JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
ONE American celebrity political commentator and author, Ben Shapiro, once said, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” That’s what he said.
If you are not familiar with Shapiro, please do Google him. He is a very controversial, lionhearted man who is not afraid to express his philosophical views no matter how uncomfortable those who disagree with him may be. I do not always agree with Ben, but I really admire his courage to speak his mind, even in an age of intolerance and cancel culture.
And regarding the above quote on facts, I totally concur. Facts may be hurtful, but we cannot alter them; meaning we must face up to them as a people.
And one fact, reality, we have to face up to as Africans, is that no Western leader or institution can rescue us from the horrible socioeconomic and political state we are in across our African continent.
With Joe Biden now in the White House as President of the United States of America (US), we have been told by many African pundits that Biden will be good for this continent – implying Donald Trump was worse. That’s the narrative propagated by Africa’s intelligentsia.
It is a false narrative. The record of history shows that western countries’ philanthropic and trade engagements have done little to improve lives of Africans over the past thirty years. The reason we haven’t seen much change, is because the problems are so enormous that no foreign person or organization can solve them.
Over the past thirty years, American presidents have had their individual signature initiatives in the continent. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was born under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 2000. George W. Bush founded the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Barack Obama founded Power Africa. And Donald Trump’s Prosper Africa was aimed at boosting trade and investment between Africa and the US.
These are not bad initiatives – it’s just that we need to be honest – these initiatives haven’t done and won’t do much positive change on the ground. With all these initiatives the US Presidents have had in Africa – the continent remains the poorest in the world – and the state of governance is deplorable.
The lack of progress can be attributed to African leaders who fail and refuse to reform their countries. And by reform, I mean pro-market reform – which is the kind of reform Africa needs to speedily improve the standard of living of its masses.
The countries’ economies remain repressed by government controls; and as a result, there is almost no investment flowing in and there is very little economic production.
The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom gives facts on where African countries rank on economic freedom or free markets. The Index measures the degree of economic freedom in countries around the world. The countries that rank at the top of the Index – meaning they are more economically free – have the highest incomes and living standards.
Over the past three decades, many of the African countries have ranked at the bottom of this Index – and they remain poor. This has been during a time when American presidents embarked on their initiatives to help Africa. And still, nothing really has changed. In fact, one researcher has pointed out that the number of people living in poverty has risen in Africa. Laundry Chandy of UNICEF is that researcher.
It’s our responsibility as Africans to change the continent for the better. And citizens have a responsibility to hold their leaders to account.
Last November, I was fortunate to be invited to the Africa Brand Summit down in Cape Town. At the summit, I interviewed the keynote speaker Kenya’s Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba. Lumumba said that Africans must hold their leaders to account – which I think was a powerful message.
Part of what ails Africa, in my assessment, is that the electorate is uninformed on matters related to politics and political history. As a consequence, they are easily manipulated by politicians whose goal is to accumulate personal wealth and forever cling onto power. This reality causes enormous damage to the continent.
Ghanaian Professor George Ayittey has written that socialism, government controls, has damaged Africa – and that the free enterprise system needs to be adopted urgently. Judging by what the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom tells us, Ayittey is right.
Cooperative relations with the US on matters of security and economic trade must be maintained. We have to engage Americans – for our benefit. But to think that Joe Biden will do wonders for the African continent, is short-sighted.
Our problems can only be effectively addressed by us. We the people, along with our leaders, must reform this continent for the better. PM
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI