Wiw! I was stalking someone in my email box today and stumbled upon this article I wrote sometime last year.
Tbh, I don’t understand half of what I wrote and I frankly sound more serious than I usually am. It’s disturbing.
Seriously, I’m not this serious.
Five Barriers to Prosperity in Africa: Unchaining the economy through economic freedom
‘Proudly African’ is a phrase gradually gaining grounds. From shirt prints, to social media messages, to oral confessions and even to subliminal actions, being proudly African is becoming more of a trend and less of a fad. One wonders, however, what is meant by ‘proudly African’. Is it a show of final conceding by Africans to what Africa is gradually becoming? Is it an acceptance of the Africa that has been presented to us? Is it an embrace of Africa with all its thorns and pus rather than a confrontation of the root cause of these illnesses? Should ‘proudly African’ not be said through visionary eyes and a hopeful heart; through working fingers and dreaming minds; through firm stances and bold confrontations? I do not know. I ask you.
The aim of this essay is simple. It seeks to outline 5 basic barriers (amidst others) to prosperity in Africa. It seeks to demystify the path to economic freedom by listing ways in which Africa has done it wrong; but can do it better. The essay would discuss these barriers under the headings: The People, The Government, The Resources, The Law and The Conclusion. This writer hopes that every reader, upon completion of the essay, finds again in their heart, a reason not just to believe that a truly economically free Africa is possible, but to believe that THEY play a part in it.
Growing up, I was made to believe that Africans were dull heads – idiots who should only be thankful for the tariff and export laws of western countries which allow Africans export genius-inspired inventions and products from the western countries. It was confusing to me because my father was the smartest man I knew, my mother; the most hardworking and my classmates; my ultimate competition. I understood what the white men said on the television and in fact, sometimes, I could predict words and logic which would follow in their statements.
Africans are not dull or empty headed or brainless or slow witted or stupid or stolid or moronic or idiotic. No. Africans are smart people; as they are barriers to themselves. The average African person waits for new technology and opportunities to dawn on him rather than stepping out to it or creating these opportunities. And that’s a barrier to individual and invariably collective prosperity.
I am Nigerian and if I am so dull that I never learned anything in school, I have learned (and have had to experience) that my government is the one of the utmost corrupt governments in the world. Has it hampered our wealth generation and attainment of certain levels of prosperity? Yes, it has. When a whole country generates wealth by collective effort and sacrifices (taxation, fines, investments, forceful acquisition of property for public good e.t.c.) and then, a select few either choose to confrontationally steal these monies or misappropriate the funds, then the fiscal reality of such a country would be very depressing.
According to the Verisk Maplecroft Corruption Analysis in 2015, 6 out of 12 most corrupt countries in the whole world are African countries namely Libya, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Somalia, and Democratic Republic of Congo. In fact, according to Transparency International ‘Around 80 per cent of African people live on less than US$2 a day. Corruption is one factor perpetuating poverty.’ Is it surprising that none of the aforementioned 6 African countries (and indeed other corrupt African countries) are notable for great world-changing feats and buoyant economies. I would say no.
Do not get me wrong. African countries are blessed with natural resources ranging from diamonds, to gold, to salt, to uranium, to wood, to petroleum, to silver, to cobalt, to iron and a variety of tropical fruits. But maybe, just maybe, it can be argued that the abundance of resources coupled with the aforementioned barriers inadvertently bring unnecessary poverty upon African countries as a result of mismanagement and theft of these resources. Land, as a resource, is also mismanaged.
World economics has postulated that ownership of natural capital in form of land is a fundamental source of wealth. And yet, we see vast expanses of lands in African countries, wasting away.
The law might be an ass, but it also is the bit used in steering the country in different directions. The law, if made, implemented and interpreted properly can be a viable tool in ensuring prosperity in a country.
Take for instance, the law on accumulation and perpetuities which provides that no one should be allowed to alienate property in such a way as to assume control over the property in perpetuity. It limits the owner of a property and his successors to a time frame within which they have control over the property. This law, if properly in place, would ensure even distribution on landed property and would ensure that the future generations are not haunted by the so-called hard work or otherwise of their ancestors.
The Law is wide that its different faces such as taxation, commercial transactions, business law, investment law, foreign law and so on, are capable of affecting the fiscal reality and structure of a country. In Africa, however, the disregard for both the law and its development is a great barrier to prosperity.
The conclusion of Africans about Africa on the impossibility of Africa to attain stable, manageable and sustainable prosperity is a barrier to prosperity in Africa. If we do not believe it, how then can we achieve it? The fact that Africa started late in the race to prosperity does not mean we cannot attain it. Africa needs to develop; and not just in infrastructure or in wealth but also in its mindset – in the maturity of its thinking. We should not be pushed and prodded and begged and threatened before we take a stand to be the very best that we can be.
And that, is true prosperity.