By: Ing. Yayah A. B. Conteh
Eminent scholars the world over, Africans and non-Africans alike, engaged in different spheres of endeavour, have always argued that the main cause of Africa’s chronic poverty has been the endless chain of bad decisions made by its leaders over the last half-century since the departure of the colonial powers.
The widespread African belief is that its states were and still being plundered by its leaders, past and present. This is quite an axiomatic statement taking cognizance of the fact that African countries still lag behind enormously in every conceivable sphere of global development in comparison with their counterparts worldwide, most of whom stumbled into independence almost the same time as them.
While countries in other parts of the world, especially in the Far East, have grown significantly and even joined the First World through the implementation of useful and concrete policies that have spurred them to sustainable economic growth and the alleviation of poverty for their citizens, Black Africa still remains as poorer than when it even gained independence. This has been attributed fundamentally to poor leadership and weak governance which persists in almost all African countries.
Perhaps it has taken us Africans too long to comprehend the fact that the biggest obstacle to Africa’s growth and development is poverty, a deadly disease that should be uprooted in our midst altogether, if we ever dream to grow and multiply alongside others who have already mapped out tremendous progress in this direction.
It is quite lamentable that while Asian and Latin American countries are gradually abandoning underdevelopment and embracing development in its totality, African politicians have fertilized the region with perpetual backwardness. Asian countries, in fact, have accelerated their development growth much faster than their Latin American counterparts, while Africa continues to wallow in abject poverty, accumulating commercial debt upon commercial debt at unsustainably rapid rates.
Africa’s biggest opportunity undoubtedly remains the maximum exploitation of its natural resources for the benefit of its citizens. African political leaders must uphold the challenges posed in the extraction and exploitation of these natural resources by embarking upon appropriate feasible technologies that would yield positive and fruitful dividends.
The presence of abundant natural resources in most African countries does not predestine a country to prosperity, particularly if not properly tapped and harnessed accordingly. So, African leaders in the dispensation of their political functions should not continue to be obstinate in their generally misguided and always opaque development policies.
I envisage an Africa from a multidimensional perspective – one that would judiciously tap its natural resources and help liberate its citizens from the chains of poverty, the greatest impediment that poses threat to its sustainable growth and development.
Uppermost in my mind is an Africa whose inclusive nationalism should be promoted through a dominant political party as a means to overcome the deep ethnic divisions that run through its veins.
This dominant political party may be the most realistic means by which effective African states can be built. In other words, it would acquire the form of a mass national party with a controlled social network through which new beliefs and convictions can be communicated. In practical terms, it would be synonymous to a ‘Government of National Unity’ at state level which will adopt an ideology that supports national development.
Since most African countries stumbled into independence almost fifty (50) years ago, it is quite lamentable that the bulk of them have proved quite incapable of standing tall amongst their counterparts in other regions of the world. This is sad and unfortunate.
The set of factors that serve as impediment to Africa’s ascendency to a First World status are legion. They vary considerably by region and country.
The Africa of tomorrow that I envisage could be one in which education to increase the literacy level of its citizenries will be the focus, and that such education would be prioritized for enrollments to increase substantially year in, year out. Kids would no longer be abandoned on the streets for lack of pens and exercise books. They would be obliged to attend schools because they would have something to write with.
The Africa of tomorrow would not blind itself to the improvement of healthcare facilities, employment opportunities particularly for the youth, empowerment of the womenfolk so as to trod side-by-side with their male counterparts and provision of robust water supply systems whereby the majority of its kids would no longer be deprived of their useful study hours hitherto lavished on the search for drinkable water destined for domestic consumption.
The elimination of coups, corruption and conflicts including the improvement of infrastructural facilities, the tackling of human capital inadequacies, the promotion of agricultural development for food security, environmental sustainability and climate change initiatives plus the improvement on its energy challenges through the installation of hydroelectric dams are all positive pointers towards the envisaged Africa of tomorrow.
The Africa of tomorrow must be desirous of adopting a single national currency and getting rid of the debt burden tied around its necks and legs, boycotting Switzerland altogether where its stolen monies are deposited in unnumbered bank accounts by crooks that would masquerade as true and patriotic leaders.
That Africa would no longer be dependent on the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the funding of its projects most of which have woefully failed over the years as a result of poor governance.
The provision of equal opportunities for all, be it on the social, racial or religious setting, the curbing of crime and violence including domestic violence as well, the breaking away from the widely prevalent norm of ‘it’s our turn to eat’ by those in political authority would all be a thing of the past in the envisaged Africa of tomorrow.
Only in this light would an atmosphere be created for ease of business that would pave way for other developed countries to step in and invest in Africa without fear.
Only then would the dreams of the likes of Kwame Nkrumah for the entire African continent to be united under a single flag would have been accomplished.
Engineer Yayah A. B. Conteh is the Director of the Mechanical Services Department (MSD) of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).
Tel. Nos: 076640364 / 077718805.