“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
Did you listen/watch H.E. president Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech during the official launch of Global Entrepreneurship Summit, that was delivered at Strathmore Business School on 9th June, 2015? Well, I didn’t. I was most probably so focused on the so-called paper-chase that I couldn’t afford to even sit still and watch telly at the time, but I made a point of getting to read it (the presidential speech), because I have a vested interest.
It is sad that most Kenyan watuz know and celebrate the fact that H.E. president of the U.S.A will be visiting the motherland sometimes in July, but stubbornly remain ignorant as to why the president with Kenyan roots would be taking time off his busy schedule to visit the country. What is even more pitiful is the fact that the compact majority think such a visit will spell more foreign aid to the country. Well, so be the case, but why exactly are Kenyans and Africans at large rejoicing at the sound of that? I personally remain unamused by the allocation of a bigger foreign aid kitty to the motherland and I have genuine reasons for the same. So I will take my time and explain why foreign aid should not excite Africans more so the common wananchi! However, what’s not amusing is not so much the foreign aid, but the wanting African attitudes that need urgent fixing!
Hello Africa, you don’t need saving by the west. Only YOU can save yourself!!
I must acknowledge the fact that the initiative of an entrepreneurship summit on a global platform is quite in order and commendable and we all should take advantage of the same in a bid to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable growth and development in our capacities as developing nations. However, such great opportunities are doomed to fail at the worst case scenario and not yield optimal rewards at the best case scenario until we all realize two important aspects: 1.) That poverty is created and sustained by extractive institutions; and 2.) It is no longer what the west can do for Africa, but rather what African could do with the West. This is the agenda for everyone who, too, feels they have a vested interest (in the development of Africa).
POVERTY IN AFRICA
Diagnosing a problem is always the easier part, fixing it is quite the grueling other. It does interest me that more than a quarter of countries in the sub-saharan Africa, are poorer today than they were in the early 1960s despite having been receiving their share of the foreign aid. Doesn’t that kind of statistic prove to us that foreign aid is not the solution to the problem we have in Africa? In fact, the problems and challenges we face as Africans in the 21st century are mainly as a result of poor leaderships. Otherwise a continent this rich in mineral resources, stretches of vast beautiful landscapes, white sandy beaches scattered along the coastlines and an assortment of mostly friendly climates, should be developed by now! When I agree foreign aid is needed to some extent, I still assert that it will not end poverty in Africa, but will only continue to enrich the minority powerful elite class with access to the same as the vast majority continue to wallow in abject poverty as they wait for a messiah they know not much about either.
A good place to start in the quest to eradicate poverty in Africa would be that we all understand that poor countries are poor because they are run by extractive institutions. These are institutions that understand that for the ruling class to remain powerful they must control wealth distribution and allocation. These institutions wield immense power but have no concern for the common good of you and I, the watuz, they are not working for the benefit of the majority, they are more concerned with defending the interests of the elite, the only real beneficiaries of these monies. The institutions are not and will not be inclusive because they are build to be extractive in their very nature in order to retain the status quo or else the wananchi would become too enlightened and overthrow the ruling class. Poverty in Africa will only end the moment we rid ourselves of these malicious institutions and have more inclusive ones. Former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, captured it so well when he talked of what he referred to as the golden thread: It is time to stop speaking simply about the quantity of aid and start talking about what I call the golden thread. He further explained golden thread as the idea that long-term development through aid only happens if there is a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information. And if you ask me, that is perfect recipe for what proper inclusive institutions would be made of. Needless to say, we as Kenyans, cannot boast of a golden thread.. yet. I am only starting to forget that my president recently referred to newspapers as only good for wrapping meat..and everyone laughed, weeks later, in the eye of my mind I’m still transfixed in that moment, looking for the joke so I, too can burst out laughing at this subtle mockery on freedom of the media in the land of hakuna matata. Ha! Very funny..maybe not!
It is noteworthy that the road to salvation from poverty for Africans will not be a walk in the park, as will call for radical reforms in all public sectors. This is mainly because poverty for billions of Africans is the flip-side of elite power. The elite have amassed outrageous networths in wealth for themselves by rigging the economic systems in ways that ensure the majority are denied decent life opportunities. Needless to mention, that would definitely receive a retaliatory resistance. Maybe this would be a more meaningful read to most if everyone had an insatiable appetite for learning just how the world really works. Then we could strip financial markets naked and expose just how skillfully they’ve managed to cloth neoclassical economics in unwarranted complexity just so they don’t get challenged by outsiders. And when we finally lift the veil of complexity covering the financial markets, democracy might finally be a relevant tool to face down the vested interests of the minority wealth and privilege.
HOW TO REALLY HELP AFRICA
I am not sure whether on the agenda of those who seek to help Africa is a drilling session on REALITY TALK, during which they just give Africans the truth of the matter. We have one too many organizations and governments that just want to help Africa or so they say, but do these institutions tell Africa exactly what they gain from Africa as a result of such help? Do they also tell Africa that the truth is they do not have any lasting solutions? That Africa will forever be needy if they keep receiving that aid?
Anyone who really seeks to help Africa, ought to put this on their agenda: Tell Africans that the only help they need is to have proper governments that will mobilize the resources in the continent to : 1) Eradicate poverty; 2.) Achieve equal rights for both genders; 3.) promote human rights and freedoms; 4.) Ensure freedom of media; and 5.) Ensure integrity in government while upholding the principles of good governance
Also,you dear helpers of Africa, remember to warn Africa from over-relying on the west and China. In your quest to help Africa, tell Africans that people don’t just invest in anything unless they are benefiting. That the Western powers might sometimes induce shock in form of war, conquest, and terror so as to destabilize their countries and step in to help, and this is not in bad faith, it is simply ruling by what one Naomi Klein would refer to as the shock doctrine. Tell Africans that the western powers are power junkies and must always feel needed by the poor unsuspecting Africans, and it is just a way of ruling the world, nothing personal. 🙂 Tell Africans sometimes the Al-shabab and other militant group attacks have nothing to do with fanatical groups of misinformed extremists, but have everything to do with their saviors. Tell Africans that, as a matter of fact, the military interventions of western powers over the last two decades have caused more suffering and loss of life, and far greater damage to economic infrastructure than any actual terrorist acts! In that same breath, tell Africa that we only tend not to discuss that fact because we, Africans, are encouraged to believe that such engagements are well motivated. Tell Africa to stop being so cute and naive! Dear western powers, just tell Africa what it is. You will be more surprised when they forget it almost immediately! I am African, I would know how we operate. LOL!
See, one Aldous Huxley once said, “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all lessons of history.” He was so right, that I couldn’t agree more! So wake up Africa and allow yourselves to understand that you don’t need any saving, at least not by the west nor by China, for they, too, have a vested interest which is not necessarily aligned to the one Africa deserves to have for herself!
Let’s start by changing our dialogues to place ourselves strategically as key players in world economic contributions through entrepreneurship and innovations and prove to ourselves first, then the world second, that it is no longer what can be done for African, but what could be done with Africa if we set out to do it!
Help me put this on the agenda, for I have a vested interest…in Africa!
“A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.” – J.P. Morgan