It is sixty years Africans took back their continent. Ethiopia and Liberia have ran their affairs for longer. Yet, not a single African nation have broken the poverty chain or found the elixir of wealth creation. Not a single one! Why?
Kwame Nkrumah did say, ‘’obtain ye first politicsl freedom (independence) and other things shall be added. An idiom that has not come to pass. Past Alantic slave trade, neocolonisation, post independence, military intervention, the cold war, and world economic order are some of the reasons given for this state of affairs. Explanations based on or in geography and culture have been drafted to explain away the African poverty. These historical scenarios also bedeviled Asian history. Asian countries have risen and the west acknowledges that the 21st Century belongs to Asia, while laggard Africa still lags behind, waiting for the 22nd century.
Two centuries have passed since the last slave was shipped, we also have the third generation not born as empire children. Military interventions are rarer, yet it is more of the same. Some countries fared better under the colonial masters. Obviously some psycho-cultural issues still persist. Issues that precedes the coming of the white man. These are psychological issues leading to cultural obstacles to advancement.
Some examples; Africa is still in the grip of superstitious beliefs and ritualists remain on the prowl from Nigeria to Tanzania. Rather educational institutions opening up the minds of Africans, their products emerge with laden but closed minds. Seems the early prehistoric migration out of Africa took with them the adventure gene leaving Africans unadventurous. Could nature have played a role? No snows to expose our forefathers to the three states of matter. No northern lights to scintillate their imagination. No winter or fours seasons to hone their planning skills.
To the elephant in the room, SLAVISH MENTALITY. While the trade in enslaved peoples was stopped, slavery never left the African. Yes, we see little & overt slavery but deep in our psyche slavery persists, leading to several flaws in African societies. It cannot but be otherwise because the Caucasian race recognizing the evils of slavery made moves to abolish it. No input from the Africans, rather its abolition was resisted by some African chiefs. Meanwhile the blame for slavery is laid at the doors of white civilization. Notwithstanding the fact that slavery had always been an integral part of African societies way before the advent of the Europeans or Americans. Africans never showed abhorrence towards slavery having no sense of guilt in enslaving & selling off kin and kith.
No remorse or apologies have been offered African-Americans or Afro-Brazilians nor Caribbeans. Astonishingly, Africans are demanding reparations towards Africa for slavery !!! Double jeopardy. Time to deal with the bitter truth. We enslaved our brothers, shipped them abroad, Americas and Middle-East, no other race has done this. Today, conditions are so bad that we voluntarily make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to pick tomatoes, cotton and sweep streets. Who is enslaving us now? No, slavery never left the Africans and it is manifested in many ways on the continent.
Dependency syndrome: a slave does little critical or strategic thinking. His master does that. It is responsible for Africans forever looking up to their failing governments to do all things for them. When governments fail, we look to foreign-aid unashamedly. When this fails they extort CSR from the few companies around them. When that fails they throw up their hands and cry to God. No notion of self-emancipation.
Parasitic and selfish Elite with a perverse sense of entitlement: The elite move a society along to betterment. They comprise the religious elite, academia, traditional rulers, the officers and ,of course, politicians. They are the most educated and most enlightened segment of society. The African elite having taken the reins from the colonials accrued the lifestyle of the expatriates ,not mindful of the African poverty base. No thought of widening or increasing societal wealth before assuming colonial perks, car loans, quarters, holidays on and on. The military came and joined the fray. It is the religious elite now preying on the poor slaves.
A compliant people: To complement a master-elite group is a compliant and docile population manifesting the other side of a master-slave equation. The people willingly deify the leaders making themselves available as foot mats (Okotie Eboh Syndrome). They willingly keep the shackles on especially if it is put there by their tribesmen. Is it any wonder that strong man politics thrives in Africa ?
Finger pointing: The blame-game. It has never been the fault of the African forever pointing a finger at others for his predicament and the proverbial four-fingers pointing back. It is how the West underdeveloped Africa or the West are scared of Africa’s success. How would we get out of the quagmire when we fail to look in the mirror?
Power is right and a social PECKING ORDER: This is best illustrated with our road culture. Trucks and articulated vehicles are king of the road blaring their horns, (sirens are used by the powerful) for you to clear off the road or …….. Next the V8 engined SUVs claim the junctions and roundabouts at all times being bigger than the saloons. Then the motorcycles are disregarded by the saloons knowing the former will come out of a collision worse. At the lowest rung are pedestrians, easy pickings for the motorcycles and the tricycles. Indeed, might is right and the pecking order is the unwritten laws in a slave culture.
To compound issues, the elite exhibits and elicits so much angst against the poor masses. They enact bye-laws since the constitution is a mere window dressing documents that seek to protect the rich masters against the perceived angst of the people they have impoverish. Courts are there for the rich and powerful elite while the poor face the full brunt of the law. Poverty alleviation schemes are siphoned off by the elite bureaucrats attending regular conferences, seminars in posh hotels. I am sure we are familiar with signs saying “okada are banned in this estate”. It says a lot. Poor relatives will have to walk the final kilometer when visiting.
There is a need for a new African mentality devoid of the slave mentality. A new African devoid of superstitious thinking replaced with better thinking.
Why zero in on thoughts or the thinking of philosophers? This is because the civility and wealth of Europe is formed on ideas not resources. Thinkers begat philosophies, thinkers begat sciences, thinkers begat innovations, sciences begat technologies, technologies begat industries and industries begat wealth. More wealth allowed for more civility in the society.
The remnants of the slavish psyche is inimical to the ethos of creating wealth, so Africa remains poor. The culture throws physical labour at work. So little innovation which is the real motor of wealth creation. The culture views man as a dispensable commodity not a primer, not a gem. The culture demands a master who becomes the oppressive strong man. He is willingly deified by the people who act as accomplices of an oppressive state.
I thought it was the curses of enslaved peoples shipped across the Atlantic in inhuman conditions that held the continent back. It is not, though atonement might help. Without the curses, however, the continent will remain in bondage and penury because slavery never left the continent only captured peoples left. Slavery remains at home in the continent and in the mentality of its people.
Meanwhile, only free peoples, free in mind, continue to create wealth (Ayn Rand). That is the reason America has become so wealthy as they are both in mind and in spirit, the land of the free. Can we say this of Africa? Americans knowing the limitations slavery placed on man went to war to rid their continent of slavery. From then it has been upwards; eventually overtaking Europe.
I have been led to pen my thoughts as new development plans are on the table for elusive African renaissance. There is the African Union Agenda 2063 and the German Marshall Plan for Africa. The Marshall plan that worked in Asia and Europe is at risk in Africa without a change in attitudes. It doesn’t require a billion Africans to change, just the elite. A new elite that comes to terms with its slavish past and comes to hold a strong abhorrence towards it in all its appearance.
The question is how do we drive this change? “…………. none but ourselves can free our minds” – Bob Marley of blessed memory.
Written By Dr. Jerry Jaiyesimi