By Richard Todwong
In recent weeks we have witnessed a very unfortunate situation in South Africa that others described as xenophobia. This is painful and regrettable.
More so, when our African brothers were forcibly deported to their countries of origin, whatever happened in South Africa can or might easily happen in any African country.
This is because of the many structural challenges that have over the years created economic hardships in most countries.
When we see the number of young Africans crossing the Mediterranean in small boats heading for Europe. When we see the many young graduates in Africa rushing to the United Arab Emirates to work as house helps and when we see the increasing numbers of slums in our towns and cities, I feel that African leaders should rethink our economic models otherwise no country in sub-Saharan Africa will be safe from the pressures that are being created.
In a way of reflection, the many exoduses from all over Africa could be the requirement for a new front. The first Industrial Revolution in Europe and the US were in the period from 1760 to about 1820/40s. This marked a period of development in the latter half of the 18th century that transformed largely rural, agrarian societies in Europe and America into industrialised urban centres.
The second part of the Industrial Revolution took place in Europe and America in the late 19th to early 20th centuries where rapid advances in the steel, electric and automobile industries were witnessed. All this time, Africa was undergoing intense exploitation as we read in the many books of history.
These phases of industrial revolutions ushered the world into major three crises:
- The First World War (1916-1918),
- The Great Economic Depression of 1929-1939) and
- The Second World War of 1939-1945.
Due to the effects of the above devastation in Europe and America, the Bretton Woods, New Hampshire conference in the US, which brought about the IMF and World Bank in 1944 was inevitable. The IMF and World Bank, both monetary and fiscal institutions, were set up to help the Europeans and Americans rebuild their economies. This was expanded to the creation of the UN by 1945 after the end of the Second World War.
The UN resolution 1514(XV) of 14/12/1960 on the declaration of independence for colonised countries and people found most African countries inadequately prepared for self-governance.
The colonial legacy, which had balkanised the African people brought Africans against each other through religion and tribes soon became the main structures through which foreign help/assistance was channelled.
The declaration of independence for the African people soon became a public relations gimmick by the West because immediately we became independent, African witnessed a series of crises between 1960-1990.
This period was characterised by 64 successful coup d’états, and 114 coup attempts. We witnessed the assassination of 23 presidents and prime ministers in Africa. It is the period that brought the worst dictators Africa had even known and the confusion of non-alliance affiliations by most states due to fear and inability to have strong independent economies.
The above were followed by internal revolutionary movements by the African people. Popular uprisings in most countries were witnessed. These immediately faced western sanctions and economic embargos. Between 1995-2012 the following countries suffered sanctions: Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Guinea, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Liberia, Cameroon, Angola, Nigeria, Gambia, and Togo. The impact/effects of sanctions in these countries affected the continent greatly that even countries that did not suffer direct sanctions such as Ghana, Mali, Gabon, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania,
Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Senegal and others found it difficult to run their economies. Continental trade was slowed.
With sanctions, came liberalisation, structural adjustments policies, millennium development pressures and globalisation. The structural shocks above could not enable African countries think properly through their most desired development strategies.
Internal migrations coupled with sporadic civil crises in many countries were equally a challenge for most countries. Foreign investments were at their lowest because most private investors could not bring their capital and invest where there is instability (economic and political). Africa could not effectively trade in global markets when we had all these challenges.
Economic refugees and political refugees became the order of our population movements. Most African nations could not have enough money to invest in infrastructure and social services while focussing on peace and security of their nations.
The pressures again forced most countries to enter debt cycles, which came with conditionality.
The poverty reduction programmes, education health, agriculture and many other policies for which we borrowed assistances were consistent with the neo-liberal paradigms such as privatisation, deregulation, budgeting constraints, trade and financial liberalisation with exacerbated economic and social crises that are currently manifesting themselves through misclassification of challenges for which the South Africans call xenophobia.
For a long time, we have focused the internal factors that have slowed our growth and caused us all the economic and social crises that we face. This is to some extent correct because internally, weak states riddled with corruption, embezzlement and laziness can cause civil crises we face. I don’t think there are Africans who for whatever reason would kill, force others out of their countries. The problem is that the economies are so structured that few jobs are created and these few jobs/opportunities are making people fight and become sectarian in terms of tribes, religion or other creeds.
President Yoweri Museveni has always warned African leaders and people about the danger we shall face as Africans, if we don’t promote the private sector to create more jobs for our people. The low level of productiveness due to low industrialisation, will only make us be re-colonised because we shall look at easy ways of borrowing to fix unemployment which can never be a solution. According to IMF in 2017, most African countries average debt equalled nearly 46% of their budget or more.
If African governments cannot resolve these issues, we shall keep having class societies as breeding grounds for more crises. This is because our education system is structured in such a way that low-income citizens receive inferior education as compared to wealthier students who go to private schools and graduate to manage their parents’ businesses or even join executive positions in government while the poor who go to government-aided schools are inadequately trained emerging with minimum qualifications and having no job or low-levels jobs.
A situation where the poor live in slums with poor drainage, water systems, no electricity and grounds for prostitutions and drug abuse because many cannot afford urban decent houses. Once class differences become a factor in a country, such are dangerous grounds for instability.
Education, housing, healthcare systems and decent jobs should be the pre-occupation of most African countries.
The vulnerabilities of the poor to be misused, manipulated or recruited into crime is very high. Un-patriotic leaders and foreign enemies can use such as their point of entry to cause more confusion and instabilities in most countries.
The writer is the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Resistance Movement (NRM)