Monday, January 17, 2011

Africa, the Awful Continent

By Alan Caruba

As long as I can remember, for seventy-plus years I have seen photos of sick and starving African children. Now that Africa is home to seventy percent of the world’s cases of AIDS that image applies as well to too many of its adult population. As far as I can tell, it is an awful continent.

That is a vast generalization, of course, but I suspect that a lot of Africans would agree. In 2005, Martin Meredith’s book, “The Fate of Africa”, was published. Its subtitle was “From the hopes of freedom to the heart of despair: A history of 50 years of independence.” It is as definitive as any book I have read about Africa and it is a horror story.

“Since independence,” Meredith wrote, “Africa has received more foreign aid than any other region of the world. More than $300 billion of Western aid has been sunk into Africa, but with little discernible result. Aid fatigue has become a permanent condition.”

I was reminded of this while reading a briefing paper by Greg Mills, the director of the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa. Titled “Why is Africa Poor”, it was published by the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty & Prosperity.

While America and Europe struggle with economic problems of their own making, the general poverty of Africa defies the imagination. “Africa is not poor because its people do not work hard,” says Mills, “but because their productivity is too low. African states have resisted western innovations of large-scale farming, so too many Africans survive on subsistence agriculture.

“Nor is Africa poor because of it lacks natural resources,” says Mills. “Compared with Asia, it is a treasure-trove of natural resources from agricultural land and precious metals to wildlife and hydropower. Yet, with few exceptions (Botswana is one), those resources have been used only to enrich elites, spread corrupt practices, and divert development energy and focus.”

It is not a stretch to say that the best thing that happened to Africa was colonialization. It brought measure of development that Africans would never have achieved on their own. Following the end of World War II, the European colonial powers were confronted with indigenous demands for independence and fairly swiftly, if not happily, they abandoned their control of much of the continent from the Maghreb in the Northern tier to South Africa at the tip.

“In a half century of independence, Africa has not realized its potential,” says Mills, warning that Africa’s youth, “a huge source of talent” is widely regarded “as a destabilizing force because it is largely unemployed and uneducated. This is not only a threat to Africa’s security. By 2025, one in four young people worldwide will be from sub-Saharan Africa.”

Africa reeks of corruption by a few, oppression of the many, poverty, and the potential for enormous conflict because its so-called leaders are a horrid bunch of dictators and thieves. Few have shown any interest in improving the lives of those in their nations.

“African leaders have successfully managed, with the help of donors, to externalize their problems, making them the responsibility and fault of others,” says Mills. This condition is the result of “a relative lack of democracy (or to single-party dominance) in Africa.” In other words, socialism.

Not mentioned in his analysis is the role of Islam in much of Africa, a religion devoted to the complete submission of Muslims and resistance to anything that passes for modern governance or advancement. Another factor not discussed is tribalism. It was the cause of a terrible Rwandan genocide.

For this reason, more than a half century after independence arrived, “Getting to Africa is difficult. Moving around Africa is similarly onerous. It would take no donor money to keep borders open around the clock” notes Mills.

One thing is certain. All the money donated to African nations is largely stolen by its elites and the provision of aid for education and health exists only when donor nations and non-governmental organizations exercise close control over it.

The rot that exists in Africa in human terms, in the failure to modernize, in the vile corruption of a few, will persist and, fifty years hence, there will likely be more books and briefing papers that reflect those being written today.

© Alan Caruba, 2010


TexasFred said...

Africa has been populated for a lot longer than has the USA for example, but Africa hasn't made the progress, in education, industry, the arts, any endeavor.

I wonder about the *motivation factor*, I know that there have been many positive contributions made in this nation by Black people, why then hasn't the population of Africa itself risen from the sad state of affairs it is in?

Alan Caruba said...

@TexasFred: A very BIG question regarding "motivation", but my reading suggests that any opposition to those in power in Africa is ruthlessly supressed.

As for Afro-Americans, they may well regard being here a real blessing in disguise...if they can get off the government plantation.

Geoff A said...

I was born in South Africa and have lived here for practically all my life. A few things in particular (apart from endemic crime, and the ‘right’ to commit crime, that is) tear at my heart. This is to do with organisational ability. (Planning.) A crime can be planned in magnificent detail. But that forte does not stretch an inch beyond criminal activity. You go to any municipal office. (e.g. Drivers Licence.) It is chaos. Not a helpful sign anywhere of how one should proceed. In some centres, individuals are incredibly friendly and helpful. In others, just a few km away, there is only resentful and unhelpful sullenness. Have your identity document stolen, and it will be two years of misery trying for a replacement. You can easily cease to exist.

Supervisory layers are unknown. Municipal cleaners are a prime example. There is no shortage of money, as these folk have complete authority over rates. Bosses who find who-knows-what (not work related) to occupy their extremely well-paid days abound. Street cleaners move round in desultory twosomes, keeping one another company, with just one occasionally give their broom a nudge. Those with responsibility for chopping back the fast-growing vegetation alongside a rural road will be sitting in either one group or another, separated by a hundred yards, or else will be slowly walking between one group and the other. Every now and again, one may make a tired effort with a shovel or swipe at a clump of vegetation with a panga. No supervision, no plan, plenty of signs of authority without responsibility. Ceaselessly chatting is a national occupation.

That is just a thumbnail view. Massive reproduction with no hint of responsibility is the centre issue. Ours is the finest country in the world, while carrying such a dreadful burden.

Geoff Alder

Lime Lite said...

Alan, Africa is a very complex problem but I will touch on a few points. Having been born in South Africa in 1970 and lived there for 37 years, I feel able to comment here. Outsiders do not understand the culture of the African black. As you correctly state, they are very tribal and their culture has revolved around the tribal leader and his serfs. The tribal leader's role is to be the chief; have his pick of the women; act as the elder and judger of problems. Each tribe takes care of their own cattle and grows their own food. Black Africans have never been concerned about other people outside of their own tribes. They don’t have a record of growing food to feed others - it's always been about their own needs. Being nomadic in nature, they foraged for food and attacked rival tribes for their women and cattle. In South Africa, for example, Apartheid was mainly instituted to keep the waring factions/tribes apart as the Xhosa and Zulu tribes were renown for attacking and killing of many other black tribes (genocide). Another aspect of Apartheid was to keep the minority white population safe - but that is for another day. With this historical background, you may be able to start to understand why sub-Saharan Africa will never flourish. They do not understand the need for taking personal responsibility; the need for an education; the need to better themselves; the need to farm; to not kill/rape when they want something. Their chief is supposed to take care of them. They listen to him and take direction from him. The South African blacks blindly vote every election for their ANC government (their “elders“), even though they are corrupt to the bone; have a poor policing record (109 people were killed violently per day from April 2009-April 2010). The biggest disservice to Africa has been the aid money that has been poured into the continent. The African population has artificially sky rocketed on the back of this money and ever more money will be required to keep the starving children alive. Ethiopia’s population, for example, has more than doubled since the famine of 1984-1985 from around 40 million people to over 83 million in 2009. Had the world left them alone during their famine the population would have become more sustainable. Instead we now have 40 million more Africans looking for aid. The West’s “kindness” has caused a lot of pain and it is no wonder that these blacks are now fleeing to where there are jobs and food - in the Western world, where the danger of their culture is not understood. Black Africa has always been a tribal nature and nothing the West will do will resolve this problem. South Africa had the answer but the world wouldn’t leave us alone to sort out our own problems.

Ronbo said...


Many experts think Obama is an African style socialist like his father and wants to do to America what people like his dear old dad did to African countries like Kenya.

If so, I'd say he's off to a fine start what with the wheels flying off the economy, 17% unemployment rate (the U6 number) and inflation going up to about 10% per year (if we are lucky).

Did I mention $5 a gallon gas coming soon to everywhere in the USA?

If Obama stays in office after 2013, America will be Africa.

Unknown said...

Someone might want to read about property right and Africa. Africa has been a great Green Socialist experiment for Europe and the USA. And the key word is Socialist.One of the biggest killers in Africa is malaria, that can be done in by DDT. It was in this country. One big presents in Africa, are the Chinese, I wonder why? The great movement is for everyone to have their little solar panels or windmills and all the rest of the "sustainable energy". The killer of any ones economy!

Alan Caruba said...

@Geoff: Thank you for your comment because many outside of South Africa would not believe what you have to contend with.

Alan Caruba said...

@ Lime: If I had written what you have reported, few would believe me. Thanks for your comment.

TheJollyGreenMan said...

Hi Alan,

I read your article, and for once, do not agree with you.

People cannot accept Africa for what it is, a vast continent, with diverse peoples, customs, habits, and levels of development.

In the last few years, before I retired, I had the chance to be an external lecturer at the Univeristy of the Witwatersrand. I had the oppertunity to get to know some of the students in the final year of engineering. What struck me is how normal they are, some were stupid, some were the normal plodders, like myself, and some were extremely sharp, clever, and just out right brilliant.

I am sorry but no country, clan, or creed have a copyright on clowns. You get fools wherever you go, and some carry USA passports and do indeed come from your part of the world.

Now, do yourself a favour, and get some of the stories about Rome, in the Masters of Rome series written by Colleen McCullough, better known as the author of 'The Thorn Birds'.

In one of her books she quotes a letter from a Roman Lady on the frontier of Germania, to her friend back in Rome. ...Last night we had a banquet with some of the leaders of the Germanic tribes and one sat opposite me, he horrified me, staring at me with those savage blue eyes from underneath his unkept hair the colour of straw...

Civilization, as we know it, also took its time reaching to all parts of Europe. And our most recent history (WWII) show that not all lessons have been learned yet.

Sorry man, I am very optimistic about the future of Africa, give or take a couple of millenia!

LarryOldtimer said...

The White Man's Burden

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

By Rudyard Kipling ~ 1899

Says it all

Chadwick D.B. said...

This blog is full of modern day bigotry, prior to the arrival of Europeans in Africa, Africans continent wide were studying many practices; including math, surgery and astronomy. Africans were very experienced in not only trading among themselves but with China and India. Algebra owes much of its development to Africa, "While the word algebra comes from the Arabic language (al-jabr, الجبر literally, restoration) and much of its methods from Arabic/Islamic mathematics, its roots can be traced to earlier traditions, most notably ancient Indian mathematics..."

It's sad that you would refer to this country as a place where '"Afro-Americans" should feel this is a blessing in disguise they're here' when in fact, it is all citizens of the united states that should feel this way. That being for two reasons; 1.) The Forefathers of the United States designed this country so that the citizens are to be of all backgrounds.
2.) This country was robbed from the hands of Native Americans, hence the word 'Native'. So in conclusion, @Alan all U.S. citizens, including you should see this country as a blessing in disguise, because you're not a native, which I'm sure your ancestors fled here too.

Below you will find some educational pieces:

Alan Caruba said...

@Chadwick. Racist? Why is any and all criticism of Africans and Afro-Americans always deemed racist?

In the case of the commentary, it is supported by serious research and my readings regarding Africa.

Why does it lag the world? Tribes. Tribes. Tribes.