans across multiple demographics are increasing, most African economies are forecasted to be on the rise, and urbanization is rapidly spreading allowing for multiple countries to further boost social, economic developments, and letting previously opposing parts of society to come together and try working out their issues.

If we take into account that independence only began, give or take, some 57 years ago, Africa is killing it.

That said, there are a couple of issues that have to be dealt with

Poor Leadership

“If the problems you have this year are the same problems you had last year, then you are not a leader. You are rather a problem on your own that must be solved.” - Israelmore Ayivor

From the book The Shackled Continent by Robert Guest:

The great African novelist, Chinua Achebe, said of his homeland: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

If you substitute “Africa” for “Nigeria”, this would be the perfect summary of what is going on within African governments.

Inept leadership will then foster grounds for...


It is our duty as citizens to combat corruption

As you've all heard, Africa was under the rule of European Imperialism for roughly two centuries. In that time, the colonial powers set up systems that were extremely exclusionary and harmful to locals. When Independence came to Africa, the people abolished those systems which inadvertently led to the crumbling of infrastructure, and leadership. This left a need for leadership positions to be filled.

Anti-western sentiments led to the most anti-western leaders being put into power. This usually meant rebel leaders and independence activists who were usually military men who had strong, authoritative personalities.

Now, for people who aren’t really familiar with African traditions, in the past, African communities were led by strong personalities. Back in the day, kings and rulers were followed based on either:

•Their larger than life personalities
•Their famed exploits in battles

This led to some sort of weird misconception that strength and power makes for good leadership.

Another thing to note is that large groups of African people held/still hold traditionalistic views with high regard. With that in mind, power was always going to be held by military men. The problem that arose was that most of these men:

•Came from impoverished backgrounds
•Had no experience of running something as vast as a country

Because these guys were suddenly put into positions of power which held much influence and wealth, they began using them for personal means.

African communities are also historically geared towards taking care of your brethren and this mindset is partly guilty of the widespread corruption in the continent. As statesmen were put into power, they began putting family and friends into positions of power instead of putting in capable people. Those family and friends also put in their own associates and began using state money for their own means, further increasing expenditure.

Because of this, the money remained amongst those in power, which brought upon the large gap in economic equality that African countries face.

This also led to the predicament where these people with power were able to get rid of any semblance of accountability and legitimacy, which allowed corruption to run wild.

I mean, just have a look at the top five African countries with the most governmental debt levels:

1.Zimbabwe: 202.4%
2.Sudan: 111%
3.Eritrea: 104.7%
4.Egypt: 92.2%
5.Cape Verde: 86.2%

While it's easy to point fingers at the people in power, It's also hard to give blame to a single party - if a person is appointed to a prestigious position and ends up misusing their power, are they responsible or is it the system which enables them?

Corruption will also have a harmful effect on...

A lack of economic development

"Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance." - Ban Ki-moon

After African Independence, the IMF began offering loans to countries in debt as leverage to prescribe policies and dictate major changes in the economies of these countries.

As a result of World Bank and IMF policies, average incomes in Africa have declined, and the continent’s poverty has increased.

Despite the fact that Africa has only 5 percent of the developing world's income, it carries about two thirds of the debt - over $300 billion. Because of this, the average African country spends three times more of its scarce resources on repaying debt than it does on providing basic services.

Have a look at five African countries with the worst external debt percentage:
1.Guinea-Bissau: 259%
2.Burundi: 202%
3.Republic of Congo: 155%
4.Democratic Republic of Congo: 122%
5.Zimbabwe: 103%

Liberia owes 8.5% of its GDP to the IMF as part of its loan payments.

The poorest countries have had to turn increasingly to the World Bank and IMF for financial assistance, because their impoverishment has made it impossible for them to borrow elsewhere. This doesn’t just hurt Africa’s economic development, but also its ability to sustain itself.

Bad governance, corruption, and a lack of economic development are but a few of many causes to the stifling of African development, but they take a backseat to...

Strife within African societies

"No tribe unites with another of its own free will." - Arthur Keith

Africa has always been geopolitically unstable. Most countries in Africa are extremely ethnically divided with many, many ethnic groups who have rivalries some going back hundreds of years. Because of these ethnic tensions that remain strong throughout the years, there was always going to be a constant stream of strife.

Matters got worse when Imperialism began as colonialists drew up arbitrary state lines without any concern for the locals. You would find that they would artificially raise a certain demographics status, which would cause societal inequality. Other demo graphs would start hating the demography that had their status raised, as they represented the values that colonial masters held.

Things heightened once Independence was established, as there would now be a demo graph that used to be above the rest, but are now equal with others who have hated them for the longest time. And because they aren’t liked, guess what happens next?

Abuse and discrimination which usually ended with violence and death.


While things may seem bad, no problems on such a large continent as Africa will get fixed in a short amount of time, but with pragmatism, perseverance and natural willpower its people have, Africa will get there.

To paraphrase former South African President, Thabo Mbeki’s brilliant “I am an African” speech:

I am an African.

I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter-day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightning, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.

The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.

I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one to redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and the other, to defend the indefensible.

I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.

I know what it signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub-human.

I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had imposed themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.

I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.

I have seen the corruption of minds and souls as a result of the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.

I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.

There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality - the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.

Perhaps the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly proportional to their personal welfare.

Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past - killers who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled, and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.

All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!

Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.

I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.

I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, of torture, of imprisonment, of exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice.

The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric.

Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be.

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual.

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regards to colour, to race, to gender, to age or to geographic dispersal.

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, to promote them, to strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.

Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds.

But it also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves what we want to be.

Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, to petulance, selfishness and shortsightedness.

But it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we make a superhuman effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda - Glory must be sought after.

I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, and of Somalia, of the Sudan, of Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned. The evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!


Africa, African, African Culture, African History

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author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

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