Africa Rising: a long and bumpy road is still to come

There have been watershed moments and great achievements over the last few years on the continent of Africa but more needs to be done. Benevolence Butawo looks at the notion of Africa rising and examines where more work needs to be done with the aim of creating socioeconomic development projects and self-sustaining programmes that can enable a truly independent Africa which can work for its peoples.

Jack Zalium/Creative commons license

Jack Zalium/Creative commons license

Africa moving forward or the idea that Africa is moving in the right direction is a belief that many people rely on unless you are a “sceptic” or a “doubter”. The usual evidence tends to be the men in suits, the expensive cars being driven around the continent, the success of the Millennium Development Goals and numerous opportunities for growth and wealth including how Africa now has Wi-Fi access. A deep look beneath all this and we see that Africa’s place in the international system is far from the positive and idealistic view which a majority are taking. Take for example two facts that not many people know of or if they do know, tend to brush them aside as irrelevant. Foreign donors currently pay for 73 percent of the $781 million (708 million euro) budget of the African Union and there are reports that as of 2014, there were 14 countries paying colonial tax to France. Looking at the African Union budget issue, this means that any decision the African Union takes, it has to be approved by the very same countries the continent’s member states got their independence from.

However, Africa has come a long way and that should never be disputed. A few years back, only a few “idealists” would have anticipated a President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the ripple effects of the actions taken by Mohamed Bouazizi and Goodluck Jonathan walking away after losing an election. These events show that Africa has made important steps towards achieving that elusive notion of democracy and the dream that men such as Kwame Nkrumah had. However, Africa needs to continue on the path it is on but focus on unity, security and self-reliance especially after the Libya debacle where a sovereign nation state was bombarded under the guise of democracy and liberty then left to the pleasure of bandits, chaos and the Islamic State.

The rest of the world has noticed the resources and capability that the continent has and for the past few decades have been walking in and taking whatever they want. Take for example the report by the UN economic commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union’s (AU) high-level panel on illicit financial flows which claimed that in total, the continent lost about $850bn between 1970 and 2008. The blame of course does not solely lie on the oil companies and mining organizations, but also the African leaders who continually waste revenues instead of pumping this money into social programmes. For example, it is astounding how the Zimbabwean President claims his government lost $15 billion dollars’ worth of revenues generated by the diamond industry. Better yet, how a giant country like Nigeria with billions of dollars earned from oil revenues as of 2012 had almost 100 million people living on less than a $1 (£0.63) a day.

Former UN General Sec. Kofi Annan in the Africa Progress Report 2014 foreword

United States Mission Geneva/Creative commons license

United States Mission Geneva/Creative commons license

points out that “Africa is […] losing billions to illegal and shadowy practices [and] storing up problems for the future. While personal fortunes are consolidated by a corrupt few, the vast majority of Africa’s present and future generations are being deprived of the benefits of common resources that might otherwise deliver incomes, livelihoods and better nutrition. If these problems are not addressed, we are sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest”.

The responsibility to build a truly independent and self-sustaining Africa is on African leaders of today and tomorrow, not on charities or the UN security council. African peoples need to take charge of their destiny rather than rely on foreign interventions which most of the times have hidden agendas. The problem is that most of the African leaders of today have so far failed to put the interests of their people on the forefront of the political agendas by focusing on sustainable development projects and socioeconomic programmes. Africa is rising, but not at a pace it should and this should worry policymakers on the continent and anyone genuinely concerned about Africa and her people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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