There are two ways of being poor; extreme and relative. Extreme poverty is a state or condition of lack of basic needs like food, housing, clothing, transport, education, medicals and security, and a position of hopelessness of people.
It is generally experienced by those living on less than $1.99 daily. All nations are endowed with natural resources that are supposed to make them live above the poverty threshold and, in the olden days, human beings naturally settled in communities that provided them with basic needs of living—food, water, shelter, medicals and security and safety from attacks.
Gross domestic product per capita is considered an important method to compare how poor or wealthy countries are in relation to each other.
The average GDP of Africa is the lowest amongst the seven continents (Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Australia, Asia and Europe) at $9,700 (2021).
Africa has the highest number of countries on its continent with 54 countries. With natural resources, especially arable land, rain forest, adequate sun, mineral resources and human resources, no African country is supposed to be poor.
In the midst of these adequate economic resources, countries can only be poor if they lack good managers; if there is ravaging war; persistent natural disasters and or external disturbance from other countries which see a promising country’s development as a challenge! Walter Rodney, in his book published in 1972 and entitled “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” described how Africa was deliberately exploited and underdeveloped by the colonial masters from Europe who saw African countries as Europe’s “kitchens” and Africans as their subjects.
If this “conspiracy theory” was true, since 1972 that this book exposed those behind Africa’s dilemma, and since March 21, 1990, when Namibia gained independence from South Africa as the last colony in Africa, Africa is supposed to have emerged.
Majority of African nations mostly remain poor and some poorer than the colonial masters left them because of their leadership quest! Most of the leaders lack leadership qualities and managerial skills and are just grandstanding because they have means of assuming leadership positions like wealth and brutal force.
The military leaders who stage coups and intermittently disrupt civil rules in Africa do not help matters. Most African leaders are oppressive and see leadership positions, not as opportunities to serve the poor and mostly illiterate masses but to amass wealth and oppress. They have realised that the easiest group to control is a group of hungry people.
Poor countries exist because their economies cannot grow sufficiently to provide for the people. The economies otherwise shrink when infrastructure is not growing and population and needs of the people are escalating.
This is a leadership challenge that must be adequately taken care of in Africa if we are to adequately meet the basic needs of the people, especially food, housing, clothing, transportation, education, health and security of lives and properties.
Population determines the pool of labour and market size and a large population is not a factor of poverty anywhere in the world! Constantly worrying about where your next meal will come from can cause mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
A hungry man is a senseless man because there is a hormonal imbalance (lack of myelin) when a man is hungry.
African leaders ensure there is no adequate infrastructure to enable the masses have adequate food that will make them have sagacity and think properly, no employment opportunities that will make the people self-dependent and contribute to the nation’s development, no basic education to liberate the people, no road infrastructure to enable the people transport their goods and wares to the markets and no participatory government to ward off the poor masses and deny them their right of participating in government.
Lack of rule of law in most African countries is not negligence but to protect the erring leaders whenever they are out of government! It is a structure put in place to protect criminals. All individuals have a high propensity to be greedy or oppressive unless the victims of their greediness and those being oppressed are educated and exercise their right to protest.
What majority of the ruling class in Africa is doing by continuously borrowing in the midst of a high rate of corruption is to pauperise the masses. They are using Joseph Stalin’s model to oppress the poor masses.
There is no government in the world that will not want to use Joseph Stalin’s leadership style to ensure continuity and perpetual authority. Human beings generally have five negative traits: greediness, selfishness, self-centredness, callousness and oppressiveness.
If there is any human being without traces of any of these five negative traits, it is because of one or more of these five reasons: religious belief in God which affects his conscience; laws and orders of his community/country which forbid the negative traits and which will be enforced; family background which has taught him that crime and oppression are bad; past experiences; education/training.
African leaders’ lifestyles are deliberately far removed from and are in contrast with the life of the masses.
Globally, leaders have the power to exhibit negative traits except where the people are aware of the possibility of man’s inhumanity to man, watchful and monitor and control the leaders’ excesses.
This can only be ensured by effective education as a basic right and is the reason we have the right to protest against bad governments in the constitutions of all African countries. The United Nations Organisation recognises three sectors in the economy: public, private and civil.
The civil sector comprising non-governmental organisations, not-for-profit organisations and the press is supposed to be the watchmen and vigilantes of the transactions/relationships between the public and the private sectors.
Unfortunately, hunger in the land, especially in the camp of the civil sector, caused by the public sector had led the civil sector to either fuse into the public sector or the private sector.
Most African human rights fighters, NGO leaders and not-for-profit organisations and celebrated pressmen and women are now into profitable politics or under the payroll of governments or public leaders!
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, established in 2006, is an African foundation with a focus on ensuring the critical importance of governance and leadership for Africa. Since 2006 it was established, the award was only won in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2020.
Since the 16 years that it has been established, the award was awarded six times (37.5 per cent)! Africa and Africans are poor, despite their abundant natural and human resources because of the high rate of corruption amongst the nations and people.
Donor nations can help not by providing aids in cash which can be embezzled and mismanaged but by providing directly hard infrastructure like roads, buildings and bridges, and soft infrastructure like education, training, and scholarship to indigent students in Africa and awards to best students in tertiary institutions through their representatives in Africa.
Author: Olufemi Oyedele