Africa has uninterruptedly been a net-exporter of capital to the Western world since 1981. The thundering sum of US$400 billion is the total figure that Africa has transferred to the West in this manner to date. These are legitimate, accountable transfers, largely covering the ever-increasing interest payments for the ‘debts’ the West claims African regimes owe it, beginning from the 1970s. A 2010 study by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based research organisation, states that Africa may have also transferred the additional sum of US$854 billion since the 1970s (‘this figure might be more than double, at [US]$1.8 trillion,’ the study cautions), through illegitimate exports by the ‘leaderships’ of corrupt African regimes, with Nigeria topping this league of felons at US$240.7 billion. In effect, the state in Africa no longer pretends that it exists to serve its peoples.
These capital exports, legitimate or/and illegitimate, are funds of gargantuan proportions produced by the same humanity that many a commentator would be quick to categorise as ‘poor’ and ‘needy’ for ‘foreign aid’. In the past 30 years, these funds could and should easily have provided a comprehensive healthcare programme across Africa, the establishment of schools, colleges and skills training, the construction of an integrative communication network, the transformation of agriculture to abolish the scourge of malnutrition, hunger and starvation, and, finally, it would have stemmed the emigration of 12 million Africans, including critical sectors of the continent’s middle classes and intellectuals to the West and elsewhere.
RIGHT THERE ON THE GROUND
Yet despite these grim times of pulverised economies and failed and collapsing states in Africa, we shouldn’t ever forget that those who still ensure that the situation on the ground is not much worse for the peoples than it is, and so profoundly retrievable, are Africans – individuals, working alone, conscientiously, or working in concert with a few others or within a larger group to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide healthcare and some leisure to immediate and extended families, communities, neighbourhoods, villages and the like: the surgeon who not only works tirelessly in a city hospital, with very limited resources, but uses his scarce savings to build a health centre and an access road in his village with subsidised treatment and prescription costs; the nurse who travels around her expansive health district, unfailingly, bringing care to the doorsteps of the people who neither can afford nor access it physically; the retired diplomat who has mobilised her community to set up a robust environmental care service that has involved the construction of public parks, regular refuse collection and some recycling, after-school free tuition for children with a planned community newspaper in the pipeline; the coach transport operator who laid out scores of his coaches to ferry survivors of a recently organised pogrom 350 miles away to safety; the civil rights activist and intellectual who rallied members of his internet discussion groups within the course of a month’s intense campaign to successfully apprehend a contractor who was about to abscond with millions of (US) dollars worth of public funds meant for a crucial upgrade of an international airport initially built by the community; a stretch of individuals’ programmes of scholarships for students at varying levels of school life, provision of staff salaries in schools and colleges, the maintenance of libraries and laboratories in schools and colleges, construction and maintenance of vital infrastructure in villages and counties and so on. These are the authors busily scripting the path of the renaissance Africa.
To cap these phenomenal strides of Africans, the 12 million African émigrés we mentioned earlier now dispatch more money to Africa than the much-parroted ‘Western aid’ to the continent, year in, year out. In 2003, according to the World Bank, these overseas residents sent to Africa the impressive sum of US$200 billion – invested directly in their communities. This is 40 times the sum of ‘Western aid’ in real terms in the same year – i.e., when the pervasive ‘overheads’ attendant to the latter are accounted for. Thus Africa’s pressing problem in the past 57 years of presumed restoration of independence has not been ‘poverty’, as it is often uncritically portrayed, but how to husband an incredible range of abundance of human and non-human resources for the express benefits of the peoples.
A widespread revolution in the consciousness of Africans will hasten the realisation of a critical mass of the types of Africans described above – at all levels of society. Gradually, many fires are being lit. This shift in consciousness will feed into the strategic goal for change which still remains the dismantling of the architecture of alienation and subjugation posed to African existence and progress by the ‘Berlin states’ emplaced.
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* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of ‘Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature’ (Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011).
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