Opinions Fri, 11 Apr 2014

“Africans are not smart to manage their affairs” True or False? Part III

As part of our quest for the inhibiting reasons and evidence why Africa is far behind the rest of the continents from agricultural development to technological advancement, there was a very hectic debate on this very topic on www.obimansoradio.com. This time, I personally wanted divergent views so together with my colleagues, we invited some prominent African American Poets, Writers and Thinkers including our usual discussion panel to weigh in. This one and a half-hour discussion was full of “mind mapping images” that it didn’t take me enough thinking to figure out why Africa is particularly screwed up!

First, let me be clear. I’ve tried to place Africa right now on the world performance stage and what’s actually going on with our leadership performance. All other factors that might have contributed to the predicament we find ourselves in are not included in this discussion at this time. My goal is to tell the story about where we are right now (situational analysis), what we are doing at the moment (current leadership strategy), and where we wanna go (leadership performance plan and vision). Personally, I feel that Africa is currently screwed up due to these 4 general constraining factors:

1. First, there’s what I call “Top-down" institutional factors: In Africa and in Ghana in particular, corruption has been institutionalized, and accepted as a norm. These days in Ghana in particular, we fuss about corruption almost on a daily basis, but at the same time has been reinforced by the “resource curse" and the "aid curse”. Simply put, the unearned wealth mentality and lifestyle of an average African or Ghanaian, tend to foster corruption more enthusiastically than the earned income. In the western world, most people work so hard to earn what they want or need, but in Africa, most of us believe that our political status or the leadership position and authority we find ourselves in is a passport to riches. Why is this so? It’s just simple! There’s absolutely no accountability in most sub Saharan Africa nations. People are never held accountable for their actions, and the result is that of the attitude “do it the way you want it”. After all, who can hold me accountable for my actions”?

2. The “bottom-up" sociological factors: In Africa, there are such attitudes as bitterness, acrimonious, spiteful, vindictive, malicious and hostile ethnic rivalry coupled with disgustingly inhumane dictators. Most of the leaders in countries like Gambia, Togo and Central African Republic (CAR) are currently ruling with cruelty, wickedness, cheekiness and impudence. This is what I refer to as “absolute leadership tyranny”. There’s no way the citizens living under those oppressive conditions can think and figure out any science. They simply struggle just to survive the next 24 hours. There can’t be any new thinking or vision, let alone any innovative developmental ideas under those regimes! As time pass by, the mind and thinking abilities of the citizens then fade out, and ultimately become ceded. It does not necessarily mean we are not smart. What it means is that we just don’t have the right resources and the right environment to think right.

3. Clinging on tightly to religious values that prevent modernization is another inhibiting factor: I know this may sound very repulsive and nauseating to some of you, but the fact is that, the western world progressed through science not through religion. Most Africans are absolutely clinched to their religious beliefs such as Christianity, Islam, African traditional religion, the belief in witchcraft, divinities, mysticism, deities, gods, idols, immortals, psychic, mystics, Sorcerers, and ‘African magic’) such that their minds are totally barred to science and 21st century technology. We just can’t get out of the box or perhaps, can’t figure a way out. Pick any politician in Ghana at random and ask him or her to mention 3 main causes of the current (04/2/2014) galloping inflation in Ghana and wait for the answer. With the exception of those who have had some kind of business or economics related education, their responses will surely make you throw up! And these very people claim to have college degrees and higher as well as the so called ‘leadership experience’. You then begin to ask yourself; what happened to their thinking? “Witches and wizards have stolen all the money from the central bank of Ghana, and that’s why the Ghanaian cedi is “going down”. OMG! Are we serious as a country? That’s the level of thinking of some of the leaders in sub-Saharan Africa right now. Are they smart enough to move Africa to the next competitive millennium...?

4. Materialism and belief in the amount of wealth you possess is the ultimate goal of an average African, rather than the belief in how knowledgeable you are. Please, ask yourself this simple question: Do people really care about those who write to impact knowledge using the various media such as textbooks/books, novels, newspapers, and even articles? What about Poets, Thinkers, and Novelists? Nobody cares about them. But talk about those who own 4 or 5 cars, plush houses, stolen cash staked in the banks abroad, vested interests in countries such as Switzerland, Republic of South Africa (RSA), United Arad Emirates (UAE) and China, and I can guarantee you people will hail you as a king or queen. We're all materialists, to one extent or another. We all use and enjoy material goods in our daily lives, and most of us simply couldn't get by without them. However, materialism becomes an obstacle when we start allowing things (or the desire for things) to control us, to keep us focused on things outside ourselves rather than on things that would be truly beneficial to us, such as, our relationships, our learning, our peace of mind, and even our spiritual development.. . .Materialism is simply, a distraction, and any leader whose number one objective is to amass wealth regardless of the means, is a unadulterated dummy!

In part I and II of the series, I’ve argued strongly about power and leadership failures as the major problems hindering Africa’s progress. Why do I lay so much emphasis on the leadership debacle and misfortune in Africa so much? Let’s face it: in his famous book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972”, Dr. Walter Rodney (March 23, 1942 – June 13, 1980), a prominent Guyanese historian, political activist and distinguished scholar, wrote about this same leadership fiasco in Africa eight years before his untimely assassination in 1980. Even as late as in 1972, Dr. Rodney had determined that the only path to true human development and liberation for the majority of the people of his country-Guyana and Tanzania (University of Dar es Salaam-1966-1967) where he taught as a history professor) was through the transformation of their own lives in a struggle to replace and reshape the neo-colonialist government with effective leadership.

What’s my point here? It is an intellectual challenge to fully grasp the historical causes of Africa’s underdevelopment and to distinguish between internal and external factors. However, many of the problems facing African countries today are self-inflicted wounds. Please, do me a favor and forget about history, slave trade, and colonialism at this moment. Just cast your mind across the African countries, and you won’t be surprised to realize that the ethnic differences, chieftaincy disputes, political and cultural traditions have made it difficult to build strong institutions comparable to that of the kind which have been developed in Asian countries.

My fellow Africans and Ghanaians, we cannot continue to blame our failures and inability to figure out things and get business done on our past. Most African countries have been free from colonial oppression for over have a century now. We cannot continue to buy this blame game idea forever. Enough is enough! Has colonialism and slavery destroyed us; YES, OF COURSE! Do we have to live in perpetual misery because of that? NO, OF COURSE! So what’s next? The question is, how do we make sure our corrupt leaders do their job?

The famous Irish renowned Apologist, Writer and Professor at Oxford University; The late Clive Staples Lewis (C.S. Lewis), who we all admire because of his logic and philosophy to support the tenets of his Christian faith, argued that; ‘sadness and sorrow are inevitable, and we cannot change that. However, to live in a perpetual misery because of your past, is a choice. So we have a “CHOIC and INEVITABILITY here to deal with. For the reasons beyond my understanding, most African leaders have chosen to live in perpetual misery. Their slogan is; “colonialism has destroyed us so what can we do”? Really? So colonialism has shut down our brains? We cannot think anymore? A friend of mine told me last week that ‘so long as we have help from foreigners we will never ever be self-sufficient and stop grabbing all we can at the least opportunity”. Hmmm, for real? Dependence on foreign aid has made our leaders perpetual robbers? This is very interesting! But I think, THEY JUST DON’T CARE or ARE EXCLUSIVELY DUMMIES!

My Final Thought.

I’ve been wondering about some of the common slogans painted on the dilapidated trucks and taxicabs all over sun Saharan Africa, especially in Ghana which reads: NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT. Hmmmm! this may be true, but unfortunately, some of these conditions are recurring. Tyranny in Gambia and CAR, famine in Niger and Mali, a rampant and massive corruption in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, a dysfunctional state of Somalia, an epidemic in Angola, civil war between Sudan and South Sudan, drive by shooting and carjacking in RSA, election fraud in La Cote D’Ivoire, are some of the few headlines you hear over and over every year. If you think you've heard it all before, you may not have heard the true story.

Africa is currently moving away “from the hopes of freedom to the heart of despair”. To me, this sums up the overall trend in our continent right now. It's hard to imagine now, but in the heady days of the 1960s, much of the continent was no less prosperous than South Korea or Malaysia. While those Asian nations have transformed themselves into economic "tigers," however, gross domestic product (GDP) across Africa has been shrinking since the last two decades of the twentieth century. The point is: Africans are getting poorer, not richer with the income inequality gap widening like the relationship between a king and his servant. Unemployment rate continues to rise higher and higher, and more and more people are living shorter, and hungrier lives. How can a continent blessed with so much be so out of touch and step with humankind's march for progress?

Sadly, the level of poverty in Africa is not pretty at all. At the moment, the kids in Ghana or Africa lack affordable and effective foundation of education especially in the sciences and technology. This is very pitiful, because these kids are supposed to be the face and future of Africa, because the older folks have failed us miserably and there seems to be no hope. Unfortunately, if they cannot have a good foundation of the very thing that their future depends on, then where’s the way forward? There’s one thing that Africa has never lacked, and may continue to lead the way in this millennium for a long time, and that is; Corrupt Leaders! I’m not trying to be a prophet of doom, but the only way Africa can move forward is for the youth to demand accountability from their elected leaders, try new ways of doing things devoid of the post-colonial practices and thinking, and through innovative and sustainable ideas. Thanks.

Peter Osei-Adjei

Coordinator-Web Communications

Overcoming the Power of Vested Interest Among African Youth

Poseiadjei20@gmail.com, poseiadji@yahoo.com
Columnist: Peter Osei-Adjei