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December 16, 2018

Maybe Africa deserves to be called a shithole


I’m passionate about Africa. I have a deep sense of pride in who I am as a Black person from the great continent of Africa. I’m an Afro-optimist who believes his people will solve Africa’s challenges.

I don’t agree with many things US President Donald Trump says. He is condescending, a bully and disrespectful. So while it hurts when we are called funny names by unstable leaders, and disrespected, we have the power to change the narrative, but we just don’t want to. Let me explain:

We live in a continent where citizens are loyal to their leaders not on the basis of merit or ideas but ethnicity. Some people would rather endure a horrible incompetent administration run by one of their own than enjoy prosperity under the leadership of a competent person from another community.

While this may be attributed to our colonial legacy, we now have as the majority a generation that never saw the White man’s rule. They are connected to the world; they are educated and have a wealth of information readily available at their fingertips. When it comes to accountability and voting day, however, the retrogressive DNA of ethnicity takes over, rendering them powerless to rise above the petty politics of tribe.

It is, 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. Most founding fathers ransacked their countries’ granaries. They looted public coffers and built empires rivalling entire countries’ GDPs. While we might excuse them because that’s all they knew, the orgy of unsustainable debt in Africa now is inexcusable.

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 to save lives, loans that younger generations will pay for through their noses.

The four Asian Tigers of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were just like many African countries, colonised and messed up. Yet these regions are now industrialisd countries, providing hope to their citizenries. The difference between them and Africa is that while the former focused on nation-building, our leaders focused on personal pocket-building.

We deserve to be called a shithole when we negotiate unfavourable trade deals with foreign powers because we are more concerned about our selfish needs than the community’s. African presidents lead some of the poorest countries, yet they are some of the highest-paid. Africa is ravaged by poor sanitation, malaria, illiteracy, ill health, etc, yet corruption and sleaze are the order of the day.

Fifty years ago, when Black Africans took the reins of power, hope flowed across the continent like the mighty Nile, defying every obstacle. Independence decrees came as a great light of hope to millions who suffered untold injustices. But the majority of Africans are still not free from the threats that faced their hunter-gatherer ancestors.

The average life expectancy in Africa is 52.5 years, compared to 69.2 in the rest of the world; 91 per cent 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.

Ninety per cent of all malaria cases occur in Africa; 3,000 children die each day from malaria. The continent has failed to diversify her exports as one or two products account for at least 75 per cent of total exports in most of sub-Saharan Africa.

I refuse to accept that Africa’s future is so tragically bound to the colonialist past. I refuse to believe my continent will always be called ‘dark’ or a ‘shithole’. I will not accept the attitude of mediocrity justifying lack of progress. I believe 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 Prof 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.”

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