It is a waste of time to argue that there is anything remarkable or worth emulating about the brand of leadership that is seen in Africa. Throughout Africa not a single country has been able to deliver its people from poverty, malnutrition and diseases. Almost all countries in Africa South of the Sahara are facing deep poverty and that includes resource rich counties like Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Senegal, Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, and even South Africa.
Everywhere in the world whenever the word Africa is mentioned four words come to mind: poverty, hunger, wars and diseases. Apart from Botswana where the leaders have relatively been able to use their resources to advance the development of their people, the rest of Africa is nothing but misery. Misery in sense that the average African is hardly able to live one-third of the comfort that a citizen of the global north (US, Canada and Europe) is able to enjoy in his/her lifetime. Apart from the corrupt politicians, dictators and their cronies who live in luxury, the rest of the population have to survive the harsh realities of the African economy on less than two dollars a day.
Why is black Africa so different? Any time the question of poverty is raised black African leaders are quick to point to colonialism and slavery. But it is a fact that the era in which everything is blamed on colonialism and slavery is past and gone. India, South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong were all colonised yet they have been able to shake themselves of what Damisa Moyo terms the 'four apocalypse of hunger, disease, war and poverty'.
A visit to rural parts of Ghana shows that very little has changed economically since independence more than 50 years ago. In spite of the availability of tractors and other advanced farming technologies that can be employed to increase productivity, farmers in Ghana still cultivate and harvest their crops with cutlasses and hoes, tools their forefathers used before they were colonised. The situation in Niger, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Togo and Benin is not different from that of Ghana. The extreme poverty and deprivation in countries in the Horn of Africa region and Ethiopia in particular continue to baffle economists and development thinkers after so much aid money has been poured into that region to no avail as politicians divert aid money into their own private bank accounts.
Any major study about why Africa is so different from the rest of the world points to the kind of leadership that exist in Africa. The leaders in Africa love power and will do anything to get it: rigging elections, organizing thugs to cause mayhem and violence, refusing to step down when their term of office end. The likes are Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Mamadou Tandja of Niger and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who employed violence and intimidation against members of opposition parties after loosing elections.
The leaders love to be worshipped and served as kings even though they claim to be servants of the people. They love to live in fine palaces, drive in convoys, attend state functions, deliver long speeches yet do not raise a finger to fight poverty and deprivation that are so common in their countries especially in rural areas.
African politicians and traditional leaders and those in control of economic and political affairs are always interested in titles and the financial rewards that go with their office not the responsibilities attached to the office. Ghana's current President is a Law Professor but he seems to have no clue on how to move his country forward. He is surrounded by others with academic titles similar to his but the ministries, departments and the sectors they head have not changed since they took office earlier this year.
Malawi's president holds a doctorate degree but his country is no different from that of Togo, DRC or Gabon which are all being governed poorly by children of former dictators and thieves who took decades to mismanage their countries' economies and resources. Nigeria's current president has been titled "the first graduate president of Nigeria" but Nigeria with all its oil revenue and human resource is still steep in poverty, sometimes not even finding enough petrol to feed her economy despite being the biggest oil producer in Africa.
This contrasts the president of Brazil, Lula Da Silva who used to be a shoe shine boy and street vendor but is increasingly turning his country into economic power house thereby steering his country into economic independence and freedom. Where did Yar' Dua leave his thinking cap when he became president or what did he graduated from? I want to know because I still wonder why they are not applying what they learnt in school to free their countries from the international disgrace and weakness that have come to be associated with the continent. A poor Cuban seeking to leave her communist country said she "would be prepared to go anywhere except Africa". When asked why she said "how can I jump out of a frying pan into fire?" Meaning she cannot leave a bad situation in Cuba and get into a worse one in Africa.
In a conversation with a female Professor in Stockholm, Sweden about the poverty situation in Africa she asked angrily "well the leadership in Gabon claim to have used the huge oil revenue for infrastructure investment but is that the reality on the ground?" She continued, "Democratic Republic of Congo is a mess, Angola, Congo and Equatorial Guinea are an eyesore and as for Nigeria well I reserve my comment".
Most of these leaders make annual pilgrimage to London, Washington, Tokyo, Berlin, Beijing and see the infrastructures and the living standards of the people in these countries yet nothing pricks them to help their countries to do the same. When they are sick they are quick to take the next available plane to America, Europe or North Africa for treatment but forget to build the same hospitals and other institutions and infrastructures for the good of their countries. After blaming their monumental failures on colonialism and slavery they have now found a new scapegoat: climate change and with it they can continue with their decades of inaction without having to lose anything.
Yoweri Museveni seems to be okay living in his palace enjoying almost three decades of his loot of Ugandan resources with his family and cronies. Obiang Nguema and his circle of friends live in their mansions surrounded by bodyguards yet the only 600, 000 people in his oil rich country live in 18th century conditions and likewise Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville and Dos Santos of Angola.
The black African leader will accept bribe from companies and interest groups to stop implementing policies, programmes and projects that could help alleviate poverty in his country. The failure of Omar Bongo of Gabon to make his country the Switzerland of Africa can largely be linked to the hundreds of millions of dollars he received as bribe from Elf which allowed the company to loot Gabon's oil proceeds.
It is sad despite being the continent's biggest oil exporter Nigeria does not have a well developed petrochemical industry and has to import most of her oil products abroad. How come Cameroon is so poor when the country exports oil every day? How come Equatorial Guinea is so poor when it is the third biggest oil exporting nation in Africa?
How come Angola is caught up in deep poverty when oil revenues bring the country billions of dollars annually?
How come Nigerians live in 18th century environment when oil proceeds flow into the country every day? The answer is the leaders. They are corrupt, power hungry, arrogant, ignorant, illiterate and visionless buffoons, who can neither think out of the box or understand what it means to be president, prime minister, senator, MP, councillor, Assemblyman, or a chief and who prey on the ignorance and powerlessness of their people to stay in power while amassing wealth at the expense of their countries. Chief among them is Yahyah Jammeh a murderer, blood sucker, sometimes a president, sometimes HIV/AIDS healer who makes a mockery of himself and the seat of the presidency in The Gambia and who like the rest of his colleagues in Guinea, Guinea Bissau, CAR, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Ivory Coast cannot devise plans to steer their countries out of economic predicament.
Yar’Dua of Nigeria has decided to buy for presidential jets even though many schools in his corruption ridden country do not have computers, books and vehicles.
These leaders are what Ghanaians call 'Konongo kaya' which literally means saboteurs who will not raise a finger to do anything to help their countries and yet will not allow others to do it. Saboteurs whose continuous stay in power is the cause of Africa's woes and underdevelopment. Saboteurs and enemies of progress and development who are interested in accumulating power while doing nothing to help their countries. Enemies of progress who prefer stealing from their poor countries and bank their ill-gotten wealth in Western countries to using the money to invest in infrastructures and projects that will benefit the poor.
This is a comment posted by one Dipo Darams on www.thisdayonline .com on Nov. 27, 2009 about the situation in Nigeria.
“Hummh Humh, I don’t know what to say but all the same, I wish the president a good health recovery. We Nigerians abroad are not happy about the situation of our country, and if we come home to fix the problem, they may Kill us, or not let us do so. But I believe that a day is coming where WE THE YOUTH will take over and change Nigeria for Good. God bless Nigeria”.
If you happen to be in economic or business class and economic or development regions is discussed you will be surprised to know how Africa is bypassed several times even though it is strategically located at the centre of the globe. The discussion moves from North America to Europe to South East Asia then back to Latin America and to the Middle East without the mention of Africa. All these leaders do not seem to worry about it. They are not bothered because they no know they are the cause, the saboteurs and enemies of Africa's development.
Black African leaders must put on their thinking caps. It is very disheartening to see women, and children die of starvation in many parts of Africa. At least we know these leaders don't care but at least they should give the people the chance they need to initiate their own development. I hope that some of the advice I have offered will be adhered to by the leaders so that Africa can also take her rightful position in the world community of nations.
The monumental failures on the part of African leaders have given birth to the phrase 'Africa South of the Sahara' and the leaders seem to be happy with that phrase. Black African leaders have accepted the phrase with all the negative connotations it carries without reacting to challenge it. The phrase in its proper sense refers to a part of Africa which does not count in global politics; a toddler in everything important in the world, a backward part of the continent that continues to stand still while the rest of humanity is moving forward both technologically and scientifically. Africa whose people live in darkness despite 365 days of sunshine and availability of solar technology to convert the sunshine into solar energy.
It means Africa which is so poor in economic, social and political sense despite being rich in natural resources and hard working people: an Africa which is so poorly governed, whose leaders are corrupt and lack the capacity to plan and to initiate any programme of development on their own without being told to do so or helped by outsiders.
Africa where infrastructure decay is the norm, where rural life is nothing but a condemnation to abject poverty, hopelessness, misery and frustration.
Africa where ethnicity and tribalism are exploited by corrupt dictators and opportunists bringing a wave of negative tendencies of cronyism, nepotism, corruption and conflicts in its trail. Africa where politicians are happy to exploit the ignorance and illiteracy that have enslaved and prevented its people from taking their rightful place in the world community of continents.
Africa that has not learnt anything from its colonial experience and whose leaders continue to dance to the tune of Western and Chinese rhythms at the expense of their own development.
The meaning of the phrase refers to a part of Africa which can be and is being recolonised by China and its rival competitors in Europe and North America through their multinational corporations. (Have you heard of Africom, a project of the US aimed at establishing military bases across the continent to pave the way for total recolonisation of Africa?
Africa whose leaders can be bought by multinational corporations with some few thousand dollars and allow multinational corporations to plunder their resources without any accountability. Have you heard how Mabey and Johnson bribed Ghanaian officials and built bridges that led to nowhere?
The phrase also indicates Africa which is both economically and politically fragmented, have no common foreign policy, and no economic, immigration and agricultural policies and are without a mouth in world affairs and whose leaders see no wisdom in unity. It means Africa which is so militarily weak and technologically paralysed to defend itself against external forces, their ideologies, philosophies and cultural pollution.
Africa whose leadership are morally bankrupt to criticise one another Africa whose leaders have great ideas about how to rig and win elections, kill journalists, stifle press freedom, freedom of speech and association but have not the slightest idea on how to fight chronic poverty and end decades of wars that continue to devastate communities, towns and cities.. Africa whose leaders prefer to steal from their countries and bank their loot in foreign countries instead of using the money to build roads, hospitals, railway tracks, irrigation facilities, schools, electricity, housing and other social and economic infrastructures for the development and benefit of their own people. It symbolizes Africa where natural resources are a curse rather than a blessing.
It implies Africa where an illiterate soldier with a gun in hand can easily become a president of a country tomorrow. Examples are Yahyah Jammeh of Gambia, Moussa Camara of Guinea, Gaddafi of Libya, Joseph Kabila of DRC, Mamadou Tandja of Niger, Museveni of Uganda, Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz of Mauritania, Al Bashir of Sudan, François Bozize of Central African Republic, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Valentine Strasser of Sierra Leone, Sergeant Doe of Liberia, and Kolingba and Jean-Bedel Bokasa of Central African Republic.
Egypt a purely desert country and a member of 'Africa north of the Sahara' recently sent food aid to Uganda, a country rich in minerals, soil, natural lakes, rivers but whose leaders see no wisdom in employing irrigation technology that could be used to increase food production to reduce hunger.
The phrase also signifies Africa which continues to beg for and depend on foreign aid despite sitting on huge natural wealth. It means Africa which in spite of its cash trapped economy its leaders continue to siphon at least $148bn annually into their safe haven accounts in foreign countries notably Switzerland, Monaco. Instead of money flowing from rich countries in the global north into poor one in the global south including Africa, it is the rather the other way round, an act that defies any economic wisdom.
It stands for a continent which continues to depend heavily on natural resource exploitation as the main economic activity and which sees diversification as unimportant despite the dangers of depending on raw material export.
It represents Africa where women are treated as second class citizens, denied political representation and are coerced and used as sex objects and commodities by those in power. Africa where child bearing is a matter of life and death, where pregnant mothers die of preventable causes of deaths; where so many children die before they reach the age of five; where child labour and child poverty are the norm, and where both rural and urban children grow without proper education, healthcare, food, shelter, clothing and without future or hope.
It also means Africa where economic hardship put people on death roll and cut short young bright lives. Africa where there is no mortgage, safety net for the poor and the aged and where owning a house or a car can be as daunting as climbing Everest. That is the true meaning of 'Africa South of the Sahara' which the leaders have accepted without a fight.
These phrases are being applied to Africa and its people because of the sabotage activities of the leaders, because of their failures, corrupt life, their lack of commitment to fighting poverty, and improving the overall living conditions of the people.