By Martin K. N. Kollie
|Risky Journey in the Mediterranean Sea: Africans en route to Europe - Image Credit: BBC Africa|
When I think about an Africa of my dream in this generation, I think about a people-centered Africa that would emancipate hundreds of millions out of entrenched poverty and acute misery. I think about an equal and a just Africa that offers new hope for all Africans. I think about a unified Africa free of greed, nepotism, corruption and hatred. I think about a self-reliant Africa that discourages foreign aid and embraces equality in bilateral trade and global partnership. I also think about an Africa that provides unhindered and equal access to quality education, safe drinking water, improved housing, electricity, food security, environmental safety, employment, good roads, modern infrastructure, advanced technology, defense, etc.
The Africa of our dream seems too far from rising above mediocrity, self-pity, conflict, foreign aid and poverty. In this generation and judging from an objective opinion, Africa can best be described as a rich and populous continent with a group of hopeless and choiceless people whose destiny is predominantly dictated by foreign powers and handouts. Africa in my view is like an island in the middle of the sea with its inhabitants experiencing drought.
With all of what Africa has in terms of natural resources and human talents, 19 out of the 23 poorest countries in the world are found in Africa according to the Global Finance Magazine. Even though the Democratic Republic of Congo has an estimated US$24 trillion worth of untapped deposit of natural resources including iron ores, cobalt, diamond, gold, uranium, cooper and oil, but it remains the poorest with its citizens earning an average US$394.25 per annum according to the Global Finance Magazine.
Even though Botswana and DR Congo are the second and third largest diamond-producing countries by volume and value in the world, but majority of the people from these regions live in slums as opposed to Australia and Canada that are ranked fourth and fifth respectively. Even though both DR Congo and Botswana are far richer than Australia and Canada in term of natural resources, but DR Congo and Botswana would nearly be empty if the governments of Australia and Canada decide to issue free visas. The opposite of this reality is absolutely untrue.
Seven (7) out of the ten (10) leading diamond-producing nations by volume and value on earth are found in Africa, but the continent is still crawling behind Europe, Asia, North America, Australia and South America. Africans are sitting on a mine of riches, but Juba, Monrovia, Freetown, Kinshasa, Harare, Bissau, Lome, Conakry, Mogadishu, Asmara, Addis Ababa, Bamako, Banjul, Bujumbura, Maseru, Niamey, Ouagadougou, Porto-Novo etc. are in shambles.
The number of slum communities in these cities is increasing exponentially due to poor governance in every sector. The massive lead by Africa on the Poverty chart proves that this great continent is in tatters and shackles. The leaders of Africa today have become so complacent about transforming their people’s condition. The visible smuggling of tons of natural resources from Africa to develop foreign countries is unprecedented. I wonder sometimes whether the riches of Africa truly belong to Africans. The scramble for Africa’s wealth in this 21st century is not only between European superpowers, but also superpowers from Asia, America and Australia.
In my mind, the rush by foreign powers to grab and distribute Africa’s resources is as a result of bad governance in Africa. Currently, Africa is being sandwiched by Europe, Asia, America and Australia. The World, including the African people themselves, has been made to believe that Africa is nothing more than a dark continent where cannibals, charlatans and zombies live. This vilifying fiction and classic cliché continue to lead thousands of Africans to martyrdom as they endeavor to pursue socio-economic revival elsewhere.
Even most of our leaders in Africa have agreed to this neo-colonialistic belief that Africa has got no genuine solution and hope to offer its 1.2 billion people (16.14% of the total world population). A typical African President or Head of States in this 21st century would prefer seeking medical attention in America, Europe or Asia while an African child dies from malaria after every 2 minutes according to USAID’s Tina Dooley-Jones, deputy mission director in Kenya.
The leaders of Africa today are the real enemies of Africa. The leaders of Africa today feel overly satisfied to use millions from the proceeds of Africa’s resources to send their children and grandchildren to foreign schools while education remains an inaccessible right for over 32 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa according to Hamanium International. Some of them prefer siphoning millions to buy foreign palaces while Africa ruins in ashes and filths. This is why they would go at every length to maintain power and crush the popular will of the people.
According to recent Swiss Leaks investigation, Africa loses at least US$50 billion each year in illicit outflows, which usually come from a range of legal corporate tactics as well as corruption, bribery and trafficking. If this huge sum of money was spent annually to build modern universities, research centers, high-tech science laboratories, technical colleges, hospitals, roads, housing units, dams, markets, sea ports, air ports, skyscrapers, public libraries, hotels, factories and create more jobs through merchandized farming, Africa would have been on a path of self-reliance and economic viability by now.
Unfortunately, those billions have been pillaged and wired into foreign accounts at the detriment of poverty-stricken Africans. I look forward to the day that all of Africa’s leaders will have a shift in paradigm and begin to maximize the wealth of this continent for the benefit of all Africans. I still cannot understand why Africa must be at the bottom in this age of modernity when it is the world’s richest, second most-populated and second largest continent. Isn’t this an irony? But the real fact of the matter is that the Africa of Kwame Nkrumah’s dream is in tatters due to greed and corruption. Almost all of our leaders in Africa are in hurry to enrich themselves. There is an ongoing competition among African leaders as to who has the fattest foreign account and most expensive mansion abroad.
It is too sad and frustrating to see Nelson Mandela’s Africa in a state of uncertainty and misery. The destiny of a new, united and prosperous Africa envisaged by Augustine Neto, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda, Robert Mugabe, Sekou Toure, Thomas Sankara and other pan-Africanists remains unachieved as a result of the lack of vision by most African leaders today. It is pathetic that the African Union and most regional organizations, as well as governments in Africa, have become western puppets and stooges. The economic dependence of Africa is undermining its political independence!
Instead of promoting equality in trade and mutuality in partnership, the appetite of African leaders for foreign aid is too high. Even when foreign aid comes, it is again pocketed by the privileged few at the expense of the underprivileged majority. The earnings from Africa’s resources and foreign aid are making the powerful richer and the powerless poorer in Africa. As a result of this self-seeking and anti-people nature, Africa has been severely engulfed by some of the deadliest crises and despicable conditions in human history. The African people have been victimized by all forms of violence and human indignity.
Up-to-date, there is still war in DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Boko Haram is posing serious threat to Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is perpetrating mayhem across Mali, Algeria and Libya. The casualties in Sudan and Somalia are mindboggling as Al-Shabaab extremists continue to attack Mogadishu and endanger Kenya’s security. Surely, Africa is in tatters!
Political tension is budding very fast across the continent while socio-economic inequality widens. The self-pride and dignity of the African people especially in rural communities are being plagued by malnutrition, human trafficking, rape, disease, hard labor, illiteracy, unemployment and hunger. Due to the inability and unwillingness of most African governments to rapidly and sustainably address these miserable challenges, most Africans perceive Africa as a den of turmoil and peril.
Consequently, thousands of Africans have no choice, but to seek refuge in Europe through dangerous means. Day after day, they are eager to escape from Africa using risky routes and perilous paths in pursuit of social welfare and economic change. During these desperate adventures especially en route to Europe, life becomes secondary to African migrants. Off late, the Mediterranean Sea has become the largest graveyard for Africans. They are drowning en masse just to resettle on a continent (Europe) that was urbanized and modernized by a good portion of Africa’s resources.
3,771 migrants and refugees died in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). More than 3,700 of them have also fallen prey this year in a period of six (6) months according to IOM. This accounts for 67 percent increase in the number of recorded deaths as compared to the same period in 2015. Dying on sea en route to Europe has become an unavoidable option for Africans. What a pity that justifies that Africa is in tatters!!
A large portion of migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean Sea accounts for Africans who are fleeing poverty, instability, socio-economic and cultural barriers. It is demeaning for Africans to prefer dying on deep-sea than to live in Africa. Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalis, Libyans, Moroccans, Nigerians, Algerians, Malians, Malawians and Africans in general would rather risk their lives on unsafe rafts and boats in search of new opportunities and improved livelihood.
I sometimes wonder why Europeans won’t even dream about running away from Europe to Africa through the Mediterranean Sea on a raft or a boat. The Europeans have made us to believe that Europe is a paradise on earth while Africa is an abyss of anguish. They have made inhabitants of the 54 sovereign states, 7 territories and 2 de facto independent states in Africa to believe that Africa has got no genuine hope to offer its people.
The dependence of Africa on foreign aid and loan from Europe and the entire West is harming Africa. Every time I tune into to BBC, CNN, CCTV and Aljazeera, I either monitor a headline that says “EU donates US$60 million to Africa” or “Foreign Aid to Africa by European Union”. When I read through Fox news, Reuters, Bloomberg and Mail & Guardian, I do not see headlines like “AU donates to Europe” or “Europe receives Aid from African Union”.
When I see our leaders from Africa well-dressed in coat-suits to proudly receive millions in aid from Europe and elsewhere, it makes me to believe that the leaders of Africa today are far from redeeming this rich continent from obscurity, indignity and ruin.
Why must it always be Africa crying out for handouts? The ‘aid syndrome’ is rendering African nations more vulnerable, impotent and dependent. The danger of someone feeding you always instead of you feeding yourself is too high. The risk of consuming expired or poisonous food is likely.
Anyone who decides what you eat is likely to control how you think. After more than 5 decades of receiving trillions in foreign aid, Africa still remains at the basement of poverty. Was Africa established only to receive and not give? In his book The White Man’s Burden, William Easterly writes: “The West spent US$2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get twelve-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths in Africa.”
African leaders need to wake-up to the realities of today and begin to chart a new course in the best interest of the continent. The people of Africa must also be willing and ready to unite and embrace such change by promoting the spirit of African solidarity. Africa can become an enviable pride of the world if leaders of Africa abandon greed and corruption. Moving Africa forward would require a progressive and visionary African Union that is anti-aid and pro-people. Africa needs leaders who are ready to stand up against foreign conspiracy and protect the predominant interest of the African people. The continent can make immense progress if its leaders become locally responsive and globally proactive.