The rising continent: Africa ought to take care of its own citizens
Former Ghanaian president JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, who was in Namibia on a state visit recently where he delivered a public lecture at a seminar themed: “Africa Rising” hosted by the Pan African Centre of Namibia in Windhoek on September 12, has bemoaned “huge economic inequality” among citizens, despite reports that the continent is on the rise. Writes ANDREAS THOMAS
Africa has achieved total political independence but an unjust world economic order still puts the continent at a disadvantage.
African nations now have institutions of democracy, such as parliaments, elected representatives, and judicial systems; its economies have grown ‑ some of them at spectacular rates ‑ yet the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.
The continent is endowed with the highest percentage of untapped natural resources but the rural poor still live under abysmal conditions.
Many Africans have access to formal education yet the quality of that education varies widely from place to place and according to the social class of the child.
The above are some of the many depressing litanies of all the negative factors, which former Ghanaian president Jerry John Rawlings said have eroded the advances that Africa made after the defeat of colonial powers on the continent.
Rawlings, who ruled Ghana from 1998 to 2001, made further damning observations that “corruption continues to drain our national economies at all levels”.
“Money, which should be used to help our rural farmers to become more productive or to provide decent shelter and basic infrastructure for our urban poor, leaks and bleeds into the pockets and bank accounts of the greedy and undeserving.”
With the attainment of African independence, Rawlings charged that “the energy with which we fought against an external enemy is all too often diverted to internal conflict between ethnic groups, religions or rival political groups”.
“And significantly, many of such conflicts are instigated, influenced and fuelled by external forces that feed money and weapons in their quest to monopolise and manipulate our resources to their selfish benefit.”
He also bemoaned “huge economic inequality” among citizens, despite reports that the continent is on the rise. He stressed that a rising continent ought to look after its own people.
“Statistics suggest that Africa is rising, but while the figures look good, the wealth is not evenly distributed. The rich are getting richer, with no morals. While the dignified lives with their morals in poverty,” he said during the seminar that was also attended by Prime Minister Hage Geingob. Jerry Rawlings called on Africans to take a long look at the philosophy of self-righteousness advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.
“His slogan of ‘swaraj’ means two things. First, it has the obvious meaning of self-government or independence from colonial rule. But it also means government of the individual’s self, in other words, self-discipline or the control of selfish desires,” he said.
“It is the natural wish of any human being to be able to provide for his or her family and live in peace and security.
“To this extent, we are all selfish to some degree. But while nobody should begrudge another’s wealth earned by honest work and endeavour, it is wrong for individuals to advance their own interests at the cost of the rights of others and to the detriment of society.”
In addition, Rawlings revealed his biggest heartbreak, which he said, is the failure of the African continent to carry a unified voice on global issues.
It is quite refreshing to note the resolve of most of the regional bodies such as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) to rapidly tackle problems that crop up in member countries, he said.
“The dictates of globalisation mean we cannot extricate ourselves from happenings elsewhere. When war and misfortune affect countries, the economic fallout spreads across the world and usually Africa with its frail economy is hardest hit,” said Rawlings.
According the former Ghanaian leader, Africa is absent from the “cloudy international situation” because most leaders on the continent are compromised by the West, he remarked during dinner hosted in his honour by Prime Minister Hage Geingob on September 11.
“Our voice needs to be heard. And those of you who have retained your integrity owe it to the continent to even speak louder, a few too many of us have compromised ourselves. The voice of Africa is becoming a little too silent in a great cloudy international situation,” Rawlings said. He rallied African leaders to do some self-assessments, adding their voice to international issues, such as the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Ukraine, adding that “It is an embarrassment and when we refuse to say something at this level”. He added during the seminar that: “All Africa is asking for, is the boldness to defy that, which is wrong and is an affront to our sovereign African right and authority.
“Unfortunately, a few too many of us on this continent have allowed the West, with their double standards to intimidate us. If they were intimidating us from a position of right, which would be easier to tolerate. There is a loss of international morality and values. There is a monetisation of morality.”
Rawlings further lambasted some African states, for having forgotten about the support they received from the former Soviet Union and China during the struggle of liberation.
He said African need to show solidarity, especially with Russia, which is currently targeted by Western nations with economic sanctions over Ukrainian crisis.
“We seem to have forgotten so soon, that countries such as Soviet Union and China were the ones who assisted us the most in the liberation struggles.
“We have by virtue of some perceived common wealth tied ourselves to the economies of the same colonial masters in a very disadvantageous relationship.
“And yet the Soviet Union and China were the very countries who trained so many of our medical doctors, engineers, pilots, teachers and other professionals.
“Surely, at a time like this Africa’s voice should be heard in support of Russia. I would like to emphasize that this is not a case of blind loyalty, but rather offering solidarity to a country that is now suffering at the hands of the same unethical and immoral unipolar world order.”