According to a research carried out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), an estimated 50 billion dollars leave Africa illicitly every year mostly to Western countries while at least one trillion dollars have left Africa secretly over the last 50 years. About 75% of resources that leave the continent’s shores in secrecy are traceable to corporate tax avoidance in the form of trade mispricing by multinational corporations, many with headquarters in G7 countries; debt burden or colonial tax imposed on many former colonies; and criminal networks engaged in drugs and human trafficking, animal poaching, and plundering of natural resources, wood, oil, minerals, the flora and even the fauna. Only 5% of the illicit financial flows are traceable to official corruption such as payment of bribes and kickbacks by foreign corporations to government officials so that African countries can relinquish control of their natural resources and resource extraction operations.
These funds could otherwise have been used for investments in power supplies, schools, hospitals, housing, sanitation, transportation, safe roads and other much needed public services.
One of Africa’s foremost liberation heroes and anti-colonial leader Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) assassinated in a coup d’état in 1961, in his speech at the All-African Conference in Leopoldville in August, 1960 said:
The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists, all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.
Ironically and unfortunately, African governments who are supposed to support the liberation and development of Africa instead all too often merely replicate many of the toxic dynamics that caused much harm to those who grew up in colonial Africa and this has to stop.
Let us have the courage to face the facts and call things by their true names. Africa has the resources necessary to provide wealth, growth, employment and better lives for all Africans. Yet, Africans are suffering appalling hardship and are dying of hunger and disease as a result of the greed, lack of political judgement and the inhumanity of their leaders. It is high time African governments realise that they have a duty to ease that suffering as quickly and effectively as possible.
The Need for Credible, Independent and Effective Organisations
On the basis of our field experience working with most vulnerable children and populations across Africa; on-the-ground perspective of corrupt, oppressive, socially controlling and silencing systems; and our collaboration with grassroots organisations in the development sector, it is obvious that the answers to the most pressing problems in Africa come from the people most affected – Africans, and that the solutions to these problems are political and not charity.
What Africa needs more than ever before are credible, independent and effective organisations that will boldly challenge and break down structures and systems of injustice that stage coups when meaningful change is afoot, finance violence and wars for profit, use humanitarian aid to support despotic regimes, perpetrate genocide, topple governments, orchestrate the election of docile and subservient presidents and enforce colonial currency and colonial taxes on former colonies.
It will take the collective and integrated efforts of efficient, credible and solid organisations to denounce and combat deeply ingrained systemic injustices that allow foreign powers, with the wilful participation of passive and complacent governments, to steal African heritage items and works of art, plunder natural resources, mastermind and sponsor rebel groups, send foreign mercenaries to create a climate of fear and terror, displace populations and destabilise African countries. And yet all these injustices go unpunished.
These deep-rooted social and political issues will not be resolved by a single action or ‘one size fits all’ approach but, rather, by the individual and collective efforts of many aspiring for the same goal.
We are at a crucial turning point in our history, as a people and as a continent, where we should be making critical choices and taking prompt and decisive actions that will have a direct impact on the lives of millions of children on the African continent and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines any longer.
Now, more than ever, there is a clear and urgent need for credible, independent and effective organisations to make full use of their influence and do their utmost to speak out forcefully and clearly about the obligation of political leaders to ensure that the people of Africa have a chance to chart their own course, to reach their own destiny, to rule themselves and to build better lives for themselves and their children without foreign interference or predatory elements disguised as development aid.
The Need for Audacious Policies
Thomas Sankara (1949-1987), a revolutionary hero and visionary leader assassinated in a coup d’état in 1987, in his quest to see the liberation and development of Africa, left us with these words:
Our revolution is not a public-speaking tournament. Our revolution is not a battle of fine phrases. Our revolution is not simply for spouting slogans that are no more than signals used by manipulators trying to use them as catchwords, as codewords, as a foil for their own display. Our revolution is, and should continue to be, the collective effort of revolutionaries to transform reality, to improve the concrete situation of the masses of our country.
Although Thomas Sankara was President of Burkina Faso for only 4 years (1983–1987), he launched one of the most ambitious programmes for social and economic change ever attempted on the African continent in the areas of literacy, public health, gender equality, women empowerment, infrastructure, economic self-reliance, food security, environmental conservation, climate change, fight against corruption and debt relief, all without foreign aid or external assistance.
Thomas Sankara was a selfless and incorruptible transformational leader with a high sense of integrity who not only had the ability to articulate a clear vision and translate it into policies to change the lives of the Burkinabe people for the better but also had the aptitude to anticipate and lead on major development issues likely to impact future generations.
Indeed, the African continent would be a mighty one if political leaders, who use subterfuge to control the masses and get rich on the misery of the people they claim to serve, were driven by patriotism and public-spiritedness and if government policies were truly in the public interest.
Across Africa, there is an extremely urgent need for audacious policies to solve critical problems of grinding poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, air and water pollution, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality and low life expectancy.
There have been some observations that grassroots organisations have not stepped up to the plate in the past. A lot of charitable organisations pride themselves on their neutrality, and they explicitly stay out of politics. Trying to resolve existing problems without addressing the root causes of these problems is counterproductive. We cannot continue to accept fundamental injustices while trying to mitigate the consequences of the injustices. We can and must do better because as grassroots organisations, we have the opportunity as well as the obligation to pressure governments to bring about needed change. We must send a strong message out in favour of reform and accountability. And this accountability must start with governments so that our fine words about the values of independence, democracy and self-determination are translated into concrete action and tangible results for the children and people of Africa.
Our overarching goal at House of Mercy Children’s Home, Lagos, Nigeria (HOM) is to be a force for positive change. We will continue to challenge perceptions and existing practices and advocate for the establishment of audacious policies for child protection, food production, access to clean water, education, sanitation and basic health care so that the next generation and the generations that follow will live in an Africa that is far better than the one we live in today.
Call to Action
This call is a nonviolent response to poverty and injustice. To overcome the challenges we face, we must all play our part.
- Spread the Word
Our article Africa: From Neo-colonialism to True Independence is available in English and French at the following addresses: https://africa-wake-up.blogspot.fr and http://afrique-reveille-toi.blogspot.fr
We encourage you to share this article with family, friends and colleagues by email or on social media.
- Join in the Struggle for Social Change
Together, irrespective of tribe, ethnicity, religion, regional differences or political affiliation, let us raise our voices and call on African governments to develop clear roadmaps and policy agendas to address the pressing problems facing our nations.
Let your voice be heard until legislators, members of parliament, federal, state and local government officials and other policy makers pay attention and devise and implement policies designed to solve critical problems of poverty, malnutrition, child hunger, children living and working on the streets, child abuse and neglect, child labour, disease, illiteracy, air and water pollution, high infant mortality and low life expectancy.
We believe that together in unity our voices will be heard and our advocacy efforts will translate into tangible realities like access to primary health care, basic education, safe drinking water, adequate nutrition and a better life for children and families in every nation in Africa.
- Solidarity with Our Fellow Compatriots
Social change requires not only political measures and political decisions but also a wholesale change in the way we think and the way we act.
In the face of the extreme poverty and misery which so many of our compatriots are exposed to, we must all show solidarity and help those in dire need.
- Be an Agent of Social Change
Finally, we must keep discussing, not just with ourselves, but with our communities, participating in national and local debates, to express our views and to promote values of integrity, tolerance, love for one’s neighbour, respect for the sanctity of human life, civic responsibility and patriotism.
May it be said, in our lifetime, that a new generation of Africans with a different mindset stepped forward who changed the course of history and erased the shame of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, poverty, hunger and disease!
And may we embrace the future with the confidence of a people who know that in spite of all the great tragedies that have marked African history, the best of Africa is yet to come.