From the fifteenth century to the present day, there have been ideological debates about Africa and her relationship with the rest of the world. Western pseudo- geneticist and evolutionist questioned the humanity of the African and suggested her existence on earth as just a mere savage. When that theory was disproved, the debate shifted to the inability of the African to govern herself and whether she possessed the skills and the intellect necessary to control her environment and society. All these challenges to the credibility of the African were made with disregard for history and Africa’s contribution to mankind.
The debate for our age is aid or trade?
Some argue that Africa must be paid reparation by the West, then the financial aid can be use to develop and sustain development in Africa. While others say we need both trade and aid. I say we only need trade. All the foreign aid and loans that have been given to Africa have produced no measurable result. No man will feed you and your family and then see you as an equal. This is about dignity.
On a civic level, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from the continent can network with their counterparts in the Western world to support whatever cause they are fighting for. From a governmental perspective, the leadership cannot progress when they agree to neo-liberal economic policies (which have not be proven to be effective) that cripple the economy, and turn citizens inept by removing shields and stimulants that make the internal economy grow.
If the African feels that he needs to be given reparations for colonization and unfair economic practices after independence, he must discuss those issues on a different platform. If he is to improve the current state of despair, poverty, and hopelessness, he must take ownership of himself and his country. Taking ownership means taking control of his environment and resources, demanding fair market prices for commodities, and setting standards based on the interest of Africans versus adopting foreign theories.
Trade cannot be taught to the African because we are capitalists by nature. Even in antiquity, men farmed and women went to the market. You can still see the entrepreneurial spirit today in Africa since the people do not usually benefit from the wealth generated by the resources of their nations. The economy is sustained by local traders. For example, oil does not benefit the citizens of Nigeria although Nigeria is member of OPEC and makes billions from oil; the money goes to run government institutions. There is no reliable electricity for industrial or home use (manufacturers and society’s elite use generators). Refined oil is expensive since it is largely imported, therefore making the cost of transporting goods high, again translating into costly goods. Very little money is invested in health care, education, and infrastructure.
The image of African leaders stretching their hands out to beg on the global stage is a reflection of their inferiority complex and incompetence as “leaders”. African leaders have a “come help us mentality” and if you need help as a government then you are incapable of being seen as a mature, responsible body and will therefore be treated like a child.
President Mobutu has more money in one bank account than the $5 billion loan the Democratic Republic of Congo just took from China to develop the country’s infrastructure, and that does not include his wealth from other accounts, palaces and vehicles.
What the average African want to communicate to the international community is that these leaders do not represent us. So when they are begging at the G8 or UN meetings, they are doing it for themselves and their cronies and not for the people. Western donors need to save their time and energy by depositing aid money into the Swiss bank accounts of African leaders, which is where the money is going to end up anyway.
What the people need are fair trade policies. We need the West to open their markets to Africa, not only for raw materials, but processed and finished goods. Continental Unions (e.g. cotton, cocoa, and cassava farmers union) need to develop and share ‘best practices’, bargain for block prices, and more importantly control market prices. The price of cocoa needs to be set in West Africa and not in Chicago. The wheeling and dealing of world commodities through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group must be reexamined. Changing these policies will bolster the entrepreneurial spirit of the African, create a viable wealth distribution system, stimulate the local market, and augur a sense of self worth. Besides, it is always better for a man to fish and support his family than sit at home and be given fish everyday.