Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Africa In The Raw

Africa is a continent known for its vast natural beauty and resources, but also for its abject poverty. For many African countries the journey from colony to full-fledge nation has been a perilous one. Because of its vast size and diversity of cultures, Africa to many is an enigma. How can a continent with so much natural resources and raw materials continue to suffer from crushing poverty and hunger? Africa has suffered and continues to suffer from the same problem that doomed the Native Americans, there is too much tribalism. By the time the Native Americans became a cohesive force the battle was already lost. Africa suffers from a lack of unity.

This is not to say that external forces have not wrecked havoc on Africa. The colonialism of the West has had devastating effects on the African psyche. It has bred a culture of distrust and animosity between those who share a common history and a common future. A future that could be bright for all of its people, if there were more unity. Africa not only needs unity between nations, but just as importantly unity within nations. There are too many civil wars involving tribalism, sects and clans. As long as there is division there can be no progress. A house divided cannot stand. It is time for unity in Africa. Some sort of loose confederation of states united in purpose, with the goal of reducing poverty and increasing opportunity for all Africans.

For Africa to overcome its many problems the West must begin to shift from the current attitude of assistance to one that will allow Africa to begin to compete on a global scale. Currently, the West is providing Africa with its own subsidized agricultural products flooding the local markets with cheap products and driving down prices for local farmers. While keeping the local markets depressed they in turn refuse to allow the African access to their markets, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty. We must begin to rethink how we provide aid and how we promote prosperity in Africa. By supplying Africa with these surplus products we are not allowing the local people or the countries from developing their own markets or exporting to international markets.

If the world is truly serious about helping Africa develop, then some tough choices have to be made in how they do business. We need to begin to move from just sustaining populations to the process of developing populations. We ship over all this aid, but how are we helping to develop their futures. Are we only postponing the inevitable and actually adding more misery to the people we claim to be trying to help. If the land cannot sustain the people that are there now, why are we creating more people to live on the land? If a land is uninhabitable shipping food in will not solve that problem. It may be a good short-term solution and look good on those charity infomercials, but it is not providing these people with the long-term solutions they need.

The industrialized nations have to stop trying to solve the hunger problem by dumping its subsidized products on the Africans. While this provides a short-term solution and allows them to claim they are helping to fight global hunger, but the reality is they are perpetuating more hunger in the future. These nations must begin to take a more long-term view of developing Africa and the leaders of Africa must begin to create the environment for growth and development. This has to begin with an end to tribalism, tribalism is what allows the rest of the world to camouflage their racism and to continue to treat Africa as a third-class world citizen. Freedom for all African citizens must become a reality for true development to take place.

We must begin to throw off the last vestiges of colonialism, which is being played out in African versus African violence. Ethnic cleansing and tribal devotion has to give way to national and continental development and freedom. Africa has the resources to surpass India or China’s economic development, the question is do they have the will and the leadership. They need for the leadership to unite Africa for the benefit of all Africans, as well as the pride and development of the Africans living abroad. We Africans that were taken into bondage all over the world and those who have chosen to live abroad can never have complete equality and freedom until Africa once again takes it rightful place in the world. As long as Africa remains weak and divided, we will continue to be treated as less than by the rest of the world. Africa must once again regain its educational and economic leadership position in the world for the benefit of all Africans.

It is time to invest not only money in Africa, but talent and knowledge. The current trend appears to be to export the raw materials and manufacture the goods someplace else, but until goods are manufactured in Africa, by Africans the cycle of poverty will never be broken. The development of Africa can only occur when Africans gathering the raw materials begin manufacturing finished products, and exporting those products. The cycle of industrialized development must follow this process. Africa must be given the tools and the capital to develop its markets both in agricultural and manufacturing, without the development of those two key areas we will not have enough surplus food to sustain them.

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