By Owei Lakemfa
Africa panics when there are changes in world politics or policies; from Brexit to the Trump triumph. A primary reason is, we mirror ourselves in the image of others and accept their development model. But we can only be ourselves not the duplicate of others.
Europe built its development on the back of its colonies and watered its seeds with the blood of the colonised. It was the colonies that provided it with raw materials for its factories, minerals and free labour. Its vaults are filled mainly with the gold seized from Latin America and Africa. Those are its gold reserves. Its banks house monies stolen from the underdeveloped countries.
Europe did not come to develop or evangelize Africa; its primary mission was to exploit and loot. Whatever development we witnessed, were incidental to its primary mission to deplete Africa’s natural and human resources for the benefits of its peoples. For example, the railways were built at enormous costs including human, not because they wanted to provide Africa with mass transit, but mainly in order to link the sources of raw materials with the sea ports for cheap, quick evacuation to Europe.
Frederick Lugard, the British Lord and mercenary who assisted the British to colonise Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana openly stated in his DUAL MANDATE: “Let it be admitted at the outset that European brains, capital, and energy have not been, and never will be, expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy”
Africa has no such colonies and people to exploit, so it cannot take the same development path as Europe. Secondly, Europe had built its infrastructure using the colonies and the public sector; it would therefore be illogical for us to agree with a policy that our infrastructure should be left in the hands of the private sector.
To develop, Europe had forced the colonized to produce the raw materials its factories needed. These are called cash crops. Africa has no such option. We don’t have places to create new markets like colonial Europe had. We cannot hope for the mythical “free trade” whose meaning has evolved over time. In colonial times, it meant the imposition of European trade, and those who insisted on fair trade like Nana of Itsekiri and King Jaja of Opobo were exiled. Having cornered world trade and consigned Africa to the production of raw materials, free trade now means opening our markets and borders to all sorts of goods including junk and killing local industry like textile, while transferring jobs abroad.
In its latest onslaught against Africa, the European Union in October 2016, warned that it would refuse African commodities into Europe and take other punitive measures unless we sign the new instrument of enslavement; the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) This is in the logic of the European concept of development which is based primarily on exploitation, greed and profit.
In his analysis of the Western development model, Adam Smith, regarded as the father of capitalism, wrote in his WEALTH OF NATIONS that “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions.”
Europe’s development model leads Africa down the path of poverty, misery and underdevelopment. Africa suffers from lack of awareness and self- consciousness; the colonialists went after the culture of Africa and smashed it, building in its place, a culture of inferiority, a culture of dependence. The battle for our minds is perhaps the most important because without liberating our minds, re-orientating our people and re-educating ourselves, an authentic African development model will be impossible.
I am not condemning European development; we have beautiful buildings and cars, new urban centres and cities to show for it. But all these are modernization. In contrast, development is meeting the needs of the people rather than focus on profit. It is about solving their problems. In other words, it is about reversing the Western model of extreme poverty in which 1 percent of the populace has cornered more wealth than the remaining 99 percent.
Economists talk about comparative advantage; the comparative advantage of Africa is the nuclei family which is going extinct in Europe and America. In those places, a family may consist of a man and his dog or a woman and her cat. On the other hand it could be homosexuality.
So the African Agenda should be human-centred with the family at its core. The marriage institution is central to the African family with the woman as the centre of the family. She is the custodian of family values and central to development. The trite; ‘Build the woman, build the nation’ is a practical reality in Africa. The African woman is the daughter, sister, wife, mother and companion, rolled into one and is central to production and retail. Her ‘feminism’ is not Eurocentric; it is natural to her. Building the woman, is building the family, building the family is building society.
The young are also central to the African family which is communal. Children are owned, schooled and cultured not by the individual parent but by the community. Individuals have rights, but these do not supersede collective rights. These are our values threatened by Western culture; they should be at the core of our agenda.
Our culture is of the family providing social services; taking care of the young, the old, the unemployed and vulnerable. After providing for the family, our agenda should be to make every village or town, a centre of production. Colonialism and the current international economic system categorize Africa as supplier of raw materials, and the West as the producer of industrial goods; under this system, we produce what we do not need and import what we need. We have to reverse this. Especially in agriculture, we should produce what we consume and consume what we produce. We must banish hunger and want.
We should follow Europe in subsidizing basic requirements and production like agriculture. We should adopt the Chinese agenda of building mass housing, and its state intervention of taking people out of poverty. In other words, we should have an agenda that provides subsidies to the mass of the people.
Our agenda should include the right to work, shelter, education, food, healthcare, water, electricity. With these, we can build unity and ensure security and peace. With political will, determination, human capacity development, industrialization and collective resolve, we can build a new Africa from the ashes of the old.