A critical appraisal of modern Africa by both Eurocentric and Afrocentric scholars reveals several factors as to why the continent is the way it is after several years of independence. Both perspectives, in spite of the occasional optimism, agree that the continent is mostly stagnant: undeveloped in some areas, underdeveloped in others and plagued by disorder, poverty, and volatility in all areas. Even for Africans, the continent is a continuous body of complexities and complications and of almost impenetrable landscape. Why Africa is the way it is has been a subject of empirical and systematic studies by scholars (at least) since 1957 when the African Studies Association came into being. After all these years, the continent is still the playground for domestic and international forces whose reasons for being, it seems, are exploitation, thievery, and conquest.
The Africa continent nags and confounds in spite of the “causes, effects, and roadmaps” that have been propagated and submitted by different schools, scholars and institutions. From Marxism to Modernization and from Dependency to other systems of thought that are cogent or feeble, palpably silly or condescending — hypotheses about Africa abound. Some commentators believe that it is impossible to understand Africa without having a deep understanding of the suffering and calamities wrought by slavery and colonialism. They think that without slavery and colonialism – Africa would have become a thriving and dominant civilization.
These scholars and commentators point to the residual effects of slavery and colonialism as some of the psychological and physical hindrances that continue to wreck havoc on the continent and its people. Nonetheless, recent philosophy and accepted wisdom holds that Africa has had time to correct most of the imbalances that characterize it instead of continually playing victim. Africa, it is averred, is not a peculiar continent: everything that has ever happened there has happened somewhere else: wars, slavery, colonialism, natural or man-made disasters, ethnic conflicts, corruption, etc. While others are putting their houses in order, Africa seems adrift. Hopeless.
One thus wonders what those who participated in the inglorious Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 — owe the continent if slavery and colonialism are the starting point of Africa’s debacles. Also, one wonders as Roel Van Der Veen did in What Went Wrong With Africa and ask “why, despite the rising prosperity elsewhere in the world and widespread changes that took place on the continent itself, Africa failed to break free of poverty” and other fetidities. The answers are not limited to weak institutions and the crisis of governance, the enmity between the government and the governed, the inability to draw lines between public and private goods, and the sheer stupidity and low self-esteem of African leaders.
Still, one must ask: “What Does the World Owe Africa?” What must the world do to bring Africa out of its doldrums? Consequential and time-stamped dialogue is needed if we are to find our ways out of the current rut. I am not sold on foreign intervention in Africa’s domestic affairs, but this is one of those times when the West must work in concert with the people of Africa to effect changes.
For instance, London, Paris, and the White House know the right people and the right groups to work with in order to effect these changes. Until now, they have principally collaborated, cooperated, and coordinated their efforts with parasites and leeches. Their approach may have been useful and beneficial during the Cold War era; and indeed, it may have served them right in a capitalist environment. But in today’s world — more so into the future — their method of operation will be very costly and destabilizing. In other words, if nothing is done to arrest the African-malignancy, the West itself will not escape the foul winds blowing from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and from the Mediterranean Sea. The continent’s social, economic and political problems will be theirs to sort out.
In a globalizing and borderless world, how long does the western society think it will be before the core and color and composition of their societies begin to change drastically? What’s to be done by the West? A series of steps needs to be taken: (1) Deny African elites and ruling class funds and any kind of investments in western nations, (2) Deny African leaders, along with their proxies and family members, medical treatment in hospitals in the West; (3) Deny the children of these leaders form accessing learning in Western learning institutions; (4) except for meetings at such places as the United Nations, decline all visa applications by African leaders, access Western courts so African leaders can be sued when war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed.
The aforesaid steps need to be taken by Western Governments if the African-malignancy is to be arrested. This is what the West and the world owe Africa. Not foreign aid. Not handouts. Not loans. For the next twenty-five years, give the average Africans access to your courts to enable them sue their leaders for crimes against humanity.
In Nigeria, the ruling elites, along with their friends and family members steal and deposit their loot in western banks without fear of prosecution at home or abroad. In the same country, medical facilities are not fit for human use. This is why the President and his Ministers fly to Germany and other western nations to get treatment for common cold and flu. As rich as Nigeria is, the country does not have a first-rate trauma center; the vast majority of its citizens do not have access to quality medical care. In a literate world, the Nigerian government tacitly approves and condones illiteracy by its attitude towards education. Students are housed in dilapidated buildings with outdated infrastructures when their leaders and their family members have the luxury of quality education and first-rate healthcare in the West.
The United States and her allies must stop behaving as though there is nothing wrong with Nigeria and with the African continent. They cannot turn blind eyes to those who continue to steal the people’s resources and bring them to their countries. By their actions and inactions they encourage theft and all kinds of dishonesty. They encourage antidemocratic behaviors; they wholeheartedly encourage the illegal trading of dreams, hopes and aspirations. But most of all, they encourage the underdevelopment of a whole group of people and their land. What does the world owe Africa? Simple: help Africans put a stop to the bastardization of their land before it is too late. Let unconscionable African leaders and the elites roast in the inhumane conditions they have created.
By Sabella Abidde O.
A Nigerian Living in U.S.A