In a recent release by the Global Finance magazine, the poorest countries in the world in 2016 are predominantly African. ‘The World’s Richest and Poorest Countries’ ranked countries using GDP per capita adjusted for relative purchasing power. Unfortunately, this situation has been the trend for a long time and it appear as though there aren’t solutions.
The paradox is that while Africa remains a continent with rich potentials, it is equally very poor. That the continent is rich in natural and human resources is no new story, from Uranium-rich Niger Republic and Copper-rich Zambia to the Oil and Gas rich Nigeria and Angola, resources and potentials are abundant, but the reality in terms of economic development is not commensurate with the resources.
The terrible economic situation that the continent is enveloped in begs the question of what the root cause is.
In Prof. George Ayittey’s 2007 TED talk, ‘Africa’s Cheetahs Versus Hippos’, he stated that governments are the problem in Africa. Ayittey noted that “what we call our governments are vampire states because they suck the economic vitality out of their people.”
This largely remains the case today as bad government policies stifle businesses and make life unbearable for ordinary people making efforts to fend for themselves. There are little economic and individual freedoms across Africa!
Most African countries are under authoritarian regimes with many of its dictators still in power for over 30 years. Paul Biya of Cameroon has been in power since November 1982 (36 years) with several violations of fundamental rights and corruption in the country just as it is the case with other dictatorial regimes in Africa. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Dos Santos of Angola, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe – who is 93 years old – are not ready to relinquish power. African countries will remain poor for as long as there is no respect for term limits, civil rights and the rule of law. Authoritarianism is not compatible with economic development.
Raymond Baker, Director of Global Financial Integrity in the documentary “Stealing Africa – Why Poverty?”, explained that the amounts of money flowing out of developing countries is estimated to be 10 times more than the amount of money flowing into the developing countries as aid. We cannot talk about the tragedy of poverty without highlighting the role foreign aid plays in it.
Aid creates a culture of dependency; and what is needed is entrepreneurial solutions to poverty, as well as strategic investments in Human Capital Development. It is no coincidence that the countries with the highest Human Development Index (HDI) happens to roughly be the ones with the highest standards of living.
Corruption in government institutions contribute enormously to poverty. As Ayittey noted, Africa’s begging bowl leaks. This highlights the failure of governments and the foreign aid system. Most of these monies are stolen by government players and invested outside Africa, especially in tax havens. Many government officials are believed to collude with crony foreign multinationals especially in the extraction industries to short-change these countries and make them remain poor. This cycle of corruption has perpetually kept Africa down.
The global aid system as it relates to Africa is nothing but a big scam where money is taken from people in richer countries and given to rich people in poor countries. It does not work!
Although, when a disaster or catastrophe occur in a place, the immediate response is to offer some help in form of aid. While this is alright, it shouldn’t be a culture that continues for so ling. People find it dignifying to fish than be given fish. What Africa need is trade and not aid; Africa needs partnerships. The documentary PovertyCure – From Aid to Trade, explains that there is a long term negative impact of sustained foreign aid in Africa. There is need to focus on free and fair trade in Africa, demand accountability and responsibility from government and economic freedom through policies that help especially small and medium businesses thrive.
All around the continent, individuals and institutions are working to devise solutions to some of the pressing problems of Africa. However, it should be noted that different communities require different approaches to development; therefore, policy makers from different parts of Africa need to start thinking in terms of context-based development strategies and solutions rather than continent-wide ones. This is because the same strategies don’t always work for every society.
The ‘Cheetah generation’ is the reason African Countries will not remain poor. They are the ones who will take charge of the future, question authorities, conventions and cultures, and demand accountability, they will start businesses and initiatives, create solutions and stand tall on the global level. And as the Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu, stated “Nobody will develop Africa except us.”
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