“The responsibility for the failure of the AU to live to its expectations lies on our shoulders as Heads of State. We are all to blame for this. We must admit we failed Africa, we failed the African people. It is time that we change this institution to be meaningful and beneficial to the African people. This means less talk, more robust and people-centred decisions. We should talk only about implementing economic developmental decisions and integrating the continent,” Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo speaking at the just-ended Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government.
The Congolese president was joined by the Heads of State of Chad, Djibouti and Uganda, who equally decried the lack of political will by African leaders to transform the AU into a strong and robust institution that should work purely for the good of the African people and stop pandering to the whims of our erstwhile masters. These leaders went further to propose, among other things, that Africa should stop the dependency syndrome of relying on foreign funding for African Union programmes and activities, and reduce the agenda of the AU to only two or three topics mainly focused on economic development, peace and security and African unity and continental integration. They proposed that the AU should have business-like summits with no side meetings. This proposal comes on the heels of the task given to the AU Commission to reform the AU, particularly its meetings and functions. The proposal also comes in the face of too many side-meetings mostly funded by so-called development partners, attended by a multitude of international observers.
The call to reduce and do away with foreign funding for the AU programmes and activities and for AU member states is in tandem with recent calls by Robert Mugabe and Uhuru Kenyatta, who have repeatedly pointed out that foreign aid is not an acceptable basis for prosperity. One wishes that stance of the leaders of Zimbabwe, Kenya, Congo, Chad, Uganda and Djibouti could be backed up by others, not only by word of mouth, but by resolute actions. Unfortunately, the so-called big powers in the AU are paper tigers and the rest are mute or remote-controlled by those who would wish to slow down or stop Africa’s advance towards economic independence.
The pretence that foreign aid is a noble cause to help Africa is a fallacy and pipe dream. The campaign by international “cooperating partners” and donors to halt Africa’s match towards economic independence has become ferocious. The record of foreign aid to the AU and to African countries is an abysmal failure. The billions of dollars poured into the continent (accumulated from our plundered resources), have not brought or increased development. They have instead created dependency, a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth, poverty civil strife and wars.
No country has developed or became prosperous through reliance on foreign aid. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that foreign aid has made the poor poorer, economic growth slower, has made many African governments debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets, unattractive to higher-quality investment, and increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest. Indeed, foreign aid is an unmitigated political, economic, social and humanitarian disaster. Therefore, cutting off the flow of foreign aid will be more beneficial to the AU and to African countries. That is not rocket science.
Does Africa possess the capacity to eradicate or alleviate poverty? On a continent where the majority of citizens of almost every country live in abject poverty as if they were citizens of deserts, one is inclined to believe that Africa has no capacity to fight the scourge of poverty. Indeed, one could argue, very plausibly that Africa has no capacity to eradicate poverty. Such an argument is informed by and ingrained in our minds by the mental slavery that has inhabited in us through centuries of indoctrination.
As Africans, we have come to accept that it is normal to live in unnecessary frustration, hopelessness and poverty, die of preventable diseases or run to the West to gain appreciation. We have sadly accepted that we are inferior to all and sundry. The reality, however, is that the greatest crisis in Africa is not caused by HIV, religion, famine, drought or the ravages of war. All these things are tied to leadership in many ways than one. We have a serious lack of leadership to emasculate our continent from this sad mess and not challenging the policies of leadership is to engage in passive tyranny.
The failure to produce an African brand from the billions of tonnes of raw material Africa exports to the West is primarily due to the Faustian, myopic, selfish and mundane type of non-progressive leadership running the affairs of African countries. Leadership is not about how loud one barks orders to subordinates or how wonderful one’s speeches are. The leaders who will take Africa out of this mess are hidden or lost to the mismanagement and corruption that is bedevilling our continent. One of the greatest sins most of our “liberation leaders” have committed against Africa is the failure to engage the “tools for liberation” – those skilled, intellectual, hard-working, corruption-free, selfless revolutionaries who are now languishing in abject poverty, living in tents like refugees in their own countries.
There is no doubt that Africa has the capacity to end poverty. What is lacking is the will to do so. That will is largely locked in the hands of those who are entrusted to lead our nations and continent. The sad part is that our leadership and actually our entire disposition as Africans are articulated by our degree of dependency. While our abundant resources are being milked by Western monopoly capital our leaders turn our rich countries into aid dependent beggars. Endearing themselves to the West in order to appear “democratic” and exercising “good governance” is short-sighted and utter foolish.
It is about time African leaders start leading. Firstly, by making sure that our natural and human resources are utilised for the benefit of our people. We have enough skilled Africans to manage our national resources. We need an African economic struggle spearheaded by real leaders to extricate our continent from being a begging continent to the rich continent it is. Our leaders should be held accountable for the poverty afflicting our people.
*Dr Charles Mubita holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California.