I’m passionate about Africa. I have a deep sense of pride in who I am as a black person. I’m an Afro-optimist who believes that her people will solve the challenges Africa faces.
I don’t agree with many things Trump says. He is condescending, a bully and a disrespectful man. So while it hurts me when we are called funny names by unstable leaders, and our people disrespected, we have the power to change the narrative but we just don’t want: Let me explain:
We live in a continent where citizens are loyal to their leaders not on the basis of merit or ideas they hold but on the basis of ethnicity and tribe. In this continent, some people would rather endure a horrible incompetent administration run by one of their own rather than enjoy prosperity under the leadership of a competent person from another community.
While this may be attributed to colonial legacy, we now have a majority of a generation of Africans who never saw the white man rule directly. They are connected to the world; they are educated and exposed to a wealth of information readily available at their fingertips.
When it comes to accountability and voting day, the retrogressive DNA of ethnicity takes over rendering them powerless to rise above the petty politics of ethnicity.
It’s, therefore, a half-truth narrative that has been packaged and sold to Africans that everything that afflicts this continent right now is because of the white man.
While the current status of Africa was engineered by the west so that they continue to exploit our resources, it would be stretching the truth to say it’s the whole picture.
Most founding fathers ransacked their countries’ granaries. They looted the public coffers and built empires that now rival GDPs of countries. While we might excuse them because that’s all they knew, the orgy of unsustainable debt happening in Africa now is inexcusable.
We cannot always blame the colonialists. For the last 5 decades or so, Africa has held its own destiny in its hands. Well, let’s give it like 2 decades of teething problems and building capacity. For the last 30 years, Africa has been the captain of her ship.
Our leaders bow at the feet of foreign powers, recently China, to beg for loans to finance white elephant mega projects instead of investing in priority areas that can change people’s lives. They troop to Beijing, each with a bowl and a delegation, falling at the feet of the Chinese to beg for loans that younger generation of Africans will pay through their noses.
The four Asian tigers of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were just like many African countries; colonized and messed up. Yet these regions are now industrialized countries providing hope to their citizenries.
The difference between Asian tigers and Africa is that while they focused on nation-building, our leaders focused on personal pocket building. The inequalities you see today in Africa are as a result of the insatiable greed that many founding fathers had.
We deserve to be called a shit hole when we negotiate unfavourable trade deals with foreign powers because we are more concerned about our selfish needs than that of the community.
African presidents lead countries that are some of the poorest in the world yet they are some of the highest paid leaders. Africa is a continent that is ravaged by basic issues like sanitation, malaria, education, health etc. yet the same continent is where corruption and sleaze are the order of the day.
Fifty years later
Fifty years ago, when black Africans took over the reigns of power hope was flowing across the continent like the mighty Nile defying every obstacle that was erected on its way. Independence decrees came as a great light of hope to millions of Africans who had been baked in the combustion of untold injustices.
Fifty years later, a majority of Africans are still not free from the threats that faced their hunter and gatherer ancestors.
Fifty years later, apart from the tentacles of neo-colonialism, elite black Africans have tied the continent to the log of stagnation with chains of cronyism and discrimination.
Over five decades later, the average life expectancy in Africa stands at 52.5 years, compared to 69.2 in the rest of the world, 91 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children live in Africa and more than one million adults and children die every year from HIV/AIDS in Africa alone.
Fifty years and still counting, 90 percent of all malaria cases occur in Africa, 3,000 children die each day from malaria and the continent has failed to diversify her exports because one or two products account for at least 75% of total exports in a majority of Sub-Saharan Africa.
I refuse to accept the view that Africa’s future is so tragically bound to the starless midnight past of colonialism. I refuse to believe that my continent will always be called ‘dark’ or a ‘shit hole’.
I will not accept the attitude of mediocrity that justifies lack of progress. I believe that one day, the continent will stop demanding respect from other nations and earn her rightful place in the league of developed countries.
Maybe the hope of the continent lies in the words of the late Professor Wangari Maathai, “Africa needs a revolution in leadership – not only from the politicians who govern but from an active citizenry that places its country above the narrow needs of its own ethnic group or community.”
The writer @DannishOdongo is a reporter with Capital FM and also the Chairman of the Political Leadership & Governance Programme Alumni Network. Views expressed here are his own.