An Orphaned Continent?
Clearly, Africa seems to be situated in a universe whose structures, design and rules she did not play any active part in bringing into being. She has not configured the universe according to her perspectives and definitions. Those who design, structure and formulate the rules are always in control. Such a universe follows the parable of an orphaned duicker (etwi agayanka) which, seated next to a ferocious leopard at an assembly, exclaimed: ebi ti yie, ebi so nti yie koraa! (i.e. some are sitting well, some are not sitting well at all!) Africa seems like an orphaned continent. It has lost both its fathers and mothers i.e. its ancestors, their tenets, their experience and what they stood for. They now sit next to the vicious imperial leopards which have mauled and ravaged Mother Africa. ‘In a thousand little ways the humiliating marks of colonization are still part of our heritage. We must reckon with it in order to eliminate its consequences. Not to make it a powerful factor in our reckonings would, for us, be irrational. We must wipe from our eyes all delusions of freedom if we are to see clearly our way to real freedom.’ In this contemporary reality, if we are to perceive the need for mental, political, economic and cultural liberation, it would be necessary to re-examine this non-indigenous paradigm of un-freedom.
The wave of political independence that swept through most of Africa in the 1960s was welcomed with joy and a heap of expectations. Africans believed that the departure of the colonizers would entrust the continent’s fate in their own hands. They hoped that, at long last, the years of subjugation, exploitation, and oppression would come to an end, – after all, their own brothers were taking charge of the African governments.
Sadly, more than half a century since independence, it seems as though the sustainable development that the African people legitimately expected in the immediate post-independence era was aborted.
The hundreds of years of slavery and colonialism of Africa by Europe seriously harmed the Continent’s economic and political development. It damaged the African societal structures and undermined the psychological self-assurance of the Africans. Indeed, it may have destroyed the soul of Africa.
Africa faces numerous challenges today; authoritarianism, conflicts, environmental degradation, hunger, poverty, corruption, insecurity, diseases, illiteracy and underdevelopment – the very things that our founding fathers swore to eradicate!
This paper is a discourse on the first Scramble for Africa, the subsequent colonialism and subjugation of the continent, and post-independent Africa’s governance and development and with further focus on the potential for the continent’s human capital as opposed to the natural resources with which those dealing with Africa have been fixated.
B. AFRICA – FROM COLONIALISM TO NEO-COLONIALISM
When the European powers assembled in Berlin, Germany from 15th November, 1884 and 25th February, 1885 their agenda was as clear as it was diabolical; conquest and occupation! The Berlin Conference and the resulting events came to be commonly referred to as ‘the Scramble for Africa’.
Although the Berlin Conference was the pivotal point in Europe’s occupation of Africa, explorers and missionaries who preceded the conference paved the way for the ill-fated conference. Africa has since been subjected to colonialism, neo-colonialism and is now experiencing ‘the new scramble’.
1) The Colonial Africa
A few years after the Berlin meeting, with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, all the states that make up present day Africa were parceled out among the colonial powers. The manner of demarcation was brutal and gave no regard whatsoever to African nations living in the continent. Lines of longitude and latitude, rivers and mountain ranges were pressed into service as borders separating the colonies; or one simply placed a ruler on the map and drew a straight line. Martin Meredith notes that;
By the turn of the 20th century, the map of Africa looked like a huge jigsaw puzzle, with most of the boundary lines having been drawn in a sort of game of give-and-take played in the foreign offices of the leading European powers.
The Berlin Conference and the subsequent subjugation of the continent marked the beginning of the modern problems facing Africa and the continued exploitation by the western countries.
Africa’s governance systems and socio-economic structures were replaced by European systems during colonialism. Upon independence, the first generation of African leaders did not merely inherit countries marred by widespread poverty and under-development. They also inherited systems of governance from their colonial overlords, which were not suitable to Africa and her people.
According to Joseph Patrick Ganahl, our founding fathers failed to adapt the European systems to the situation they found themselves in. They ended up trying to “make the best of things” which made things worse for the African people. He argues thus;
Contemporary African politics is instead made up of efforts to react and adapt to these circumstances – to “make the best of things” in ways that are rarely pleasant for African citizens. More specifically, I argue that these political practices derive from the failure of efforts to build nations and national economies along the lines of Western industrialized countries. Most sub-Saharan African states have not managed to establish a hegemonic definition of the political and economic purposes of the nation, its economy and its political power, nor to bring about an economy that provides a viable livelihood within that hegemonic definition of the national interest. Indeed, the majority of African governments have not even tried.
Although colonialism and decolonization are not unique to Africa, there was a significant way in which the African situation was distinct from that of the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East at the conclusion of the colonial era.
The difference concerns the relationship between the newly independent states and their populations.
In Africa, the end of colonialism did not signal a return to pre-colonial forms of sovereignty and pre-colonial institutions, as was the case in much of Asia – with the obvious exception of India.4 Africa’s decolonization also differed from that of North and South America, where Spanish and British colonists continued on at the helm of the newborn state institutions. Instead;
New domestic elites, trained in the colonizer’s schools, speaking the colonizer’s language, and often wearing the colonizer’s clothing styles, took over the colonial state and made it theirs.
Engleberg (2000) argues that the “empirical weakness of African states is a product of their history.” Therefore, it is not far-fetched nor is it a conspiracy theory to state the African continent has always been and continues to be a cow milked by the West.
Joseph Patrick Ganahl (2013) accurately argues that ‘the cause of Africa’s political situation does not lie in its origins, but in failure to construct nation-states’ after taking over from the erstwhile colonizers. This is of course propagated by the enduring neo-colonialism and imperialism and catalyzed by Africa’s inherently weak institutions.
2) Neo-Colonialism – A fulfilment of Kwame Nkrumah’s Prophecy?
The Founding President of Ghana and author Dr. Kwame Nkrumah introduced his book “Dark Days in Ghana” with the following prophetic letter he received from his friend, Richard Wright;
Letter to Kwame Nkrumah from Richard Wright
I say to you publicly and frankly: The burden of suffering that must be borne, impose it upon one generation! Do not with false kindness of the missionaries and businessmen, drag out this agony for another five hundred years while your villages rot and your people’s minds sink into the morass of a subjective darkness.... Be merciful by being stern! If I lived under your regime, I’d ask for this hardness, this coldness...
Make no mistake, Kwame, they are going to come at you with words about democracy; you are going to be pinned to the world and warned about decency; plumb-faced men will mumble academic phrases about “sound” development; gentlemen of the cloth will speak unctuously about of values and standards; in short, a barrage of concentrated arguments will be hurled at you to persuade you to temper the pace and drive of your movement...
There will be no way to avoid a degree of suffering, of trial, of tribulation; suffering comes to all people, but you have within your power the means to make this suffering of your people meaningful, to redeem whatever stresses and strains may come. None but Africans can perform this for Africa. And, as you launch your bold programmes, as you call on your people for sacrifices, you can be confident that there are free men beyond the continent of Africa who see deeply enough into life to know and understand what you must do, what you must impose...
This is an accurate description of events that took place soon after independence and a further proof that indeed the colonialists never left Africa. Barely two years after he received this letter, Kwame Nkrumah was ousted out of power via coup d’état, for which he squarely blamed neo-colonialists.
Neo-colonialism is the control of less-developed countries by developed countries through indirect means. According to Mathew Stanard (2018) neocolonialism is the continuation or re-imposition of imperialist rule by a state (usually, a former colonial power) over another nominally independent state (usually, a former colony).
Kwame Nkrumah describes neocolonialism as an instrument of modern imperialism in the following terms;
The colonialism of today represents imperialism in its final and perhaps its most dangerous stage ... In place of colonialism as the main instrument of imperialism we have today neo-colonialism.
The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system is directed from outside. The method and form of this direction can take various shapes. For example, in an extreme case the troops of the imperial power may garrison of the neo-colonial State and control the government of it.
More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means. The neo-colonial State may be obliged to take the manufactured products of the imperialist power to the exclusion of competing products from elsewhere. Control over government policy in the neo-colonial State may be secured by payments towards the cost of running the State, by the provision of civil servants in positions where they can dictate policy, and by monetary control over foreign exchange through the imposition of a banking system controlled by the imperial power.
We have lived to witness Nkrumah’s example of extreme neo-colonialism being visited on countries such as Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most other African countries have been and continue to be subjected to the other less extreme forms of neo-colonialism.
Writing in the year 2007, several years after Nkrumah, Korean author Ha-Joon Chang, on a closely related subject ‘neo-liberal economic and free market policies’ stated;
Neo-liberal economics is an updated version of the liberal economics of the 18th-century…. Neoliberal economists support certain things that the old liberals did not – most notably certain forms of monopoly (such as patents or the central bank’s monopoly over the issue of bank notes) and political democracy ... the core neo-liberal agenda of deregulation, privatization and opening up of international trade and investment has remained the same since the 1980s.
In relation to developing countries, neo-liberal agenda has been pushed by an alliance of rich country governments led by the US and mediated by the ‘Unholy Trinity’ of international economic organizations that they largely control – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Ha-Joon Chang further argues that the neo-liberal agenda is watered and nurtured by foreign donor funds and aid;
The rich governments use their aid budgets and access to their home markets as carrots to induce developing countries to adopt neo-liberal policies. This is sometimes to benefit specific firms that lobby, but usually to create an environment in the developing countries to adopt neo-liberal policies. The WTO contributes by making trading rules that favour free trade in areas where the rich countries are stronger but not where they are weak (e.g., agriculture or textiles).
Other scholars and economists such as Dambisa Moyo agree with this position, with Moyo squarely blaming aid for being ‘an ‘unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.’
Aid creates more economic challenges for developing countries than it solves. Indeed, foreign aid only ends up taking money from the poor people in a developed country to the benefit of a few rich people in an under-developed country. As Moyo demonstrates, aid has done more harm than good in Africa;
Even the most cursory look at data suggests that as aid has increased over time, Africa’s growth has decreased with an accompanying higher incidence of poverty. Over the past thirty years, the most aid-dependent countries have exhibited growth rates averaging minus 0.2 percent per annum.
Notably, pressure was brought to bear among many African countries as aid from the Bretton Institutions (the World Bank and IMF) was pegged on the adoption of plural politics through westernized multi-party politics. African Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also grew prominent during the period (the 1980s and 1990s) and were christened Civil Society. Their greatest claim to fame became proposal for donor funding to champion Human Rights and good governance.
The tottering African economies were also ‘force-fed’ through the Structural Adjustment programmes (SAPs) promoted by the World Bank and the IMF from the 1980s. The programmes which were fundamentally ‘one size fits all’ prescription covering sectors such as Agriculture, Health, Education, pushed for privatization of hitherto publicly owned enterprises. The result was massive job losses.
It is noteworthy that the quest to retain economic control over Africa was multi-pronged. While the World Bank and the IMF danced their macabre dance of control; individual European countries and groupings also kept bilateral and multilateral arrangements alive to sustain control. It is in this context that the European Economic Community (EEC), (a precursor to the European Union) and the African Carribean and Pacific Agreement of February 1975 ordinarily referred to as the Lomé Convention, must be understood.
The net effect of the assault on African economies by Western Governements through multiple Agencies including the World Bank, IMF and country based Agencies such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), OXFAM International and Department for International Development (DFID) has left African countries weak and victims of what C.O Makame aptly describes as ‘Dependent Independence.’
Neocolonialism is therefore alive and well today in Africa, slowly but steadily sipping away her resources. Kwame Nkrumah, his human imperfections notwithstanding, was ahead of his time, a political prophet; his warnings about the fate of the African continent have stood test of time. We are witnessing them being fulfilled. Africa is still not paying attention to his cautions.
Fifty years since his death, the ideas and issues that Nkrumah lived for and wrote about continue to reverberate across the continent. In his controversial book Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, Nkrumah denounced the rampaging nature of multi-national companies, as well as Africa’s dependency on aid, its debt and its increasing poverty in the absence of greater economic and political integration.
Africa needs to re-examine her position in the global economy including the international instruments she is party to if she is to break the yoke of neocolonialism. There is a need for increased intra-Africa trade and reduction of export of primary resources.
C. THE NEW SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA – What It Means for Africa
The contention between the world’s major economic and military powers has been a constant feature of the African continent’s recent history. It was certainly a feature of the 1930s, when the fascist powers, Germany and Italy, as well as Japan demanded a ‘place in the sun,’ a re-partition of Africa in their favour and Italy, with the connivance of Britain and France, invaded and occupied Ethiopia. Competition and contention also existed during the ‘Cold War’, the period of the bi-polar division of the world between the US and Soviet Union and their respective allies. In this period the big powers sought to subvert the efforts of African countries to rid themselves of the shackles of colonial rule and to establish proxies and clients, new neo-colonial states that provided economic and geo-political advantage throughout the continent. The activities of the Soviet Union in Ethiopia for example and the NATO powers in Angola and South Africa are obvious examples.
That the African continent is endowed with bountiful natural resources is indisputable. Africa is rich in natural resources ranging from arable land, water, oil, natural gas, minerals, forests and wildlife. This has led some to describe the continent as a ‘veritable geological scandal.’
Despite centuries of colonialism, plunder and pillage, the continent still holds a huge proportion of the world’s natural resources, both renewables and non-renewables.17 Reportedly, Africa controls approximately one-third of the world’s remaining mineral resources.
The African continent’s untapped wealth, ranging from oil and minerals to untapped human capital continue to attract the good, the bad and the ugly.
It attracted colonialism, sustains neo-colonialism, and has led to what is now referred to as ‘the new scramble for Africa.’
Unlike the first scramble by European countries, the new scramble for Africa is an intense rivalry between today’s big powers, such as the United States of America (US), China, Japan, Britain, Turkey, France, among other developed nations with interests.19 Some political scientists have opined that the new scramble for Africa led to the military intervention in several African countries, including in Mali, Libya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The establishment of the US African Command (AFRICOM) with a Pan-African remit, in addition to economic and other forms of intervention and external interference throughout the African continent presents further proof of the new scramble for Africa. Recent coups taking place in Africa have also been said to be fueled by the new scramble for Africa.
That this new scramble has emerged with intensity in the last few decades is not surprising. Historical lessons with the monster of neo-colonialism replacing colonialism, that neo-colonialism would either metamorphosed into another form of colonialism or spin off into another shape or conduit of exploitation of Africa demonstrates that imperial powers will never willingly let go of Africa.
Kwame Nkrumah had foreseen this scramble for Africa; speaking at the Casablanca Conference in Morocco on 7th January, 1961, he said;
What I fear worst of all is that if we do not formulate plans for unity and take active steps to form a political union, we would soon be fighting and warring among ourselves with imperialists and colonists standing behind the screen and pulling vicious wires, to make us cut each other’s throat for the sake of their diabolical purposes in Africa. All over Africa, artificial boundaries dividing brother from brother, sister from sister have been erected by colonizers. It is within the greater context of African Union that these artificial boundaries imposed by colonialism and imperialism will disappear.
Sadly, 60 odd years after Nkrumah’s warning, Africa remains as disunited and thus weak and vulnerable to external interference and domination due to the failure to completely decolonize.
Post-colonist African countries’ failure to unite is her own undoing. This is essentially what has allowed the monster of colonialism to rear its third head in the form of the new scramble for Africa. It has essentially allowed colonialism and neo-colonialism to continue to plague the continent leading to civil unrests, coup d’états, poverty and under-development. The new scramble for Africa is, therefore, not a conspiracy theory, far from it. It is reality of Africa’s contemporary situation. While the Western Countries remained in their spaces as super manipulators of African economies and politics, from the late 1980s a new power emerged. China had taken little interest in the first scramble for Africa but it is at the centre of the new one.
The emergence of China and its “modus operandi” of “I see nothing, I hear nothing and I will fund you without asking questions,” has many African countries gravitate towards her, particularly in the area of infrastructure development. Indeed, there are now very few African countries where the Chinese economic juggernaut is not active. Chinese interests on the continent encompass not only natural resources but also issues of trade, security, diplomacy, and soft power. Currently, China is the leading buyer of world’s resources. It has become ‘the most sought-after source of capital infusions’ for both developed and developing nations.
In a world where cash is king, China’s much-noted cash stock-pile… affords it the ability to do what other countries can’t do and go where other countries can’t go. Simply put, the Chinese are on a shopping spree. And its voracious commodity appetite is unlikely to abate significantly even if China’s economic growth rates were to cool.
It is clear for anyone keen enough to discern that as far as China's government and commercial actors are concerned, Africa is a source for natural resource imports, a burgeoning and underdeveloped market for exports and investment, and a way for Chinese firms to gain experience and increase domestic employment. Africa is well positioned to contribute to China’s growing demand for resources.
While the Westerners and the Chinese presence may be obvious in some countries, the activities of Russia, Japan, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates may not be easily noticed. Without a doubt, Africa is under economic siege! Where does she go from here?
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000 had their round with eight goals. Now, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) with its seventeen goals are still with us supplemented with Africa Agenda 2063 and its seven Aspirations. However, it would appear that as soon as we find new antidotes, fresh and more virulent wounds appear.
D. GOVERNANCE AND DEVELOPMENT: The African Aspirations
Africa’s plan for sustainable development and governance is largely contained in two major blueprints; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) with its seventeen (17) goals and Africa Agenda 2063 and its seven (7) Aspirations. These ambitious goals and objectives were set and are being implemented at the time when Africa is grappling with the challenges of leadership and governance.
1) The Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, the United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN Agenda 2030 provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.
Development of the SDGs was guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including full respect for international law. The agenda is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights treaties, the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit Outcome. It is informed by other instruments such as the Declaration on the Right to Development.
While launching the SDGs, the United Nations declared;
We are announcing today 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 associated targets which are integrated and indivisible. Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda. We are setting out together on the path towards sustainable development, devoting ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of “win win” cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world. We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity. We will implement the Agenda for the full benefit of all, for today’s generation and for future generations. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to international law and emphasize that the Agenda is to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of States under international law.
At the core of the UN Agenda 2030 are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
On the face of it, the SDGs presents a great opportunity for Africa’s prosperity. However, as has been experienced before with MDGs and other similar agenda, Africa’s impediment to the attainment of such agenda is its leadership crisis and the fact that Africa is usually not majorly involved in their making. As they are not homegrown, their implementation is lackluster. Lack of clarity around ratification, reporting, accountability mechanisms, and roles and responsibilities persists.
2) Africa Agenda 2063: The Seven Aspirations and the AfCFTA
The African Union “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want” is a long-term 50-year blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future:
It is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the Pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. The genesis of Agenda 2063 was the realization by African leaders that there was a need to refocus and reprioritize Africa’s agenda from the struggle against apartheid and the attainment of political independence for the continent which had been the focus of The Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union; and instead to prioritize inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security amongst other issues aimed at repositioning Africa to becoming a dominant player in the global arena.
On the occasion of unveiling the blueprint, the then Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma described, inter alia;
...the declaration marked the re-dedication of Africa towards the attainment of the Pan-African vision of African Union (AU) integrated prosperous and peaceful continent Africa, driven by its own citizens representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
The ambitious agenda is anchored on seven (7) key Aspirations, namely:
- A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
- An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.
- An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
- A peaceful and secure Africa.
- An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics.
- An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.
- Africa as strong, united and influential global player and partner.
Africa’s possible game changer is possibly the African the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into force on 30th May, 2019. The AfCFTA is arguably the largest market since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with a potential market of over 1.4 billion people. It’s declared intention is to deliver Africa’s goal for inclusive and sustainable development in the spirit of Pan-Africanism.
Undoubtedly, the pragmatic solutions under the SDGs, Africa Agenda 2063, and the AfCTA offers Africa’s path to prosperity. The realization of this regenerated Africa lies on the African leadership and followership. It cannot be business as usual where lofty declarations are made but never implemented.
Sadly, the implementation started on a wrong foot. The Agenda 2063 First-Ten Year Implementation Plan (2013 -2023) projected Africa to be a continent that is “well-governed, peaceful and cultural centric” by the year 2023. In other words, the African Union Member States had hoped to entrench democratic values and culture as enshrined in the African Governance Architecture by 2023 which is now with us.
Without concerted efforts to transform the policies, the rest of the Agenda 2063 will face the same fate. Notably, the African Union States Parties had resolved to ‘silence the guns’ by the year 2020. That, unfortunately, did not see the light of day. The African Union has now made the theme of 2023 “Climate change and global food security – key drivers of humanitarian needs.” This declaration is a call to action which will require all hands to be on deck, otherwise it will be yet another hollow declaration honoured in breach.
3) SDGs and Agenda 2063: Climate Change and Sustainable Development
Undoubtedly, the African people aspire for a development agenda that is inclusive and sustainable. In line with SDGs, the focus of Africa’s post 2015 development agenda is on, among other:
- Building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (SDG 9);
- Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11);
- Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12);
- Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts – while acknowledging that that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change (SDG 13);
- Conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (SDG 14),
- Protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss (SDG 15);
- Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16);
- Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development (SDG 17).
Similarly, sustainable development is also at the centre of Africa Agenda 2063 with Aspiration 1 being a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development and Aspiration 3 – a peaceful and secure Africa.
a. Sustainable Development in Africa
The term ‘development’ in its popular usage in Africa, is generally used to mean economic advancements that increase the national product to bring national wealth that will eventually be spread equitably among individual members of that nation.
Sustainable development, therefore, means “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”27
Historical records show that Pre-colonial Africa paid particular attention to the environment which sustained the life of the respective African communities. Perhaps it is best for African to examine and revert back mutandis mutandis to the pre-colonial ways of coexisting with the natural environment. This would also be in line with Aspiration 2 on an integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.
b. On Climate Change in Africa
Climate change is a long-term change in the statistical properties of the weather patterns that define the earth’s local, regional and global climates.28 Fully industrialized countries are the major contributors to climate. However and ironically, “Africa, home to the majority of least developed countries (LDCs), contributes so little to planetary warming yet the continent is disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”29 According to the African Report;
Across Africa, the link between climate change and sustainable development is a two-way street. Climate change by its nature poses economic, social, and political predicaments that retard efforts towards sustainable development – which in turn limits the continent’s abilities and opportunities to adapt to climate change.
It is imperative for African leaders and policymakers design and implement policies that mutually reinforce climate action, and sustainable development should be Africa’s priority.
This can be done by framing the crisis of climate change as a sustainable development problem rather than only as climate action so that implementation of climate change adaptation strategies will be at the heart of pursuing sustainable development on the continent.
While African countries need to wary of all international instruments especially those fronted by erstwhile colonizers and their allies, they cannot afford to ignore them. As has been scientifically proven, events taking place in a far off continent have the ability to drastically affect the peoples of Africa. Climate change is, therefore, not an issue that African countries can afford to pay little attention to. It can no longer be brushed aside as a non-issue.
E. AFRICAN POLITICS AND DEMOCRACY
1) Africa’s governance systems and politics
Contemporary African continent has been described as prostrate. Robert Guest in his book “The Shackled Continent: Africa’s Past, Present and Future” notes that:
Since most African countries were still colonies until the 1960s and 70s, it is easy to find colonial roots for modern problems. If the rulers of the Congo today treat their subjects as a leopard treats herd of impala, one can argue that they learned the habit from the Belgians. If the rulers of Sudan and Burundi manipulate ethnic grievances to stay in power, they probably learned that from the former colonial masters too.
Today African governance systems are mirror images of their respective erstwhile colonizers. After independence, African countries did not seek to revert to their way of life prior to colonialism. Instead, the founding fathers in their wisdom or lack thereof, opted to inherit the governance systems left in place by the departing colonizer; in the words of John Henrik Clarke;
When we look at this African Independence Explosion, we must take into consideration that not one African nation came to power using a conventional African structure of government. Everyone used an imitation parliamentary procedure taken from Europe. … Africa will never succeed using European parliamentary techniques.
We completely abandoned our African systems in favour of the Europeans. And we have and continue to pay a huge price for it. Of this, the Akan of Ghana say ‘When a river meets the sea its name vanishes”.34 We started describing our laws and cultures as being ‘repugnant to justice and morality’. But we never stopped to ask ‘whose justice?’ ‘Whose morality?’
Africa’s contemporary political leadership is characterized by authoritarianism, self-enrichment, nepotism, corruption and other such vices. Leopold Sedar Senghor minced no words when he described it thus;
When I say "politics," . . . it not a question of the art of governing the State for the public welfare in the general framework of laws and regulations. It is question of politician politics: the struggles of clans-not even [ideological] tendencies-to place well oneself, one's relatives, and one's clients in the cursus honorum, that is the race for preferments.
One of the reasons why no African country met the criteria for poverty alleviation under the MDGs was largely because of the African leadership/governance systems and the economic policies under the goal which did not support the situation in Africa. According to Salim Lone, it would have been unthinkable;
that western governments, which gleefully presided over the creation of new classes of super-super rich, would use their considerable influence to push African leaders to pursue policies which would shift resources away from the rapacious national elite towards the poor. . . Nor was it likely the west would permit Africa to stray from the neo-liberal orthodoxies prescribed for the continent by the World Bank and the IMF.
Neo-liberalism does not constitute a single coherent ideology, but a hotchpotch of economic and political diktats which in turn have weakened the state in Africa as more and more of its functions are outsourced to NGOs, creating ‘less order, less peace and less security’ for the mass of the African people.
Neo-colonialism is of course sustained by Africa’s leaders who have been deservedly described as ‘misleaders.’ In this sense, African leaders include the politicians, business leaders and intellectual elite who have been a deciding factor in the management of the State in Africa since independence.
Martin Meredith recounts that most post-independent African leaders were immoral and corrupt;
Once the momentum to oust colonial rule had subsided, so other loyalties and ambitions came thrusting to the fore, precipitating ethnic rivalry and tension, often exploited by politicians for their own ends. African leaders became preoccupied with gaining monopoly power, preferring to rule through systems of patronage to enforce their control. Ruling elites seized opportunity for self-enrichment, looting state at will. Decades were lost in internal conflicts, mismanagement and corruption.
Sadly, the situation has largely remained the same to date in most African countries. It is time for African to say enough is enough and call for a paradigm shift in African politics. No sustainable development can be attained in a situation where corrupt, immoral and selfish politicians run roughshod over the populace as they rule the roost. Africa requires hygiene in her politics if she is to realise positive change.
It is time for the new generation of African leaders to realize that they are stewards of the geopolitical environments they were elected to serve and must be fully accountable for their actions.
2) Of Africa’s Eccentric Democracy
The term democracy comes from a combination of two Greek words: demos (people) and kratos (rule). Accordingly, democracy has been defined as ‘rule by the people’. A demand for ‘rule by the people’, although seemingly straightforward, requires a definition of who ‘the people’ are and an agreement on mechanisms for their political inclusion or exclusion.
Democracy can also be defined as a government in which supreme power is invested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through representation.39 Larry Diamond described democracy as a system of government consisting of four key elements:
- A system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections;
- Active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life;
- Protection of the human rights of all citizens; and
- A rule of law in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
Beyond their respective national laws, there are many international instruments ratified by most African countries providing for at least some aspects of democracy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are a few notable examples.
Regionally, the 2012 African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance and the 1999 Algiers Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government are the continent’s main instruments to advance the consolidation of democracy, constitutionalism, good governance, human rights protection, and the right to development. Notably, good governance and democracy is the focus of Aspiration 3 of Africa Agenda 2063.
The African Union Commission and the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government should develop new mechanisms of safeguarding democratic rule and human rights in the region by looking at democracy as an indispensable aspect of national and regional development.
With democratic consolidation, conflict prevention and management as well as positive peace will not merely be aspirational ideals of a renewed Africa, but also will be critical milestones that will form a basis for the African renaissance.
There is, however, the question of democracy as an imported and imposed system of governance in Africa and whether it has the meaning and effect it carries in the land of its origin. Dr. Folúkẹ Adébísí argues that:
…for states to be considered part of international community, they have to exhibit traits of liberal democracy, even if their internal political culture is not one of liberal democracy. Basically, to join the club you have to wear the tie, the other items of clothing are not as important. This articulation of the international community is reflected in the US foreign policy, that is, democracy and market economy includes states and international organisations in the international community – allying them to the US – accords them legitimacy and protects them from multilateral intervention from the US.
According to Dr. Folúkẹ Adébísí, the requirement for democracy erroneously presupposes that democracy is the only form of good governance – seen as a means of ensuring human rights protection or the shared values of the international community such as freedom, equality, tolerance and dignity are reflected in national life.
Democracy cannot be equated to periodic elections as that is just one element of it. Dr. Adébísí explains Africa’s unique case of democracy thus;
One, we tend to confuse, good elections with good democracy – they are not the same thing. Two, we need an understanding of democracy and its limits, before we can lay claim to our systems as democracies. A fundamental problem with democracy as a concept, is the part it plays in international relations and the consolidation of international community….
In Africa, ‘Democracy’ has been used as a tool for opposition politicians to deceptively garner the support of the international community. Democracy in Africa is purposively appropriated by the political elite and used to empower politicians and not populations. This is facilitated by the nature of the international system.
And attempt to forcefully impose western styled democracy in Africa brings to life Lord Denning’s observation of transplanting an English baobab tree to Africa and expecting it to retain the tough character which it had in England, an impossibility as Dr. Adébísí aptly concludes:
The results of implementing democracy through elections in Africa have in many cases been counterproductive, causing conflict, human rights violations and further departure from democratic principles. Furthermore, an entitlement to democracy within a state exhibiting institutional and operational failure is largely a redundant right. The implementation of democracy in Africa is hampered by the lack of modification of Western style democracy when applied to Africa and emphasis on civil and political rights at the expense of economic, social and cultural rights. Democracy and market-economy do not reflect the needs, aspirations and characteristics of the populations of Africa, this is to the advantage of corrupt African leaders. Further, democratic requirements take into consideration, the almost non-existent state in Africa.
Whenever there is discourse about Africa, seldom is her human capital given its pride of place. Commentators will gleefully talk about her resources, her potentially large market but seldom the quality of her human capital which is the greatest resource in my view. If Africa is to realize “sustainable development, it is the quality of her men and women and their ability to unleash intellectual fire power that will be the game changer; indeed, history has been consistent in proving that human capital is the key driver of development.
F. THE POWER OF HUMAN CAPITAL IN AFRICA
On the occasion of installation as the first Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology on the 29th day of November, 1961 Kwame Nkrumah told his audience inter alia:
Modern life has become so complex that we can no longer rely on the stone implements and simple tools which were adequate for the needs of our ancestors. In a sense we must move swiftly from the stone-age to the age of the atom. What is has taken other peoples and nations centuries to achieve, we have to carry out in a decade or generation. This places a heavy burden of responsibility on this university as a centre of science and technological education. It is only by “a revolution of the political and social order, complete mental emancipation and the education of the miseducated, that we can achieve this rapid transformation.
He said further:
In addition to our immediate agricultural needs here in Ghana, there are vast areas in many parts of Africa in which it should be possible to return infertile land to production. The future scientists of Africa must make our deserts bloom. Where one blade of grass grew before, they must make two blades grow.
He spoke on:
This university must seek to serve the needs of all our people. We need houses which are designed for our climate and which can be built economically. We need ready supplies of drugs for the sick; strong but simple bridges to make our villages more accessible; economic refrigeration units for the storage of food in our homes; measurement of earthquake tremors, and the design of buildings which will be safe for those who use them.
In a nutshell Nkrumah was underlining the significance of appropriate education and appropriable technology that would produce the kind of human capital capable of transforming Africa.
As we assemble here today, the message delivered over sixty (60) years is as important as it was then. If Africa is to reap the dividends of the 4th Industrial Revolution, she must train and harness human resource that is au fait with her needs and sufficiently agile and adaptable in a world where technology has neutralized distance.
In order to achieve her goals, African Institutions must attune training that ensure that quality of labour is given preeminence. African labour in confronting the world must take counsel from these words of the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran:
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast.
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear,
Because that’s where the river will know
It’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean
Africa must enter the ocean of development.
Africa has had an unfortunate relation with the international community. Colonialism was an evil we cannot forget. The contemporary African leadership crisis compounded with neo-colonialism and neoliberalism has created a horrendous situation in the continent as African people struggle to access poorly-managed resources. The situation was poignantly described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he lamented;
The picture is bleak and the prospect one of seemingly unmitigated gloom. It is as if the entire continent was groaning under the curse of Ham and was indeed in all aspects of the Dark Continent of antiquity. Africans may well ask: “Are we God’s step children? Why has disaster picked on us so conspicuously?” We appear to be tragically unique in this respect.
Governance and sustainable development are too closely interwoven concepts. Issues of climate and protection of environment for our posterity must be taken seriously. African people must relearn the indigenous of environmental and exploit their resources in a sustainable manner as outlined in Aspiration 1 of the Africa Agenda 2063.
While the contemporary situation in Africa is generally disheartening, there is reason to hope for a better future. A future depicted in the Africa Agenda 2063; The Africa We Want, the Seven Aspirations, and the flagship projects under the Agenda including the AfCTA. This is the future of Africa we have dared to imagine and one that we are capable to creating. So, lets create! Speaking on the 6th day of March 1997 in Accra on the occasion of the celebration of Ghana’s 40th Anniversary of Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere, the former President of the Republic of Tanzania after giving a detailed historical journey of post-colonial Africa under the subject, “Without Unity, there is No Future for Africa” warned against the balkanisation of Africa in the following terms;
Once you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats of the United Nations, and individuals entitled to a 21-gun salute, not to speak of a host of ministers, prime ministers and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balkanised. That was what Nkrumah encountered in 1965.
He went on to say;
I reject the glorification of the nation-state(that) we inherited from colonialism, and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance. We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa, we have not been completely successful. The outside world hardly recognizes our Ghanaian-ness or Tanzanian-ness. What the outside world recognises about us is African-ness.
Ultimately he exhorted and I agree;
Africa must unite! That was the title of one of Kwame Nkrumah’s books. That call is more urgent today than ever before. Together, we, the peoples of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states. The needs of our separate countries can be, and are being, ignored by the rich and powerful. The result is that Africa is marginalised when international decisions affection our vital interests are made.
In the face of the numerous battles Africa is confronting from different quarters, it is critical that concerted efforts be made to resolve outstanding issues through coordinated efforts under the aegis of a revamped African Union.