I wager that this is the best time for the best neurosurgeons from around the world to gather in Africa to do a check on the leaders of African countries. It’s either they are into something we do not know or something is into them that they do not know.
No intent to insult an elder but I think the bunch of leaders of African nations, now in one inconvenient marriage called the African Union (AU) are mixing things up in what is an obvious deliberate mischief. They are pretending not to know that Africa is still manacled to the stump of underdevelopment. The AU, founded in 2002, an offshoot of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), a pan-continental baby birthed in 1963 as a 32-member nations body, is still behaving like a prodigal child with all the traits of wantonness and waste.
Rewind to 2007 when the late Muammar Ghaddafi of Libya once had a brainwave. The Libyan strongman, obviously in sixes and sevens, on the issue of poor leadership that cut across all nations of the continent, proposed a one government Africa. He proposed a United States of Africa to be superintended by one government, which of course had to be led by himself. That was when Libya was one fiefdom under Ghaddafi. He was goading African leaders to submit the sovereignties of their respective nations to whoever will emerge as the President of his proposed United States of Africa.
Put simply, Ghaddafi wanted a huge mass of land brimming with poverty-ravaged, war-wearied, hunger-stricken people to become his fiefdom. The Ghaddafi proposal was one of the highlights of the 9th session of the AU heads of governments. Strangely, he won some converts among whom was Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. Their argument was that a united Africa under one government would be in a better position to confront the challenges of globalisation. Pure mental indolence and lazy thinking.
Many analysts, including this writer, saw the concept of one-government Africa as diversionary, a convenient subterfuge for African leaders’ legendary leadership inefficiency. The problem of African nations is not because they are too small in population to compete globally. Ipso facto, their problems cannot be solved by merely bunching them together into a mega union under one government.
The real challenge of African nations is the absence of visionary leadership which promotes the rule of law and advances the strength of institutions. Any leadership that promotes impunity and is built around one man or a few ‘wise’ men who see themselves above the law is unfit for any community. Elsewhere, leadership is subject to the whims of the law and is accountable to the people. In Africa, the leaders are the law. This breeds corruption, sit-tightism, electoral manipulation, mutilation of national constitutions at the command of the leaders and their cabal, and paralysis of law and order.
Check through history. The strength of any nation is not in its size but in its productive capacity and human capital development. Put differently, a nation’s ability to survive and surmount the tide of globalisation is not in size, but in positive, visionary corruption-free leadership, the type that abhors crime and punishes same, the type that promotes the purity of democratic ideals and encourages free speech and free enterprise.
Africa has just been admitted into the G20 club as a permanent member and this is being mouthed as a huge achievement. Note that in this global club are individual nations. South Africa is the only African country in the G20. The exclusive group of smart nations is made up of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. No fewer than six Asian nations are members of this club.
Africa being admitted into this club in 2023 should not be interpreted as a massive leap forward. Rather, it should challenge African leaders to copy from the templates of other stronger economies especially the Asians. Becoming a permanent member of the G20 will not guarantee Africa any strand of development, what will engender development across the continent is for the individual nations of Africa to think local by encouraging and promoting indigenous production of goods and services using the abundant raw materials within their various domains. Without local production, Africa will only continue to be the chief supplier of raw materials to the G20 nations and others at give-away prices, in some cases free of charge. Without intentional local manufacturing and production, Africa will continue to attract pity, not patronage, from the G20 club. It will amount to economic hara-kiri if Africans begin to interpret the recent admission into the G20 as a measure of equality with the individual nations and bloc within the Group. It’s not. It will only give them more access to the hidden treasures in Africa without commensurate access to their wealth by Africans.
Perish the thought, there is no altruism in economic diplomacy. Western nations are flaunting grants and dangling gifts at African nations just so they would be allowed unhindered access to the limitless treasures abounding on a continent that takes pleasure in being pitied. A strong Africa cannot happen until a genuinely united Africa happens. That unity is not in the weird concept of one government, it is in free movement of goods and services among African nations; in the movement of labour within the continent, in trading of African goods among African nations using local currencies as may be applicable.
Ghanaians at a time were not welcomed in Nigeria; South Africans are still chasing Tanzanians and Nigerians out of their country; Nigerians will joyfully destroy South African investments in Nigeria at the whiff of rage; Ghana targets Nigerian businesses in Ghana, and Libyans will not tolerate other Africans, bar North Africans, in their country. The list keeps growing. At the end, it’s a fractured Africa with weak economic and political structures which makes it easier for the West to balkanise the most endowed continent on planet earth.
The reason for a weak and weakened Africa is leadership disorder. Because African leaders have failed their respective nations, they cannot even enforce the Peer Review mechanism at their disposal in the AU. Who will peer review the other when they are abusers of the rule of law, coup plotters and sponsors of coups, sit-tight leaders who mutilated their countries’ constitutions to suit their caprice, electoral manipulators and notorious thieves?
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) founded in 2018 was thought to be the elixir for an economically buoyant Africa. It was intended to be a platform for Africa to have a trade handshake with Africa. But check the statistics, intra-Africa trade is still a far cry from Africa-Asia trade or Africa-Europe trade. Some African countries would rather buy a product produced in Africa from a third-party Western nation rather than from a fellow African nation. Such disingenuous economics is only possible because African nations have long been afflicted by a leadership disorder, a strange disease that does not answer to pills and tablets.