DEVELOPING AFRICA FROM WITHIN
Whenever Africa name is mentioned, it’s either for hunger, conflict, corruption, underdevelopment or poverty. All these are clear manifestations of social dislocation that characterized almost all the continent’s countries, with the exception of South Africa and Botswana. The continent is blessed with abundant human and natural resources. It is the new bride for foreign investors as the ‘mad rush’ by Eastern and Western strongest economies have shown in the last one decade. But one wonders whether foreign investments would translate into abundance of food, cessation of conflict, curtail corruption, bring about development or reduce poverty. Foreign aids, borrowing as well assistance have not really changed anything in the lives of the people in Africa. Rather they are sowing the seed of the problems that bedeviled the continent.
Most of the conflict situations in Africa are being caused by the foreign investors’ mismanagement of resources in connivance with foreign investors who derive pleasure from playing one party against the other in their dealings with the local people. Mismanagement gives way to marginalization which fester poverty and hunger – cocksure channels to civil conflict. The so called foreign investors procure arms for factionalized groups to kill themselves, making these countries unstable and further underdeveloped. Yet, they negotiate peace deal for them later. But, does these cease-fires cum peace agreements for the interest of the people or for the invetsors’?
It leaves no one in doubt that land deals or concessions between foreign investors and the local people have always been very unfavorable to the latter with little or no long-term benefits. The same thing goes for mining or oil exploration deals/licenses as the examples of Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia etc. have demonstrated. How long will it takes the government of African countries to learn that it is not worth these deals where they cede larger percentage of into foreigner hands?
One of the basic lies that cajole African leaders into these empty deals is the promise of job creation for their teeming unemployed young population and the vain-gain foreign direct investment (fdi) their countries stand to benefit. From experiences round the whole continent, the local people mainly end up in dead-end odd jobs with meager monthly take-home pay that cannot take any of them home. This has always led to in-work poverty among the very few who work with them. Workers in these so called multinational corporations work under severe inhuman conditions.
Juicy job openings are the exclusive reserves of the foreign experts who receive whooping sum as salary, as they live in sheer affluence in tastily furnished and well-secured apartments and ride in expensive jeeps, while the local people trek their way to and fro their work stations, or scramble for tattered and rickety taxis/motor-bikes that are hardly available. In most companies they spend more time in resolving labor-management impasse than they devout to business activities either due to pay increments or better conditions of service, or non-payment of salary.
The governments of African countries can plough the foreign borrowings and assistance into the same kind of business ventures and manage them with foreign experts in their employment, to take charge and transfer knowledge and skills to the local people. What stops the government from investing in the mining of, say, iron ore or the exploration of crude oil or planting and running cash crops farms? Part of the problem has been personal interest over public interests.
Most of these government officials, especially legislators who collect jumble pay in the name of salaries and allowances, while the people they represent, live in abject poverty; negotiate and corner percentage deals for themselves as kick-backs. They pass laws that give dubious foreign investors the leverage to operate with impunity and pay scanty attention to best labor and environmental practices that engender sustainable development.
Certainly, the development the continent of Africa yearns for would hardly come from outside if the people are not ready. Just few things the government and people of the continent need to do and the development will drive hunger, poverty, conflict, underdevelopment and corruption underground. One, our orientation must change from viewing development as always coming from outside. This is why all the big economic policies from the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign initiated bodies have repeatedly failed. Two, our government must sign concession deals or issue exploration licenses that have long-term benefits to the people not for themselves. This they can do by making these investors adhere to responsive labor issues that have do with good minimum wage and good working condition as well sustaining the environment they carry out their operations.
Times have changed, land lease should attract handsome amount of money and good employment prospects for those leasing their lands. Three, government can set up ventures to tap their resources with foreign technical know-how that would be transfer later. When national governments own and run the companies with similar interest as the foreign ones, there will be keen completion and plentiful job opportunities. Five, national governments must make it a priority to develop their infrastructure especially good network of roads/rail system and electricity. Four, the people must learn to save for private investments in order to build a middle income group that compel development from within.
Africa has a great future! The future cannot come if we continue the way we do things right now. The kind of development we see in other countries cannot take the same trend in our case. If it is not home-grown, it will be not be our own and the few who have access to government will not be committed to the nation’s development well-being. Only when Africans are ready to embrace the change from within that they can conquer all the negative things the continent is being associated with.
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