By Ayesha Borker
Edited By Nandita Singh, Senior editor,The Indian Economist
The word Africa instantly brings a desolate picture to mind – a land of backward civilians, the poor, homeless, and the diseased, in need of pity and help. A rather tainted picture, indeed, for a continent that boasts of holding ground to some of the first and most prominent civilizations in the history of mankind. Civilization – a concept first created by humans to move towards more organised and modern living. A case of sheer irony, as even after years and years of evolution, Africa struggles to find a foothold in the direction of a developing land.
So, what are the real issues Africa is facing and what has led to its stunted growth? The world definitely needs a better reflection of its reality, and pictures of malnourished kids and dying families certainly don’t contribute to the cause.
Africa is the world’s second largest continent and home to abundant natural resources. Its population is the youngest among all the continents; 50% of Africans are 19 years or younger! Despite such a young energy in its soul, the continent continues to trudge drearily thanks to corrupt government officials, illiteracy, and several military conflicts. In the early centuries, slave trade was prominent in Africa, which was then followed by domination of the European imperial powers. It is believed that one of the biggest reasons for the continent’s suffering has been its history of colonisation; a state that caused Africa to lose its power, as well as the authority to defend one’s self-interests. The right to choose your path of development should be in one’s own hands, and not elsewhere. Post independence, politics and authoritarianism have caused great instability in the African economy. Numerous political leaders encouraged ethnic wars, which lead to widespread devastation, as well as embezzlement of resources and capital.
Two of the worst tragedies on African soil have been the Second Congo War and the Rwandan Genocide. The Second Congo War, also known as the Great War of Africa, started in 1998 and ended in 2003. It is touted as the deadliest conflict worldwide after World War II. Millions of lives were lost in the rebellion that arose in Zaire between two ethnic groups –Tutsis and Hutu. The reasons for the rebellion were the assertion of one’s right to power and opposition to the style of governance. What followed was a mass genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutu-led government, this tragedy being termed as the Rwandan Genocide. Almost 20% of the African population was mercilessly killed, and it is believed that this mass massacre was organised by the core political elite. Rape was used as a war weapon, where Tutsi women were raped or assaulted to cause permanent damages. HIV victims were ordered to rape several women so that they may die a slow, painful death. Part of the aftermath of any war is starvation, diseases, and lack of basic facilities. With severe challenges at hand, the crippled government could do little to grow or rebuild their economy.
So, what does Africa need today?
Firstly, Africa definitely does not need maligning pictures and sympathy gaining publicity gimmicks to mar its image any further. A term best used to describe it – ‘poverty porn’, needs to be done away with. The dignity of African people is not cared about, as all the world gets to see is skeletons and malnourished natives. It needs to be understood that Africa in not a poor land. It is rich in mineral content, only poorly organised. Most of the African elite rely on international aid, and work as spokespersons for the West. Rarely any of them take responsibility for their own continent, and pity is only making them further dependent. The rich in Africa are those who work for foreign humanitarian organisations or NGOs. The poor are those who don’t. Barely any are involved in industrial work, business, or any kind of economic acvtivity that would promote development. Africa has been stereotyped as the perpetual beneficiary; one that can only grow if it is helped from external sources. What the continent really needs is domestic leadership that will take the land forward towards self-sufficiency. Introduction of sciences and engineering could be a step towards introducing the youth of the country to the era of development.
With abundant natural resources in its belly, it is rather unfortunate that all of the 25 poorest ranked nations in the world are African. Though the continent needs to begin from ground zero, there is no doubt of the fact that if given sound leadership from within, it has the means to slowly make its way to the top. A huge portion of the world’s landmass within its territory, Africa has the potential to be vastly influential, and also deserves to live life with dignity. Self-reliance is the key, and the huge potential of the youth needs to be tapped in order to yield impactful results. While this is easier said than done, steps have to be taken now. If the land stands up for its own, then it won’t be long before the world can truly mean, ‘This time for Africa!’
Ayesha has completed her engineering and is currently working.She has a very logical bent of mind and keeps an interest in a variety of topics. She has a passion for writing poems and maintains a blog too(/http://wondread.blogspot.