Life Must Go On

Published on 3rd August 2005

Death has robbed Africa of yet another statesman, Vice President of the New Sudan, Mr. John Garang. For twenty one years, he led SPLA with resilience before making peace and joining the government. He demonstrated the true spirit of Africans as people who are able to put up the fight for long without retreat, till they have achieved their noble objective. Garang has gone but what he stood for should not be left to die. He had started opening up his part of Africa for intra trade, urging neighboring African nations to invest in Sudan. He had a dream for a prosperous Sudan and Africa in general, a dream that should be realized by the living. His life demonstrated the need for Africans to believe in themselves as agents of change, be the captains of their destiny and masters of their own fate. Drawing from his account of 5000 years of African history, it is evident that in spite of the unsavory past, Africa can - and must - rise again.

Africa remains the world\'s enduring development challenge. It is the world\'s most highly indebted region; where poverty is endemic, pervasive and deep; conflicts and socio-political crisis still a recurring feature; ravaged by HIV/AIDS and tropical diseases. The challenges are simply daunting, but the prospects are equally promising.

Africa is the theatre of numerous conflicts, between and within nation states, on scales varying from internal political wrangling to open violence. All these conflicts have the consequences of retarding progress by disrupting the lives of Africans who become victims as refugees either by physical displacement or being politically alienated and de-linked from the march of progress. All conflicts absorb disproportionate amount of leadership\'s energy and time that could be better used for formulating and implementing policies that could address urgent developmental needs such as chronic poverty that is rampant on the continent. Stability itself is a necessary pre-condition for development and progress.

According to President Olesegun Obasanjo in Challenges and Prospects of Stabilizing Africa, “There are many a historian or political analyst who reckon that post-independence Africa was born with \'disability of instability.\' By this reasoning, Africa is seen as the victim of the enduring consequences of slavery, colonialism, and economic exploitation especially during the Cold War. Africa remains largely fragmented as it was artificially carved into many unviable nation states. In fact, this \'disability\' perception of the African condition has fuelled the well-known Afro-pessimism that has for far too long inhibited Africa\'s ambition, emasculated positive thinking about the future of Africa, and cost us an entire century - the 20th Century - now regarded as the lost century for Africa”.

Over the last four decades of independence, African countries have made numerous efforts to pull themselves out of the crisis of underdevelopment. These have ranged from experimentations with socialism, state-led development planning, the structural adjustment programmes at the behest of the Bretton Woods Institutions, and most recently the poverty reduction strategies. Some of these solutions were virtually imposed upon Africa from the outside.

‘The key to development on this vast continent’, says Mr. Shikwati (Director IREN Kenya), speaking to University students at a Friedrich Naumann Foundation function in Tanzania, “lies with the Africans themselves left free to solve their own problems and  free to choose solutions on their own. Africans have to stop blaming the colonialist past, while the generations of guilt conscience on the part of the developed nations has to end. There is need for governments to update the existing property and ownership laws, ensure private ownership and open up their borders for more intra-Africa trade.”


Many people in and out of Africa, Opines Rev. Michael Oluwatuyi, an Anglican priest and  program officer at the Institute of Public Policy Analysis in Lagos, Nigeria, are quick to blame colonization for the present predicament. But Africa is not unique in this regard. Many countries that were once colonized are today enjoying economic prosperity. For instance, Australia and New Zealand were both British colonies. Estonia was once under Russian and German control. Today citizens of these countries are enjoying a substantial per capita income. Colonialism ended in Africa more than three decades ago. It is time to look inward, for African solutions, to find ways to ameliorate the suffering of impoverished people in the continent. In many cases, those solutions will be found in morally responsible activity in the market and in government. Africa ought to be one of the richest continents in the world in terms of mineral resources and arable farmland. So what is the problem? Internal factors and self-inflicted problems have been the major causes of underdevelopment in Africa in recent years. For example, the rate of capital flight in Africa is more than any other continent. How can the continent develop when Africans are unwilling to invest their own money in their own countries?

Success is never accidental. The road to progress and reduction of poverty should include measures that guarantee more economic freedom to the citizens. This must include a transparent privatization, the liberalization of trade, lower taxes, and reduced government intervention. It would also be a great help if trade-distorting policies in developed countries could be eased. Finally, Africans must understand their activity in the economic sphere as morally charged. In this way, we can finally address the problem of African poverty in an honest and practical way. No African country is beyond redemption. There is no African country that cannot register an improvement, if the people, especially their leaders, become serious and, as it were, try to get their act together.

Market growth is the best way to achieve livable communities. Not only does political growth often fail to achieve its goals, but it produces undesired results. This should not come as a surprise: centralized, authoritarian control didn\'t work very well for the Soviet economy. Political growth places its trust in government regulators. Market growth trusts people to make their own decisions. Political growth puts people\'s property under the control of bureaucrats. Market growth respects property. Political growth relies upon centralized control; market growth allows for individual choice and diverse solutions.











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