The Elusive African Dream
Anyone who is familiar with American politics must have come across the expression: “the American Dream.” This term essentially conveys the idea that anyone in America can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy and successful life. Indeed, the American dream was one of the stepping-stones for American revolutionaries like Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Like the American people, Africans have always had a dream. This dream however is not the so-called “democracy” which is usually proclaimed in the corporate media. It is not African leaders running to Europe every week for expensive “routine medical check-ups” while the ordinary African is left at the mercy of the collapsed health infrastructure. It is not African leaders running to China and America, begging for loans to help fight malaria and HIV/AIDS. It is not seeing young children of school-going age hawking in the streets, selling dog chains, sachet water, and doughnuts among others in search of school fees, while our leaders rob public coffers and deposit stolen wealth in offshore accounts. It is not Africans surviving on less than $2 a day while politicians and their families swim in luxury, holidaying and shopping in Dubai.
It is never an African dream to have many educated Africans stranded in Europe, sweeping the streets, cleaning and obediently washing dishes abroad despite having degrees and qualifications that can tremendously transform the African continent. Who said it was an African dream for Africa to import toothpicks, genetically modified food, chemically induced chicken, second-hand clothing (including underwear), refined crude, shoes and clothing, when Africa has what it takes to locally produce these things? Is it an African dream for the African people to continue borrowing from the World Bank and use the money to import American rice at the same time? Is it an African dream to be living in darkness when Africa has what it takes to provide electricity for herself and the rest of the world? Is it an African dream for the annual salaries of African teachers to be insufficient to purchase a simple laptop or car when their colleagues in politics have enough to buy luxurious four-wheel-drives and several mansions abroad?
After 50 years of our flag independence, almost every single project that could potentially bring relief to the African people has either been abandoned or is pending. Thanks to IMF-imposed policies, our local oil refineries have shut operations. Our raw crude is shipped to European refineries after which the refined product is imported back to Africa. Many of the factories which were built in Africa to process strategic resources like bauxite and copper have been forced by IMF-imposed policies to shut down and rot. Africa has remained the producer of raw materials and dumping ground of European, American and Chinese products. Is this the African dream?
Look at Ghana, the so-called "model of African democracy." Ghanaians have been living in total darkness. All major power generating projects initiated by Nkrumah have been abandoned. We have many rivers and lakes, yet we cannot generate reliable electricity for the people. We have too much sunlight that shines across the country 350 days a year, yet we don’t generate solar energy to augment the power shortage which has become a major crisis for more than 25 years. Electricity in Africa, especially in Ghana, operates like disco lights. Even within the capital city, people are forced to stay in darkness for at least fifteen hours a day. Is this the African dream? I find it so hard to imagine that there are many public officials and engineers at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) whose main duty is to ensure that several parts of the country are shut down without electricity on a daily basis for the past 15 years. They get paid for doing this job. What a country!
When are we going to have visionary leaders in Africa? We’re still struggling despite our plenteous gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, crude oil and cocoa, the resource which Nkrumah used to transform Ghana in less than 8 years.
While Asian and Latin American leaders are busy building gigantic roads and bridges, our leaders here in Africa are only interested in building gigantic statues which serve the ordinary person no useful purpose. African leaders are quick to mount statues in honour of Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara, among others, while they ignore the social intervention programmes launched by such revolutionary leaders that were to bring about relief to the African people until their assassination/overthrow. African leaders are measuring their level of success by the amount of Chinese loans or World Bank grants they are able to lobby for, although a high percentage of such money ends up in the respective leaders’ offshore bank accounts.
The African child, like his American and European counterpart, is yearning for a 3-square-meal a day without necessarily being the son of the president, politician or some wealthy African king. The African child also deserves to dwell in a clean environment and a comfortable home. The African child is yearning for equal access to quality education, quality healthcare, portable water supply, reliable electricity supply and security, among others.
The African youth need jobs and a framework within which they will harness their talents; not political speeches. The current level of youth un-employment in Africa which stands at 50% is simply unacceptable. African youth have brilliant ideas and excellent innovations, yet there are no proper systems to support such people. No wonder, armed robbery, internet fraud, prostitution and other social vices are becoming the order of the day.
In 2012, the World Bank gave $100m to Ghana “to help fight malaria and other communicable diseases.” Shockingly, the sector minister suggested that the amount was still not enough for the said purpose. Yet within the same year (2012), Ghana spent more than $600m on democracy. This does not include the amount which the various political parties wasted on political rallies, TV commercials, and gigantic billboards and so on. In the same period, it was reported that many students could not write their final exams due to lack of funds. Are we serious? Is Ghana truly the model of good governance and Africa’s democracy?
The African dream is found in our rich cultural heritage, the rich minerals of Africa and in the minds of the young talented African youth whose burning desire has been ignored by our leaders. Our old men in government have hijacked this beautiful dream and handed it to their foreign donors to whom they owe their loyalty and allegiance.
The African dream has remained a pipe dream for far too long. It is imperative that incompetent leaders quit the corridors of power to pave way for dynamic and vibrant leadership. The time to live the African dream is now. Governments must concentrate on setting up infrastructure that will lift the living standards of the citizenry instead of mounting gigantic statues. We need to reform our colonial educational system to place more emphasis on practical science and technical education. The current book-oriented educational system has failed Africa. It is time for real practical solutions that will enable Africans to confront their challenges to be taught in the classrooms. It is time the African dream was taken back from foreign capitals and donors and nurtured here in Africa. It is time African leaders invested in their countries instead of stashing money abroad. It is time it was legislated that Africa’s looted funds be repatriated to Africa, used for the benefit of the African people and the assets of individuals encouraging capital flight be frozen. Let us begin to live the African dream from today.
The writer firstname.lastname@example.org is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands.
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