Africa’s key strengths lie in its young population, women with potential, its big reserves of natural and mineral resources, especially huge reserves of water, vast arable land, hydropower potential and forests
It is a privilege for me to be invited by Pambazuka News to gaze into my crystal ball and write a piece about what I realistically see and share my thoughts about where Africa is heading in the next 50 years.
In the last 50 years we African people have consolidated our political independence, with the end of apartheid representing our latest greatest victory, although one would also say that the split of Sudan - due to Africans ill-treating each other – in itself representing our biggest setback, unfortunately. A setback because after centuries of slavery (both Arab and Western) and colonialism, we African people should not be drawing new borders, we should rather be transforming the borders we inherited from colonisation into a highway system that would crisscross the continent in order to lift it out of poverty (free movement of goods and people and not free movement of guns and rebels!). ‘If you want to get rich, build the road first,’ said ancient Chinese.
The above Chinese proverb already induces me to focus on where Africa is heading to in the next 50 years: to a greater economic transformation which will not only usher in economic emancipation but also economic independence. Economic emancipation because Africa will not be ‘economically a baby still’, an under-age whose economy will still not surpass the primary sector (mere export of raw materials); but it will reach adulthood, that is to say, the African economy will reach both the secondary sector (transformation of raw or intermediate materials into goods e.g. manufacturing steel into cars, or textiles into clothing) which in itself will boost the tertiary sector ( supplying of services to consumers and businesses).
Economic independence because Africa will deal with the rest of the world only on its own economic and political set of rules, conditions and terms (and not terms set by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Western think tanks…); notwithstanding the fact that we are in the era of globalization. Even so, we see France taking ‘nuclear weapon’ powers to block American takeovers in the name of ‘economic nationalism’. Francois Hollande’s intervention in Alstom potential takeover by US giant General Electric proved that Western governments often intervene in the affairs of national companies when core national interests (jobs and national prestige) are at risk. But then, when we take into consideration the CFA Franc which is controlled by the French Treasury, as well as the maximum control of the Ivorian economy by French companies (the presidential palace, the house of parliament in Ivory Coast are still private properties of the French State and Ivory Coast is just a tenant, actually paying a rent to France), we realize that the same France which often tells African countries ‘to open their markets’, practices ‘economic nationalism’ itself. And so we ask: Is globalization just for Africans?
Africa’s key strengths lie in its young population, women with potential, its big reserves of natural and mineral resources, especially huge reserves of water, vast arable land, hydropower potential and forest (including diverse fauna and flora). There is no reason why Africa should not consolidate its own financial power in the next 50 years because, unfortunately, ‘to date, the majority of funding for projects in Africa comes from external partners. This situation cannot last longer without jeopardizing Africa’s independence, its ability to decide, its future, in fact, its own very existence’, as President Joseph Kabila put it in his opening speech at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Summit held in Kinshasa at the end of February 2014.
In the next 50 years, I see Africa, at national and regional levels, economically transforming rural Africa, for if you develop the rural areas and eradicate poverty there, there will be few youth roaming around with a gun ‘to make a living’. Unemployed and uneducated youth are easily manipulated to join rebel groups. In the next 50 years, I see education opportunities open to all, independent of their background. I see not only new universities in which green economy (environmental protection), medicine, science and technology etc. will be core subjects, being established everywhere throughout the continent, but also vocational schools whose graduates will do jobs that pay well (construction, mechanics, carpentry, upholstery, dressmaking, shoemaking, hairdressing, and other crafts). PhDs alone are not enough to rebuild the country.
In the next 50 years, both rural and urban Africa will beam and boom with modern infrastructures, thanks to our cooperation with China. Rural Africa will be modernized, enjoying access to health care, education (including alphabetization of adults), clean drinking water, clean public toilets, electricity, telephone, radio and television, transportation (trains, aircraft, boats and bus lanes) linking major cities to the hinterland (this will put an end to rural exodus into cities), a mechanized agriculture and so on. In short, an industrialized economy based on the transformation of our resources on the spot to create jobs and markets (developing our own technologies) to change the lives of our people instead of continuing to export our resources still unprocessed in the 21st century! In the next 50 years, Africa will cease to be a continent relying on humanitarian aid and following the orders of the IMF and the World Bank, while the majority of African people must just be content with crumbs while the elite at the top of the State surreptitiously enrich themselves. Africa will be able to develop its own technology to manufacture what it can produce locally and import only the essential.
In the next 50 years, Africa will make of conflicts, human rights abuse, lack of transparency in the management of public affairs, hunger and malnutrition, disease and poverty, corrupt regimes, GDP growth without jobs and change in the living conditions of our people, things of the past and will become the driving force of the world economy.
In the next 50 years, I see African scholars making sure Africans become the subjects of the research and not just objects of the research and will themselves be the first to systematically articulate Africa's philosophy of life and African ideology; unfortunately because, as Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda once put it, ‘to date, whether it is in literature, philosophy, politics, economy or art, there is very little output about Africa by Africans themselves. Our ‘freedom’ today is fought for by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International; our ‘press freedom’ is fought for by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders; our ‘civil wars’ are ended by UN peacekeepers; our ‘refugees’ are fed by UNHCR; our ‘economic policies’ are determined by the World Bank and IMF; our ‘poverty’ is fought by Bill Gates, Bono and Jeffery Sachs; our ‘crimes’ are adjudicated upon by the ICC; our ‘liberation’ is achieved through NATO war planes; our elections are monitored by Europeans and Americans’ and they are the judges’. That is why Muammar Gaddafi talked about one African government, army, passport, justice system, currency… No African country can develop alone in isolation; and the security or lack of security of one African country immediately affects the security of other African countries.
In the next 50 years, I see the land reform complete throughout Southern Africa, wealth redistribution becoming a reality in South Africa where 80% of national wealth is still in the hands of 5% of whites. Equitable redistribution of oil wealth in oil-producing African countries will also become a reality.
In the next 50 years, I see the Democratic Republic of Congo, the heart of Africa, really pumping blood to the rest of the continent in terms of hydropower and agricultural goods, modern gadgets manufactured in the DRC out of coltan there and benefiting all other Africans, and so on. In the next 50 years, Congo will become the centre of the sun’s radiance for all of Africa, as Patrice Lumumba put it in his independence day speech on 30 June 1960.
In the next 50 years, I see Hutu and Tutsi and other ethnic groups reaching a consensus on power sharing in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and living in peace. I see South Sudan and North Sudan reconciled and trading with one another, all the tribes in Libya, South Sudan emphasizing unity. I see religion (whether Islam or Christianity) becoming a less important factor in the interaction between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, in the relations between Kenya and Somalia, within Egypt, Nigeria, Central African Republic, I see slavery of Black people coming to an end in Mauritania and the problem of Western Sahara in Morocco resolved for good and so on. I see all Africans only fighting against their common enemies which are poverty and under-development, and which affect every single African country whether they are Muslim or Christian. I see peaceful transfer of power taking place in each country throughout the continent after incumbents have done their 10 years at the helm and proven what they are capable of or not.
In the next 50 years, I see Africa benefiting from a pool of manpower and expertise from the African Diaspora and people of African descent who would return back home to rebuild the continent and achieve their dreams in the homeland.
In the next 50 years, I see a united Africa going the Chinese way as well as the South American way. The Chinese way because we have to rely on ourselves instead of continuing to be dependent on our former colonizers, protect our sovereignty and demand a new relationship with them based on our own terms, on mutual respect and win-win cooperation. We have to make France and other Western countries realize that they should stop ‘cutting the same tree branch on which they are sitting’ (African proverb).
South American countries are succeeding exactly because they have reached their own consensus instead of trusting the Commonwealth, Francophones, Lusophones, Washington Consensus and so on. As American progressive scholar Noam Chomsky put it, in the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from Western domination, another serious loss for America. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all US military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organization, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the US and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in American decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as ‘the backyard’.
In the next 50 years, I see the African Union becoming ‘a workshop’ instead of ‘a talk shop’, taking decisions that the continental body can implement relying first and foremost on African people’s own pool of human and material resources. I see African countries cherishing their membership of the African Union much more than their membership of the Commonwealth, Francophone or Lusophone. China has made great strides because it does not belong to any organization that is the vestige of colonization. China cherishes its independence, sovereignty and culture. Chinese people speak the same language and this makes it difficult for external powers to divide China. In the next 50 years, I see the African Union adopting Swahili as its lingua franca.
In the next 50 years, I see Africans speaking with one voice and refusing to be used one against the other – divide and rule and manipulation from outside – the way Rwanda and Uganda backed by US and Britain have just been used to invade Congo, killing 8 million Congolese people, looting Congo’s wealth and using rape as a weapon of war.
In the next 50 years, I see Africa busting those mechanisms such as IMF and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs, Africom - again, I call it Africoma because it aims to put Africa into a coma – as well as those churches, civil societies and NGOs which are being financed from outside, and which have been put in place with the aim of keeping Africa always down and last on the queue.
In the next 50 years, I see Africa taking care of its own collective security because without peace and security, there can be no development. In the next 50 years, I see Africans pooling their efforts together in the fight against terrorism and extremism, and to depose warmonger regimes throughout the continent the way Tanzanians intervened in Uganda to chase Idi Amin away, just as Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania intervened recently in Eastern Congo and defeated Rwandan and Ugandan forces per se as well as their proxy forces there. In the next 50 years, I see all foreign powers’ military bases on the African soil closed, including in Djibouti, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, Algeria… to name but a few. In the next 15 years, I see Africans who were chased away from Diego Garcia Island resettled there and foreign military bases closed.
Africa has not lost the plot despite its many challenges. The African dream will be made real in the next 50 years because our ancestors already told us that, ‘when spiders’ webs unite, they can halt even a lion’. ‘United, Africa will show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom and will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.’ – Dixit Patrice Lumumba.
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