A friend of mine last night invited me to a debate in which many said they had the answers to why,even today, the biggest export from Africa is media-ridden poverty! The words thrown around, left, right, center by one side were: theocracy, dictatorship, democracy, totalitarianism, third world, development, savages, heathens, ignorant, elections, arbitrary arrests, genocides, regime un-changes. One other side threw words like: centralism, constitutionalism, elections, tolerance, welfare, elderly support, expression, conservation, re-use, recycle, beware of vicarious tendencies, safety and empowerment. A form of leadership that encourages stewardship will be of advantage to Africa. By stewardship all the people are empowered to take on roles to improve on their communities. Leaders are created in various spheres and not only at government level. I looked at the Ghanians, Nigerians, South Africans, East Africans and few other Africans among the many faces of people from other parts of the world. I sat next to three persons from Bhutan and Nepal. I felt so happy,I was invited here.
The people of Africa were lumped into a common nomenclature e.g. Bantu, Luo, Kush, Berber, Arabs, Caucasian to name but a few. The 'Bantu' collective followed a common term in their language e.g., 'ntu' root of various words from the tribes in South Africa, Ethiopia, East-Africa, Central Africa to Nigeria for the 'Bantu.'They also have a common term for the multitude lakes in their region,' nyanja'. May be a better collective would be the 'Banyanja.' It carries with it a linkage to a resource that gives them image. They may even be motivated to conserve lakes. By extension they could also conserve other resources. Another collective was 'Hamites' for the tribes known to move about following their cattle which in turn followed pasture. Their forms of governance were dismissed. Perhaps one should look into 'Bantucracy' or 'hamitcracy' that enabled a tolerance over border lines among the tribes. This was a key point more than who is voted into power on expiration of a term. Africa managed to feed its almost a billion population without ever having to get food from outside the continent. It traded with Phoenicians who brought banana plantains, sorghum, millet and maize (corn). These did well in Africa, By 1000AD they were staple.
Then came a form of an immensely extractive trade that took so much out of Africa from around 1400-1900: Wanton pillage; Young/able-bodied human resource (in form of slaves); destruction of African Kingdoms and chieftainships; making bargains that extracted valuable minerals out of Africa without value-for-resources-taken returns; and then came a series of climatic blows, The Sahara desert on one northern end of Africa; Kalahari and Gobi on another; rift valleys; change in rainfall patterns and pestilences. The pestilences were in form of tsetse flies, mosquitoes and plant viruses. These led to the deaths of large populations.By 1895, Africa was subjected to systems and mechanisms that progressively made it a pauper! Centers of economic power and control were no longer in the hands of Africans. On the large assembly-line that is development, Africans were trained to be obedient to anything that reversed their own development. They fueled development in other places such as Great Britain or Europe or Asia. In the process they were draining their own continent but promoting a legacy of pauperism/poverty. This is what was passed on to the next generations gun, stock and barrel. Systems that continue to make Africans paupers are in place even today.
One can say from 1400 to end of 20th Century, Africans needed to be trained and empowered to engage in development that commensurated with that of those people who came to trade with or evangelize or conquer the 'savages.' On that negotiation table and in that small print, there should have been the spirit to commit to train, empower and establish structures ( built and non-built). It was possible to do all this in Africa and indeed it was done. Large cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria were built around the same time good European or American or Singaporean mega-cities were built. Guess what happened! They were mostly reserved for others and not indigenous Africans. These were put in Kibbutz or Bantustans! But that will be a subject of another day.
After four hours, I left the place knowing we are looking for answers in the wrong places. We need to measure how much destruction was caused to Africa from say, 1300-1900. Poverty in Africa is caused by extraction and leakages that need to be stopped. Newer forms of negotiation need to be put in place. trade with other parts of the world is of advantage to Africa but needs to involve Africans and the negotiators need to allow to take on a stewardship role. Poverty in Africa is historical and a legacy! It is a rogue wave hitting the present day generational shores! If we can know this, then can we begin to identify where we need to put barriers and stop leakages.