Whither The Afrikan Way?

Someone writes in the Financial Mail, August 15 – August 21, 2019; “SA is sliding inexorably into a debt trap, with the government unable to make the hard political choices necessary to spark growth, or to prevent a steady rise in the country’s debt ratio. Though finance minister Tito Mboweni has warned that “we really and truly cannot go on like this”, there is every indication that this is exactly what will happen.”

Afrika is committing an acquired form of assisted-suicide at an unprecedented scale. This is happening at every level of society from the individual, the social to the economic as well as, most disturbingly, on a spiritual level. There are more ways to die than there are ways of living. Paradoxically, Afrika has a lot of intellectuals. The continent boasts thousands if not millions of individuals as well as institutions specializing in various disciplines ranging from cutting edge-science, engineering, architecture, applied mathematics and a myriad of technological fields of endeavor. Afrika is also most revered for its Creative economy, an ungovernable and wholly innovative and lucrative sector. Needless to mention that we have been known to produce artistic and entrepreneurial geniuses in vast numbers too. Afrikan genius has enriched the whole world since the dawn of recorded history. We are not short of human or intellectual capital.

The recent death of former Zimbabwean founding ‘Father’ Robert Gabriel Mugabe has brought this fact so sharply into our collective psyche. How can a highly educated, revolutionary and industrious people fare so poorly in the development spheres? To put it bluntly, how can such a rich people remain so impoverished? What is it that we, our former liberation heroes and general leadership have been doing so wrong that we fail so dismally to thrive and beat the usual threats to ours and future generations wellbeing?

Many Afrocentric scholars have offered that Afrika has to create its own path to economic and social development. Yes, we can an should play our part in this world of capitalist /neoliberal competition, but that part should be clearlly defined by Afrikans, united in purpose with definitive collective goals.

We have harped on and on about the practical value of Afrikan and Black people’s unity, but perhaps our voices are not audible enough to the powers that purport to be. Our voices are hoarse and our minds and hearts often grow weary, yet there are still so many untried avenues. Perhaps we have been going about it the wrong way. In the words of S.M.E. Bengu, we have been ‘Chasing Gods Not Our Own’. Is it not high-time we strive towards making Indigenous Knowledge Systems part of our training/education in the formal education circles? It is not enough to host numerous conferences and write thick volumes and actively pontificate on pulpits and social media. Yes, Afrika must wake up, but the awakening must not be towards contributing so gallantly to economies or systems that have not improved our wellbeing. Even the institutions that monitor and claim to promote our progress must be re-evaluated from an Afrikological perspective. We cannot continue to be appendages in a dying capitalist system. Former President R.G. Mugabe and the incumbent President E.D. Mnangagwa are clear examples of how power and opportunity are not enough to turn peoples lives around. Praise them or reject them, the point is not really about their individuality, it is about the fact that they represent a breed of Afrikans who are Christians and clones of their European foes. How can one honestly defeat the plans of an enemy they secretly admire and seek to become? There are so many examples of how many Afrikan leaders simply mimic the ways of their former masters in their daily living. They may speak their Mother-tongue and pay lip service to their respect for Afrikan traditions, but their general outlook is Eurocentric and verging on superstitious. It is power that is scared to dare to be different. Afrikan economies and the underdevelopment of the lives of Black folks are the direct result of detached and visionless leaders. We may react emotionally to the passing of these leaders, but until we question their roles or culpability in our mired existence, we shall repeat their costly mistakes. The institutions that our leaders depend on and preside over, are not our own creation, so are the borders and the monetary systems that we are fighting to control. They are out of control in-spite of us and our contributions. Let us no longer squander our gifts. Afrika must and can define itself. We can escape the double edged sword of contradictory economic growth figures. We can start by being clear that economic growth as well as technological advancement does not benefit Afrikans in any significant scale. We can also note that mineral resources have not benefited us neither. Then we can start answering the questions such as, when exactly will we rid ourselves of the parasitic corporations that make billions from the rest of the continent yet have not helped us to lead better lives? Again the onus is on our leaders, from the political, the business as well as the traditional levels. Afrikan leaders have failed dismally to protect its inhabitants from extractive and exploitative commercial farmers, minders and other speculators. Our intellectuals are merely playing musical chairs, writing about an economy in industries that WE DO NOT OWN.

Here is a brief look at some recent statistics from the African Development Bank:

This year’s African Economic Outlook from the African Development Bank shows that the continent’s general economic performance continues to improve. Gross domestic product reached an estimated 3.5 percent in 2018, about the same as in 2017 and up from 2.1 percent in 2016. Africa’s GDP growth is projected to accelerate to 4.0 percent in 2019 and 4.1 percent in 2020.

But even that growth is not fast enough to address persistent fiscal and current account deficits and unsustainable debt. Indeed, countries have to move to a higher growth path and increase the efficiency of growth in generating decent jobs. The 2019 Outlook shows that macroeconomic and employment outcomes are better when industry leads growth.

The special theme this year is regional integration for Africa’s economic prosperity—integration not just for trade and economic cooperation but also for the delivery of regional public goods.

New research for this Outlook shows that five trade policy actions could bring Africa’s total gains to 4.5 percent of its GDP, or $134 billion a year. First is eliminating all of today’s applied bilateral tariffs in Africa. Second is keeping rules of origin simple, flexible, and transparent. Third is removing all non-tariff barriers on goods and services trade on a most-favored-nation basis. Fourth is implementing the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement to reduce the time it takes to cross borders and the transaction costs tied to non-tariff measures. Fifth is negotiating with other developing countries to reduce by half their tariffs and nontariff barriers on a most-favored-nation basis.”

Lastly, David Manang, former Mines Minister and Second In Charge at the Exchequer in Botswana, had this to say in his book, Delusions of Grandeur: Paradoxies and Ambivalence in Botswana’s Macroeconomic Firmament:

“Botswana’s territory is a 582, 000 km affair. The population therein is a sparsely distributed 2 million. The proportion of unused land is practically infinite. Yet land acquisition both for citizens and investors is one hell of a headache. The hurdles in land acquisition are in fact one of the most commonly cited impediments to investment besides immigration permits. —Government, as the primary provider of serviced land, is guilty of failing investors big time. Puzzlingly, it is not aware that it is its own road-block to inward investment traffic in this regard.”

That sums it up.

As we say Rest in Peace to Robert Gabriel Mugabe aka Gushungo, let us make sure as younger Afrikans, to not repeat the gullible and arrogant mistakes of our ancestors. Afrika can still create its own path to prosperity and we do not have to do it in any one’s terms. Who ever seeks to do business with us can do it in our own way. But We Must Find The Way.

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