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Africans Are The Major Cause Of Their Underdevelopment by Nemma(m): 3:21pm On Feb 10, 2016
It is common knowledge that colonialism left a negative legacy and impact on Africa’s economic development which no known African country has been able to improve on except to further plunder natural resources, thereby further exposing fellow citizens into more poverty. However, looking at the revival of African economies, one realizes that there are several forms of countries that existed during colonialism. There are those that suffered extensive physical damage, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo; those that benefited from colonialism, such as South Africa; those that has a short stint with colonialism, such as Ethiopia; and those that did not really experience colonialism such as Liberia. Given the different historical background of these countries, one would be shocked at the similarity of poverty and civil war that exist or have existed in these countries. Consequently, one is forced to consider whether the former colonial masters have anything to do with the high level of poverty, gross human rights violations and refusal by those in power to relinquish to anybody who wins in any elections. This has given rise to the conduct of flawed electoral processes and the subsequent formation of Governments of National Unity (GNUs) in many African states.
It would appear that governance, both political and economic, account for more. Violent conflicts and poor economic performance, despite the abundance of material and human resources, are generally due to bad political and economic governance, and African leaders shoulder a big responsibility in this regard. In June 2007, the World Bank and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a report on stolen assets, which estimated that 25 percent of the GDP of African states are lost to corruption every year, amounting to around US$148 billion. By the same token, a 2004 report of the global corruption watchdog Transparency International, considered Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the then Zaire from
1965 to 1997, and General Sani Abacha, the kleptocratic ruler of Nigeria between 1993 and 1998, to be the top looters of public funds from Africa. The stolen funds of Mobutu Sese Seko were estimated at US$5 billion, while Abacha is said to have pillaged between US$20 billion and US$5 billion. Neither colonialism nor neo-colonialismcan be blamed for these scandalous actions. But there is cause for hope, governance is improving on the continent. Whereas democratic systems were rare in Africa prior to 1990, a majority of countries today adhere to principles of good governance. Violations of these principles here are done in a context of more societal resistance almost everywhere on the continent. Clearly, with better governance and strategies of self-reliance and inter-African collaboration, the continent is likely to overcome the bad image of “rich Africa, poor Africans.”
Poor Leadership And Governance
Africa continues to face serious development challenges despite recent record growth rates. Such challenges as dependency, corruption, underdeveloped infrastructure and production sectors, and leadership and governance are some of the impediments to Africa’s quest for sustainable and equitable development. Explaining such development challenges has continued to elude scholars. To the radical leftist scholars, Africa’s underdevelopment can adequately be explained by its forceful and uneven integration into the global economic system. However, with over fifty years of independence, the debate is increasingly focusing on Africa’s leadership as good explanation for its poverty and underdevelopment.
Africa’s poverty is not because of the lack of capital, access to world markets, technical experts, or the unfair global economic system, it is rather because African leaders have made poor choices and decided to keep the continenent in abject poverty (Mills, 2011; Mills, 2010). This observation is shared by Mbah who argues that the ‘fundamental cause of African underdevelopment and conflicts lies in the vicious leadership in the continent from 1960s’ (Mbah, 2013: p. 142).
Africa is poor, ultimately, because its economy and society have been ravaged by international capital as well as by local elites who are often propped up by foreign powers. The public and private sectors have worked together to drain the continent of resources which otherwise- if harnessed and shared fairly- should meet the needs of the peoples of Africa… (Bond, 2006: p. 1).
To others like George Ayittey (1999, 1992), Greg Mills (2011) and Robert Calderisi (2007) Africa’s underdevelopment can be explained by the internal arrangements and weaknesses within Africa itself. Within this second group of scholars who ascribe to internal causes of Africa’s underdevelopment, there is a growing body of knowledge associating underdevelopment with Africa’s bad leadership. According to Mills (2011, 2010), Africa is poor today mainly because its leaders have chosen poverty over development of its people. Bad leadership, the passiveness of citizens to hold their leaders accountable and a silent international community have combined to give African leaders an opportunity to wreck havoc on their countries and people (Mills, 2011). African leaders are, said President Goodluck Jonathan at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Addis Ababa, part of the problem of the continent as most of them place their ego above the interest of the people they lead (Ogbu, 2012). African leaders have actually been at the centre of persistent corruption, have aided illicit financial outflows and capital flight, frustrated local ingenuity, and led states as their personal property.
More than five decades after [independence],African states has [sic] remained in a vicious cycle of conflicts, stunted development and finally characterized by all indices of destructive governance; this time not as a result of colonial invasion but by the character of its leaders – power politics, endemic corruption, clientilism and politics of patronage (Mbah, 2013: p. 143) (emphasis added).
Indeed, external factors are by no means adequate to explain Africa’s underdevelopment. No one can say that Africa’s loss of between $597 billion and $1.4 trillion in illicit financial flows in the past three decades (Sultan, 2014) is solely a result of external factors.
Neither can we blame the international system and institutions for Africa’s loss of about $150 billion a year to corruption (Hanson, 2009).
Similarly, external factors did not teach President Omar Bongo, former president of Gabon, to cling on to power for 42 years, appoint his son Ali as his minister of defence, his daughter Pascaline head of the presidency and his son in-law Paul Tongine the minister of foreign affairs (Mills, 2011: p. 230).
For example, that the amount of money lost as a result of paying salaries to ghost workers in Tanzania increased from 178,066,130 shillings ($153,479) in 2007/2008 to 832,448,998 shillings ($717,505) in 2012/2013 (National Audit Office , 2014, 2009) has nothing to do with external factors.
The death of about a million Rwandans during the 1994 genocide, 300,000 Sudanese in the war in Darfur (Mills, 2011: pp. 4-5), and more than 5 million deaths in the Congo DRC since 1998 (Gettleman, 2010) cannot wholy be blamed on the international community or the international economic system.
Post colonial Africa has been characterized by a mode of governance that is a fusion of dictatorship veiled in traditional hereditary systems where incumbent political leaders treat their polities as personal fiefdoms. In countries like Swaziland, political leaders have hidden behind traditional institutions which allow leaders to pass on leadership of the polity to their kith and kin. In some cases, political leaders do not hide their intensions of passing power to those close to them, like case in the DRC where upon the death of the father, decisions were made to install the son of the late leader, Joseph Kabila (even in Cuba, though out of Africa, Fidel Castro has been able to “install” his brother) to preside over the affairs of the country. In Libya, word has it that Field Marshall Muammar Gadaffi is busy grooming one of his sons to take over for him upon his departure. Egocentrism has also gripped some of African leaders who harbor grand plans of having an United States of Africa (USA), in which he would be the president in ventures of insurmountable proportions.
Muammar Gadaffi made noise about the need for a United State of Africa, and hastens to indicate his preparedness to lead the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural formation. This is a grand plan which smacks of no patriotism, but greed. In some cases, close allies of political leaders are hand-picked to continue on the legacy of their respective political parties. This skewed form of governance where the political leaders do not have to undergo the rigors of the electoral process is not only fraudulent and a chicanery, but goes against the tenets of democracy, where political leaders come from the people through a free and fair electoral process. This trend has been exacerbated by the curtailment of civil society activity in such despotic regimes, where all voices of dissent are brutally silenced. Citizen participation in the choice of political leaders forms the core of democratic processes that are characterized by good governance practices.
The international community and system, and colonial legacy may share some blame but the great responsibility lies with the Africans themselves. Certainly, as Mills argues ‘Africa’s failure is thus no mystry, but rather a rational choice by African leadership’ (Mills, 2011: p. 232) aided by the passiveness of their citizens and the international community.
One of Africa’s economic challenges in the 21stcentury is that there is little intra-African trade. Much of the trade in Africa has been between African countries and the Europeans, Americans and the emerging economies. The share ofintra-Africantrade has declined from 22.4% in 1997 to around 12% in 2011 (UNCTAD 2013, in Zonke, 2014: p. 89). It is argued that trading within Africa is more costly than trading outside Africa given the fact that many African countries are beset by very poor infrastructure,and destructive tariffs, among others (Zonke, 2014). For so long, African countries have been urged to develop strong trade relations between and among them as a means of shielding themseleves from the vagaries of the world commodity markets (Zonke, 2014; Moyo, 2009) though this is yet to be heeded to. Looking back into history, pre-colonial African societies appear to have involved themselves in intraregional trade long before they started trading with the external world i.e In West Africa when the Portuguese arrived in 1471, they found Ghana already trading with neighbouring coastal societies(Perbi, 2001). Moreover, All the West African states along the Atlantic coast were linked by a southern trade route covering modern Senegal to modern Nigeria. Ghana, again because of its wealth in gold, exchanged gold for slaves, beads, cotton, cloth and palm oil from the Benin state in modern Nigeria. From Dahomey and Ivory Coast, Ghana exchanged gold for the famous Aquaqua cloth. Shama on the Ghana coast was the entrepot of trade (Perbi, 2001: p. 4).
Though international trade became significant later, the importance of intraregional trade remained intact and was the foundation on which international long distance trade was built. Given the limited intra-African trade, can’t African leaders today learn from this past experience?
The attempt by countries in Africa to break the cycle underdevelopment has been hindered by the high level of corruption in the continent. Africa is rich in natural resources and the proceeds from the sales of these natural resources to other countries are mismanaged by African leaders through corrupt process. Transparency International defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private benefit (Transparency International, 2006). Since the early 1960s when most African countries were gaining independence, the rich nations of the world have extended development aids to Africa, yet Africa remains the lease developed continent in the world.
Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources despite this, the continent remains the poorest and underdeveloped among the continents of the world. The argument attributing African underdevelopment to the colonial powers exploitation of the continent is justifiable, however, it has been over forty decades the colonial masters left. Forty years is enough to move the continent forward, if countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Indonesia that were at the same level of development with most African countries can now become the leading emerging economies of the world, then something is amiss with Africa. Water Rodney claimed that the underdevelopment of Africa was as a result of the exploitation of the continent by the European power through colonialism, capitalism and imperialism (Rodney, 1982). This is acceptable in the colonial era, however, “African states ought to have changed for the better after many years of political independence.” For example, Nigeria has been facing development crisis for more than half a century. The major reason behind this is the high level of corruption in the country. New political thinkers in Africa have blamed corruption by African leaders for the underdevelopment of the continent. Huge sum of money that would have been used to provide infrastructuralfacilities are stolen by African leaders and send to Western countries for safe keeping at the expense of African development. It was evaluated that the sum of $30 billion aid to Africa ended up in overseas bank accounts (Celarier, 1996). This statement was also corroborated by the United Nations (UN) and the Africa Union (AU) who stressed that an estimated sum of $148 billion is embezzled in Africa yearly by political leaders, multinational companies, business executives and the civil servants with the aid of financial institutions the Europe and North America (Adusei, 2009). In Nigeria, former chairman of the anti-corruptionagency, Nuhu Ribadu and the former education minister Oby Ezekwesili accused Nigerian leaders of stealing over $400 billion from the federal government account since 1963. $400 billionwould provide Nigeria with good road networks, well-equipped modern hospitals, power generating stations and functional oil refineries. Since 1960 that Nigeria got her independence, the government hospitals are just consulting rooms because the facilities are moribund, bad road networks and poverty have been increasing at an alarming rate.
Corruption remains the main cause of underdevelopment in Africa. This can be attested to by the massive looting of public funds by African leaders. Ayittey (2000) gave a breakdown of funds that have been stolen by some African Head of States:
General Sani Abacha of Nigeria -- $20billion.
H.Boigny of Ivory Coast -- $6 billion.
General Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria --$5billion.
President Mobutu of Zaire -- $4billion.
Mouza Traore of Mali -- $2billion.
Henri Bedie of Ivory Coast - $300million.
Denis N’gnesso of Congo -- $200million
President Omar Bongo of Gabon -- $80million.
President Paul Biya of Cameroon -- $70million.
President Haite Mariam of Ethiopia -- $30million.
President Hissene Habre of Chad --$3million.
The United Nations said in 1999 that over $200 billion were stolen by African leaders and this amount was more than half of the continent debts of $300 billion (George Ayitte, 2002). And this amount also “exceeds what comes into Africa as foreign aid” .
Nigeria was ranked the 35th most corrupt country in the world by the Transparency International (TI) in 2012. In 2013, Nigeria moved by two steps to clinch the position of the 33rd most corrupt country in the working, according to TI. The level of corruption in Nigeria has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society and that has been responsible for the crises of development in the country. Another way of stealing in Nigeria is through the self-increment of salaries by the members of the National Assembly without recourse to the constitutional body that is responsible for fixing the salaries of elected public officers. According to Awojobi (2014), “the lawmakers have perfected a system of increasing their own salaries, which make them earn more than their foreign counterparts.” The annual basic salaries of Nigerian lawmakers and their counterparts in some rich nations are displayed below:
Table 1: Annual basic salaries of Nigeria and some advanced countries Countries
Basic Salary
Nigeria $189.500
United States $174.000
Canada $154.000
Japan $149.700
Germany $115.500
Source: Ameh et al. 2013
Corruption has been seen as inimical to African development. However, some African leaders have established anti-corruptionagencies to checkmate the monster called corruption in order to move their various countries forward. Some opposition parties and some of these African countries have accused the reigning governments for using the anti-corruptionagencies to harass opposition candidates why those that are close to the city of power are left the hook when they are involved in corruption cases. Nigeria and Kenya are the good examples of this scenario. For example, in Nigeria, the Kano and Jigawa governors that are opposed to the second term bid of President Jonathan have been harassed by the government security apparatus. Why the Kano state governor was having a meeting with some other governors in the Kano liaison office in Abuja was stopped by security operatives and the Kano State House of Assemble leaders was invited for questioning by the EFCC, his counterpart from Jigawa states, Sule Lamido have his two sons being investigated for money laundry. Whereas, the former governor of River state that has been accused of looting the state during his tenure as governor is walking as a free man because he is in the good book of those in authority. For Africa to break the impasse of underdevelopment, the leaders should incorporate good governance and tackle corruption in all ramifications. Furthermore, special agencies should be established to monitor, evaluate and process the execution of developmental projects, this will go a long way in addressing the deficit in social amenities for the African populace.
With the first African country, Ghana, having attained political independence in 1957 and the rest coming hard on its heels, none of the African countries has enjoyed less than 15 years of political independence. Given that scenario, colonialism can no longer be an excuse for Africa’s economic stagnation and bad governance. There may be cases where the former colonizing power has fuelled violence, but that has been done from a lesser position of strength which could have been prevented if the new African “democratic dispensation” had desired.
Failure To Co-Exist With Fellow Africans-Ethnicity, Tribalism And Xenophobia
Failure on the African continent has not only reared its ugly head in political and economic terms, but in social term as well. Africans have failed the continent by their intolerance and inability to co-exist with each other. Ethnicity cleansing has emerged in countries like Kenya, on the aftermath of elections in December 2007, which over 1,000 people died at the hands of fellow citizens, nationals and people of the same territorial boundaries.

Re: Africans Are The Major Cause Of Their Underdevelopment by Sujidamau: 5:54pm On Feb 10, 2016
Is dis 3 credit course unit? D thing don too much.
Re: Africans Are The Major Cause Of Their Underdevelopment by Nemma(m): 7:19pm On Feb 10, 2016
Is dis 3 credit course unit? D thing don too much.
you are on point bro... One of my assignment few years back, I just feel like sharing.
Re: Africans Are The Major Cause Of Their Underdevelopment by Blue3k(m): 4:16am On Feb 12, 2017
Well written love it.

1 Like

Re: Africans Are The Major Cause Of Their Underdevelopment by cbravo3: 6:43pm On Apr 19, 2017

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