01 Apr 2004 Addressing Africa’s Problems, by Michael King
I recently talked with some old classmates about the crises facing Africa. Contrary to popular belief, the crisis isn’t insurmountable once the real problems are identified.
Africa’s problems are legion. But the perception of Africa’s problems is, in and of itself, problematic from the start. Once the root problems are identified, the African continent should begin to see a renaissance that would be welcomed across the globe.
I’m not convinced, however, that there’s an easy way to fix the overall situation because no one can currently come up with a solid list of the root problems. Everyone points to things like starvation, disease and poverty, but many ignore equally pressing – or even more important – problems like slavery, racial strife and socialism.
First, there’s the political fragmentation and a lack of authoritative government. It’s like feudalism. The feudal period of world history was marked by tribal wars and skirmishes that consumed many and left deeply ingrained distrust and bolstered old ways of thought. Fueled by tribalism, feudalism must be addressed for Africa to progress.
No power has yet consolidated authority in Africa into singular governmental and economic entities as had happened elsewhere in the world. This must change.
Next, there’s despotism. It, too, is not solely faced by Africans. Zealots, dictators and would-be tyrannical warlords rule many African nation-states – hiding behind their race and their country’s perceived oppression as former European colonies.
Thugs like the late Idi Amin in Uganda – who was deposed – and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe – who is still backed by gangs (tribes in and of themselves) – rose over the past 50 years to impose their tyrannical rule. The West has ignored them. In part, warlords have been overlooked by those who feel criticism of such regimes is akin to racism. Also, the nature of these thugo-cracies is not perceived to be a threat to the West, and therefore ignored. This may be a costly flaw in judgment.
With the influx of Islamist militants into Africa, we can ill-afford to ignore them much longer. Despots and tyrants have gladly given aid and comfort to terrorist groups like al Queda and other enemy elements of the new world war on terror. Who’s to know how far they will forge these alliances for their own personal benefit.
Xenophobia is another problem. The so-called elite of Africa believes the West is “tainted” by Anglos. They believe this alone keeps them from moving Africa forward – ignoring the problems already mentioned.
By keeping an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude toward the problems facing the African continent, we are essentially poking at a hornet’s nest.
We must address despots and their acquiescence to radical Islam far more aggressively, lest the terrorists gain a foothold that will be hard to pry loose.
Feudalism, tribalism and xenophobia simply need a change of thinking.
This makes hunger, AIDS and poverty are essentially “band-aid” issues. Western charities are helping, but they must teach self-sufficiency. Biotechnology is helping to ease starvation through innovations in planting and longevity. Homegrown ideas like Uganda’s abstinence policy are successfully reducing AIDS.
Africa’s root problems must be addressed. The West, as hated as it may be by some on the continent, can help bring about positive change directly and quickly. Africa must accept this helping hand, and even our discussions here should further the case for bringing about this positive change.