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Africa should stop being such a crybaby! We have everything we need

We all know there is nothing more ‘uncool’ or ‘unsexy’ than someone who never owns up to his own failures in life – but seeks to blame others as to why he is not succeeding.

Amongst all these, the ones that take the trophy (at least, as far as I am concerned) are those who love to point to their pasts – as the reason their present, and of course their future, are such a huge big mess.

I am reminded of a grown man, now in his forties or fifties, who still accuses his parents’ inability, or rather unwillingness, to send him to school, as the main (if not the only) reason he finds himself stuck in a stagnant life, and never making it in life.

Well, as much as having a good education most definitely helps in shaping one’s trajectory in life – nonetheless, this is certainly far from being the only route.

Besides, if the man had enough determination, by that age, he could have certainly worked hard in furthering his learning.

However, have we not encountered numerous people who have made it – say in business – who never had much to show in the academic realm?

I can surely think of a few names.

In fact, we once had a domestic worker around 1981, named Francis – probably in his late teens – whose main objective was to earn some money, so as to advance his education, since his parents had failed to send him to school.

Indeed, with the cash he received from his domestic work, he attended what were called ‘night schools’ at the time – all the way from primary education – where he performed exceptionally well, all the way to being an apprentice (and, subsequently an artisan) in the then Iron and steel making giant ZISCOSTEEL.

Each time, I meet Francis, there is always a deep sense of admiration and respect for him that grips me – as we reminisce about the days we were together, and what his life has become.

Maybe, next time we meet, I will seriously implore him to write a book chronicling his life journey.

Without being carried away, let me go back to the point I am trying to make with this little story.

There is never an excuse for our failures – what more, when we choose to blame our past experiences – no matter how awfully tragic.

Our pasts can never determine our present and future – if we decide not to make that happen.

We always have a choice.

However, for some strange reason, that is exactly what we find ourselves doing as the people of Africa – as we disingenuously choose to fault our history, whether slavery or colonialism, for the mess we are in today.

Hardly does a day go by, without cries from one corner of the continent or the other – whereby, we will be blaming colonialism, or the failure by our erstwhile Western masters to pay us reparations – as the reasons we are not developing and prospering.

We hear demands for figures such as US$75 trillion being thrown around – as the compensation Africa deserves for the adverse impact of slavery and colonization.

Quite frankly, I have absolutely nothing against anyone pouring in trillions of dollars into our continent, if they so wish to.

However, failure to do so can never be the reason most Africans are languishing in abysmal poverty.

In addition, the payment of reparations will never benefit the same suffering ordinary citizens.

In all likelihood, it will merely end up lining the already over-loaded pockets of the political elites, and their cronies.

As a matter of fact, is that not what we have been witnessing, in utter dismay and revulsion – for an long as African countries have been independent from colonial bondage?

Are its vast mineral resources – the very thing that attracted colonists, in the first place – not now being recklessly and ruthlessly plundered by those in power?

Whilst, at the same time, billions of ordinary Africans are marginalized and abandoned on the caprices of economic development!

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Actually, had African leaders been utilizing these massive resources faithfully, as expected of them, then our countries and people would be some of the most developed in the world.

In 2019 alone, the continent produced over one billion tonnes of minerals, worth US$406 billion!

In fact, why would we be moaning over the US$75 trillion in reparations, when we are making US$406 billion a year from our mineral resources?

Zimbabwe alone, with nearly 60 minerals to boast of, as well as targeting a US$12 billion mining sector this year (2023) – can easily take care of its own people, wiping out poverty in an instance, and developing world-class infrastructure in a heartbeat

I am not even factoring in the estimated US$200 million that the country is losing each month to gold smuggling – and billions more annually, in diamonds, raw lithium, chrome and others.

Why would a country so richly-endowed be crying over colonialism or even reparations?

Yet, here we are, with hospitals that lack the most basics, as paracetamol, antibiotics, surgical tools, without crucial life-saving radiotherapy machines for cancer patients.

Our children have to make do without any text and exercise books, or proper desks and chairs – with some still learning under trees or in dangerously ramshackle abandoned tobacco curing barns.

The construction of one traffic interchange, or a 300 MW power station, or the patching of a few roads, or even expansion of an airport becomes huge headline news in the country.

Is it not a huge disgrace that the vast majority of meaningful existing infrastructure in Zimbabwe is from the same colonial period, for which we are demanding restitution?

Actually, having unashamedly failed to uplift our country and people’s livelihoods ever since attaining independence some 43 years ago – can we not dare say that we actually benefitted from colonialism than suffered from it?

Were most of our major hospitals, towns and cities, roads, power stations, water reticulation systems, bridges, and dams which hold up Zimbabwe today, not built during that era?

I could go further in asserting that our economy was much stronger during that time – as there were more functional massive industries, resulting in much higher productivity and employment.

Workers earned decent living wages – enabling them to purchase their own houses – as well as, dignified pensions at retirement.

However, this has become just but a distant memory, in a country rundown by those in power.

This also feeds into Africa’s shockingly ballooning external debt – whereby, in 2023, this amounted to 24 per cent of the continent’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which was estimated at US$3.1 trillion.

Why do we borrow, and subsequently owe so much, when we have the world’s largest reserves of the most sought-after precious natural resources?

In fact, was it not an utter embarrassment that President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa had to hold a meeting with Zimbabwe’s international creditors a few days ago, in order to placate them – with former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano and AfDB (African Development Bank) president Akinwuni Adesina as mediators?

Furthermore, as part of this ‘softening’ of these lenders, Mnangagwa had to commit to finally make good on his 2020 agreement (through the Global Compensation Deed) – to pay former white farmers US$3.5 billion in compensation for their farms, which were taken by the government in the early 2000s, during the violent chaotic land reform program.

How ironic, for a country that touts itself as being one of those actually demanding compensation for colonialism!

Nonetheless, that is what becomes of a perennial beggar – always carrying a begging bowl across the globe, despite being abundantly blessed with vast natural resources – which are callously looted by a few in power, while millions are left in poverty.

Mnangagwa now needs to first find US$3.5 billion to compensate former farmers, in order to receive some sympathy for the US$14 billion, which his government owes international creditors!

Africa really does not have any excuse for the pathetic misery, suffering and underdevelopment we witness.

In spite of what we have gone through in our history – there is absolutely nothing to justify how we failed in governing ourselves…as that is exactly what it is.

It does not make any sense why a continent that has been ‘independent’ for the last 50 years, on average, can still be crying over colonialism and even slavery.

We have everything that we can ever need to advance and develop our countries and citizens’ lives – if only there was the political will.

As the situation stands today – as has been the case ever since we attained our freedom from colonial rule – our leaders are more in the mould of gangsters and criminals than presidents and kings.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please visit his website/blog on www.mbofanatendairuben.news.blog, or join WhatsApp group on https://chat.whatsapp.com/CBQVPGODBPQG969OBVLyeT for regular articles