Enough is Enough
“If the world knew the antidote to poverty, they would not seek assistance from the IMF and the World Bank.”
This was said by Gabriel Ansah, the President of N'Asem University in Ghana in his review of the book “Poverty Must Go”, written by his fellow countryman, Ernest Godsman Agyapong.
The book raises very pertinent issues on why Africa is still wallowing in poverty despite being endowed with vast deposits of mineral wealth and having some of the best intellectuals and academics on the planet.
Although Agyapong's book was published 11 years ago and later reprinted in South Africa in 2005 and then in Zimbabwe in 2009, it is a timeless classic that refracts on the reasons why political independence has failed to bring economic emancipation on the continent.
Ansah's views aligb with the proposition made by Agyapong, that the poverty that saddles Africa today is a direct result of adverse socio-economic and political factors that were effected on the continent by its former colonial masters.
This argument is also congruent with what the former Secretary-General of the then Organisation of African Unity, Edeme Kodgo (1978-83), in his book “Africa Tomorrow”.
He said, “The difficulties that beset contemporary Africa are principally rooted in the territorial shredding of the continent, the nefarious consequences of which take the form of national economies incapable of developing because of geographical, economic and political reasons.
“It was profound reason that inspired the European (Western) politicians and diplomats, the very ones who in the nineteenth century based their policies on the principles of nationality, to lacerate the African geographic space along the lines of their own vision of things, with clearly understood interests.
“That profound reason was the application of the principle of 'divide and rule'. With the breaking up of orographic units, and the patching up of segments of people with different peoples into factions, states without the type of geographic space that provides for great nations result in post-colonial political strucutres devoid of any future.”
What clearly emerges from the statements above is that Africa is still a victim of inherited policies that were foisted on her to serve the interests of the erstwhile masters from the West who divided the continent among themselves at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884/5, more commonly known as the Scramble for Africa.
Today, the majority of African people are in financial poverty, and are living below the poverty datum line. The majority can't afford their basic needs, can't afford decent three meals per day, lack shelter, among other essentials.
This has seen a good number of Africans trekking to the Diaspora in quest of the so-called “El Dorado”, a development that has led to the breaking up of relationships and the family set-up.
According to Agyapong in “Poverty Must Go”, all these are a direct result of what he has termed as “a cocktail of poverties”.
“There are different types of poverty. The common ones are mental poverty, physical poverty, social poverty, achievement poverty, spiritual poverty and financial poverty…
“Africa is still regarded as one of the poorest continents in the world; this explains why some African countries have gone HIPC (highly indebted poor countries).
“If one cannot meet his or her basic needs, it is financial poverty. Lack of accommodation, food and good clothes to wear, when one finds it difficult to pay his or her bills, meet the family needs, this is the manifestation of the poverty of money.
“If you are poor or facing financial crisis, you don't care to beg from anyone known or unknown to you. Third World countries usually seek supporters and investors from developed nations.” (pp 10-17)
This is the reason why today the infrastructure in most African countries is dilapidated.
Take Zimbabwe, for instance.
The country has vast deposits of diamond and platinum, resources that can improve the economy and people’s living conditions, yet it still faces acute problems of electricity and water supply while its rail, road and air systems are in the intensive care unit.
As a result, African countries are forced to flood international markets with their raw produce at ridiculous prices.
“A farmer in Ghana spoke of prices for cocoa falling so low on the international markets that he could barely afford the right fertilisers and his family had nothing to eat; a Zimbabwean engineer told me that his country had to sell so much zinc cheaply as a raw material that, since the country was finally developing the capacity to make its own batteries, there was little zinc left…” (Haskell G Ward, “African Development Reconsidered – New Perspectives from the Continent”).
But when all is said and done, what should be done in order for Africa to escape from this quagmire of poverty?
Agyapong cites examples of some great men who made it in life through making use of the resources that were locally available to them.
“Henry Ford dreamt of a horseless carriage. He went to work with tools he possessed, without waiting for opportunity to favour him, and now evidence of his dream belts the entire earth.
“Thomas Edison dreamt of a lamp that could be operated by electricity. Despite more than 10 000 failures, he stood by the dream until he made it a physical reality. People with burning desire never quit until they accomplish their dreams.” (page 52, “Poverty Must Go”).
What this means is that it is high time that Africa says “enough is enough” and do away with the dependency syndrome.
The first step is economic decolonization.
The West wants to maintain control of African economies, and so we should say no to that by utilising our land for our agriculture, our mining and our construction.
We must harness our mineral resources to improve our factories, education and health delivery systems.
Let's harness our rivers and dams to capacitate our energy sector, and then improve our transport, rail and air networks and see if we won't prosper.