Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The sad face of Africa

You cannot express in words what Africa really means to someone whose been there, lived there. There is some kind of natural attachment that you develop towards it. Its people become your people, it's a place that you embrace, for nowhere do you find people so heartwarming and welcoming. You can't explain it, you have to experience this feeling for yourself. Despite being Indian, I've lived in Africa all my life. My parents have lived in Africa for nearly thirty years now, and if you ask them, they'd tell you that there's no other place they'd rather be.

In this, my first blog, I express my distress towards the treacherous impact of bad leadership, and how it has only worsened and added to Africa's problems. Already plagued with soaring HIV/AIDS rates, famine, war and corruption, some decision can truly ruin a well surviving nation. It's probably true that Africa lacks the capital formation to reverse their vicious cycle, but for that to happen, there is so much that needs to be done. To start off with, I think Africa needs leaders who are willing to make big sacrifices, politicians who take into account more the interests of the people than their own interests. Selflessness is what is needed, but instead we have one of the most corrupt leaders in the planet, and as much as this is such a hard hit problem every where in the world, its that people in Africa could do without it more than anyone else. There may be higher levels of corruption elsewhere, but at least their people have food to eat, education, health care and it doesn't cost them such a remarkable percent of their country's GDP. I remember this one time when King Muswati talked about buying a new jet for himself while there was such a large proportion of his population that were starving, and the time when the international community sparked at Tanzania for their attempted expenditure on defence system using money from the IMF and the World Bank. Kenya, as stable as it may be in relation to it's neighbors, still needs to sort out long standing trials such as the goldenberg enquiry.

From Bad to worse

No other continent has suffered as much with its leaders than Africa. The only thing worse than a corrupt government is a leader who can't get enough of his already outrageous power, and feels he has the authority to play God.

Zimbabwe is in a state of national crisis! About a third of the country's population have fled and the rest see the need to follow. Robert Mugabe has, in fact, destroyed a beautiful country that was once the envy of the continent. You have to be mad to go to such extremes. This is in fact, the death of democracy in what was once one of the few stable economies in the region. It needed to be an example to the rest, a mentor, someone who took the lead role to make a difference to its neighbours. But instead, Mugabe has turned things the other way. With inflation rates in excess of 7000% (some economists predict it to be in excess of 9000%) and unemployment reaching more than 80%, we could easily say that Zimbabwe now has one of the worst performing economies in the world. The savings of its locals are now worthless. Perhaps even plain sheets of paper are worth more than bank notes in Zimbabwe. It appears that we have a repeat of History in what happened in Germany after world war I. But this is simply preposterous, simply because it could have been prevented. Bad leadership it may have been, but Germany had its reparations to sort, and not a lunatic leader who couldn't care less about the conditions of his people.

What good is democracy if the people cannot freely have a say without fear of losing everything, and I actually mean everything. People have had their homes destroyed, their jobs lost, their children dead from illnesses that could have been easily cured, but due to poor sanitation facilities and limited or no access to drugs, this has not been the case. All this due to the simple fact that they are supporters of the opposition.

The International community on the other hand hasn't in the least bit helped in this regard. Imposing economic sanctions may hurt the country's economy, but really, they should know that from the past that economic sanctions have the worst success rate. In this case, the international community should be partly blamed for those suffering out there. These sanctions have meant jobs lost for people in the domestic economy and seriously depriving the population of desperately needed food and medicines.

This is Zimbabwe now, tomorrow it could be another country. What this continent needs is to get out of the fear of power, and firm themselves up against thieves who try to fish out everything possible from their position in power, sometimes causing more harm than his predecessor, and other times doing less than what he could have done. Corruption and mismanagement is everywhere, the only difference is that it affects us in Africa the most, and so much can be solved by having a few great leaders, who are interested in the greater good, who are selfless and who give the people of a nation a unique pride and appreciation. The only seed to this stage is our commitment to good education. A population that won't stand for nothing, and question every penny spent on the wrong. A population that commands and demands from it's leaders and punishes those who abuse their power. These are just a few basic conditions for democracy as a system to function, and until this is the case, Africa will only go from bad to worse.

The real question today is whether Africa is really independent today... Or is it just a change of power from hardlined colonials to lunatic leaders?