In the past decades, African visionaries and progressive thinkers have not stopped calling out to African nations to break free from Western prescriptions to cure their problems. Sadly, Africa continues to swallow these Western pills even to overdosing, thereby creating new problems for themselves, while the continent continues to get sicker by the day.
Without mincing words, if Africa wants to achieve prosperity and gain an identity of its own, beyond being the former colonies that depend on their ex-colonial masters for survival, the time to wake up is now.
It continues to be shocking how Africa, being the second largest continent in the world, and blessed with human and natural resources in excess, remains poor, sick, riddled with insecurity, badly governed, and nearly hopeless.
Africa has been independent for over half a century, but what does the continent have to show for it? Only problems that suck in the continent like quicksand, as it continues to reach out its hands to the rest of the world, hoping to be saved in the nick of time. But there is a sound of awakening. The drums are sounding, and the leaders of Africa must understand the message in the sound. The message is clear ‘pick up your sword and battle your demons’.
Africa is plagued by a lot of demons; from unemployment to insecurity, dependence on importation, financial dependence, and even poor healthcare.
It is time to completely assess these issues and find home-grown solutions to them.
Unemployment in Africa
Africa has been blessed with the youngest population in the world, with about 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, and the potential to double that population by 2045. Sadly, more than half of that population is either unemployed or underemployed. A part of the other half has moved to other countries in search of greener pastures.
What have African governments done about that? They have depended on the Western world to release grants to support these young people while asking them to create jobs for themselves amid a highly unconducive environment.
Every year, more startups are shutting down due to insufficient funds as foreign grants can’t keep the entire continent afloat. Government jobs are never enough to keep any country or continent afloat, yet African leaders ignore the public sector; the very place where its salvation lies.
How difficult is it for African leaders to see that they need to create policies that create a conducive and competitive private sector to support job creation, business growth, and economic revitalisation?
With sound fiscal and monetary policies, good governance, an improved investment climate, and a drop in corruption, local and foreign investments will roll in without having to go cap in hand to beg for them. African governments also need to make long-term investments in the private sector, manufacturing industries, and agriculture, thereby creating employment opportunities for African youths.
Health Care and Disease in Africa make up nearly 17% of the world’s population but is also the source and base of over 24% of diseases in the world. The continent continues to be plagued by poor healthcare systems, lack of access to existing healthcare facilities, insufficient healthcare practitioners, and a lukewarm disposition towards healthcare by its governments.
Rather than invest in the health sector, African leaders and its elites continue to travel around the world in search of medicare. Africa currently spends about $6 billion on outbound medical tourism yearly in a very obvious case of ‘penny wise, pound foolish’. If the continent invested that much in its healthcare industry over a decade, Africa would be on its way to becoming a healthcare tourism destination.
Instead, the continent is battling infectious diseases such as respiratory diseases, Tuberculosis, measles, diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS, and a list of others. We must not forget Malaria that continues to kill millions of Africans yearly.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa was home to 95% of Malaria cases and 96% of Malaria deaths in the world, with kids under 5 accounting for about 80% of all Malaria deaths in the region.
Currently, over 10 million disease-related deaths occur in Africa every year. Sadly, most of these diseases can either be treated with the right drugs or prevented by vaccines, but Africa seems to have no interest in developing its own vaccines or even producing drugs. Still, approving funds to get these vaccines and drugs is also a problem for African leaders. The continent continues to wait for foreign bodies like the WHO, USAID, Gate Foundation, and a list of others to send in vaccines, sponsor healthcare programs, and provide drugs for its citizens. Meanwhile, the solution lies in supporting local vaccine and drug production, investing in healthcare, and creating clean and healthy environments for citizens. A country like Nigeria, for instance, has her healthcare budget as one of the lowest, and will still take a cut of that budget whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The same healthcare workers that aren’t valued in Africa leave the continent and become very influential in the health sector of other continents, even producing these drugs and vaccines for other Western nations.
Traditional medicine is also largely frowned upon by African governments, even though it has the potential to solve the continent’s health problems like we have seen it in Asian countries. African leaders only appreciate what is foreign, even as they obviously can’t afford, or don’t care enough to afford them for their citizens.
The Insecurity problem in current-day Africa is plagued with recurring intra-state conflicts that have engulfed many countries and extended to neighbouring regions. Violence and instability continue to occur, with short periods of peace that are over before people can heave a sigh of relief.
Currently, the crises in South Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic continue to exist, leaving destruction, death, and poverty in their wake.
While some African countries facing relative peace might be tempted to thank their stars and look away, they must understand that increasing cases of violent conflicts on the continent will often affect other countries within the continent, and could even have negative effects on their economy and development strides.
Over 70% of civil wars in Africa are characterised by cross-border violence, owing to the increasing numbers of terrorist groups, militias, and peripheral rebel groups that cross borders to perpetrate violence, such as Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Shabaab in East Africa.
What can Africa do about this? Wait for the US to send in soldiers as it did in Afghanistan only to get back to square 1 after many years? Seek foreign aid to purchase weapons? Or keep giving up its lands and resources to terrorists? No.
African leaders, especially AU member states, need to sit down, create, and implement conflict-prevention and peacebuilding strategies that can work throughout the continent.
The continent needs to explore local solutions to conflict, conflict recurrences, and understand the different types of conflicts and their courses, as well as the best way to handle them.
African leaders need to tackle poverty and inequality, which has often led to several agitations and violent breakouts throughout Africa, create religious tolerance, stop exploiting ethnic and religious differences for their own gains, and implement political reforms that will tackle the structural causes of insecurity on the African continent.
Africa must be quick to realise that no amount of aid coming into the continent can rescue its dying economy and solve its economic issues. Similarly, no amount of debt forgiveness will save it from perpetual debt. This is because its leaders are always on their marks, waiting to go beg for another aid or take another loan once they are relieved of the previous ones.
African leaders cannot continue to wait for other continents to swoop in at the nick of time to feed their starving population and feed the sick before they die.
Transparency in the handling of the aid becomes even another issue. It might shock you to know that most of the aid the continent receives every year is mismanaged and poorly accounted for.
Financial aid aside, one must ask ‘why have leaders of African countries continued to have weak tax collection systems? Both small and mighty get away with nonpayment of taxes, especially the multinationals that should be remitting billions into the coffers of the continent.
If African countries don’t invest in forensic accountants to audit and bring these companies to book, and also overcome the inherent tendency to allow friends of the government to get away with tax failure, then the continent stands no chance at doing well economically. The countries and their citizens might as well get their hats in hand and prepare to go begging for everything.
The unholy passion for importing everything; even things that can be manufactured within Africa is something that must die. With over 600 million people using mobile devices in Africa and purchasing them every few years, has the continent ever thought about producing phones? Instead, they would rather import from Europe and Asia; continents that have even fewer mobile device users, but have invested in producing them just so Africans can scrape funds together to purchase them.
Countries like Nigeria have talked tough about ending importation and even closed their borders to the importation of things like rice, tomato paste, poultry, spaghetti/noodles, and even cement. However, the government failed to make sufficient investment in the local production of these items, thereby leading to a hike in prices of the few items available in Nigeria, and even a booming illegal importation market for these things. In the end, the nation is losing both ways.
Poor Regional Integration
If Africa is truly ready to move away from a reliance on Western assistance, African leaders need to improve regional integration and set up initiatives that will sustain development and encourage long-term prosperity throughout the region.
Sadly, it is easier to carry out trading activities from African countries to Asian nations like China than it is to trade goods between East and West Africa. It is also more difficult to travel across African countries with an African passport than it is with an international passport. This situation is nothing short of shameful.
African nations need to embrace other African countries as partners and not competitors for the attention or resource of the Western world. Intra-African trade needs to be increased if there is any hope of increasing economic growth, industry competition, developing local infrastructure, and improving productivity.
A basis for a free trade area across Africa must be laid down and adopted by all African countries without the delays and slow progress the continent is currently facing.
African countries must accept that we need each other to survive, and regional integration is the first step toward achieving that.
Good Governance and leadership hold the solution
All the solutions that have been laid down would be dead on arrival if Africa continues to be plagued by bad governance. Good governance is the only way by which African leaders can deliver all these solutions to their countries and the continent as a whole.
The African continent needs enlightened, dedicated leaders who can look away from personal gain, and focus on building a continent that their citizens deserve.
Many insecurity challenges throughout Africa have been products of bad governance, negligence of duties, violent and rigged elections, as well as unaddressed poverty and religious conflicts.
In conclusion, no matter how bad the problem is, good governance makes it easy to solve them. So, governance is key to Africa finding solutions to its problems and these solutions are all domiciled in Africa.