Cook: No hope for Africa?

Dec 112002
Authors: Oliver Cook

I have no hope for Africa. I should say that I have no hope for Africa’s future if it continues on its current path of post-colonial failure. The majority of the continent, specifically the sub-Saharan part, is suffering from a series of problems that have compounded themselves to create an environment that is practically inescapable.

These problems include the spread of AIDS, corruption, ethnic and religious divisions and, in almost every case outside of South Africa, under-developed economies. I am going to emphasize a few of these points to demonstrate how critical they are to the continued failures of African development.

To begin, I feel that an incredibly brief history lesson is in order. While Africa has historically been at the mercy of Europe and the Islamic world, it was not until the final decades of the 19th century that direct control over the continent began. The evolution of European economies and the rise of industrialization created a need for raw materials to fuel this process.

The Treaty of Berlin (1885) officially divided Africa between the several European powers that were to use their newly acquired territories and populace as captive consumers and workers to extract the natural wealth of Africa. After about 75 years of colonial rule, the European powers decided that it would be cheaper to grant the colonies independence, while maintaining their economic stranglehold over the individual economies. Part of keeping the extraction economy in place was to keep incompetent leaders in place and discourage massive industrialization.

Most of the 1970s and 1980s were wasted with intra-African wars, corruption, economic crises and famine, which led us to the present. Most of the problems of the colonial period, and the destabilization that resulted from the Cold War, have not gone away. In fact, one could argue that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s role in Africa is very similar to the role of extractive companies in the colonial period. I don’t have the space to elaborate on these institutions, but just understand their structural adjustment policies work in Africa just as well as they do anywhere else – or I should say that they don’t work at all, especially not in underdeveloped countries.

The one country that has gone against the wishes of the global development institutions, Zimbabwe, is on the verge of anarchy: economic, ethnic, and political. Another serious problem is the AIDS epidemic. According to The Economist, approximately 30 million sub-Saharan Africans have contracted either HIV or AIDS, while another 35 million children have been orphaned as a result of the disease.

This is a devastating blow to an already inefficient economy. The populace infected with the disease produces little for the economy, especially since the availability of cheap, generic life-sustaining drugs is such a threat to their patent holders in the West.

What such an epidemic needs is the implementation of a welfare state to deal with the effects of the disease, however due to the non-existence of funds to implement such a humanitarian program, that is not going to happen.

A further example of the terrible state of Africa can be seen with the recent riots in Nigeria. I think when over 200 people die as a result of ignorance and firebrand Imams, the time has come to begin reevaluating Africa’s commitment to maintaining their old colonial borders. Sometimes people can’t live together without killing each other, so why force them to like their enemies?

Africa’s underdevelopment is really the key to understanding the issue. It breaks down to the simple fact that Africa has no money and can therefore take no established course of action. I think that the time has come for a radical new solution to be presented on the topic of African development.

The people need solidarity.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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