‘Governance, policy choices key to Africa’s development’
Nigeria and other African countries have been tasked to stop receiving economic aid from foreign nations, but to rather look inwards for solutions to drive development. Former Director of Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission, Prof. Patrice Lumumba, gave the advice at the sixth Goddy Jidenma Foundation Public Lecture held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said it was clear that since independence, African countries have experimented with different models of government, regretting that the perennial problems of poverty, insecurity, economic and civil strife and underdevelopment remain alive and well.
The Kenyan anti-corruption czar, who made the remarks while delivering a lecture titled: ‘Governance, Insecurity, Poverty and Economic Development: Whither Africa,’ described aids as tools by foreign nations to dehumanize Africans.
“The main reason Africans are poor is because leaders on the continent have made poor policy choices,” he stated categorically, quoting Greg Mills in his book, Why Africa is Poor, “Africa is not poor because its people do not work hard. Their productivity is low, because of various factors, including poor health and skills, inefficient land use, and chauvinism.
“A few, if any persons worldwide, could claim to work as hard as rural African women. Nor is Africa poor because it lacks natural resources. Compared to Asia, it is a veritable treasure trove, from hydro to carbons to hydrocarbons. Yet with few exceptions, these resources have been used only to enrich elites, spread corrupt practices, and divert development energy and focus.”
He added that whereas the solution to African development is primarily internal, African leaders have successfully, with the help of donors, managed to externalise their problems, making them the responsibility of others.
Making reference to another writer, Dambisa Moyo in her book, Dead Aid, the professor said aid is the fundamental cause of poverty and eliminating it is therefore crucial to spur growth in ailing African states.
According to him, “The consequence of bad choices is that many African countries have economies which cannot support their populations, most of which consist of young people seeking opportunities thus breeding insecurity and its attendant consequences. Africa therefore harbors a large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons.”
Linking the problem to governance, the guest lecturer said in many African countries, extant evidence shows that the promises of independence have not been realized, thus begging the question whether those entrusted with leadership have reneged on their duties.
In his words: “In many ways, therefore, Africa has failed, refused and neglected to define herself, with the consequence that she continues to be a pawn in international economic, social and political ping-pong game, thus breeding and exacerbating insecurity, poverty, social tensions which threaten her well-being.
“The paradox is that as frustrated young Africans seek opportunities in Europe and America, and lately in the Gulf countries, the Chinese, Europeans and Indians troop to Africa in search of opportunities which her limitless fortunes promise. This paradox begs the question, whither Africa?”
The guest lecturer also spoke about stability as necessary condition for economic development, noting that African countries since independence have had many coups which led to social disorder and the weakening of institutions which breed guerilla movements. Lumumba said the time has come for Africans to ask the fundamental question regarding the way forward: why do we continue to punch below our socio-economic and political weight? He said the answer lies in unity as the continent’s disunity remain its Achilles heel.
He said in seeking African solutions to African problems, two schools of thought could be discerned: the Afro-pessimists and the Afro-optimists.
He said the Afro-pessimists take the view that the continent will always remain in the lower rungs of the ladder of human development while the Afro-optimists believe that despite the headwinds that confront her, Africa can and will triumph in her quest to realise sustainable development. Lumumba said as an Afro-optimist, he believes like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwameh Nkurumah and others, that Africa can use her resources, human and natural, to catapult herself into the orbit of sustainable development.
He expressed optimism that the continent could solve her problems of poverty, hunger and malnutrition through advances in science, technology and engineering. Lumumba said his optimism is buoyed by recent events such as the Africa Agenda 2063 and the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFT), which confirm that Africa has recognised that she could no longer be a prisoner of the inherited colonial boundaries which undermine trade and free movement of peoples.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Executive Secretary of the foundation, Dr. Ije Jidenma, said Africa could not afford to give up, stressing: “There are already some shining stars that can be identified even within our continent. Rwanda, Ethiopia and others have recorded remarkable growth. This gives us some comfort. It also challenges us as Nigerians, the sleeping giant, to arise from our slumber and not drag Africa down. We must find a place to stand on to move the world. We owe it to the black race. Our humanity cannot be compromised.”
Also former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, in his contribution, stated that the country would not solve its developmental challenges except it addresses the leadership problem.
“It is not good enough that you can affect your society in different ways,” he said. “Dangote has not changed our economy. But the economy of Nigeria, the GDP in particular, the poverty rate will never change except you have a leadership with an economic mind and capacity and a mindset of transformation. It is our duty to re-orient ourselves to understand that this is our priority and we must make it happen”.
Moghalu, who said the electoral process has to be open and transparent and the vote has to count, since according to him, “we are calling for electoral reform, and reform of INEC as an institution; we can see that the capacity of the body, as constituted today to deliver quality election, is quite doubtful.
“And all we get is excuses. So we need electronic voting, digital voting backed up by block chain technology. That is what we need; people can vote in their homes and via their telephones.
“Electoral reform is job number one. All citizens of Nigeria must and should demand for it, otherwise our democracy will just continue to be very weak. In the last presidential election, 29 million people voted. In 2023, at this rate, if we have a total of 12 to 15 million votes, we will be very lucky if we continue to operate the electoral system we operate today. Who wants to die? Who wants to come out to vote and end up losing his or her life?”