The Scramble for Africa began about 131 years ago. Thirteen countries in the euro zone and the United States took part and met in Berlin. Here the rules of the game – colonization were agreed on before tutelage and subjugation of the continent commenced. These were not without challenges because of resistance from territories and powers. Ultimately, they were conquered and the colonial powers firmly established control.
What transpired at this period under review was nothing short of forceful occupation, exploitation, annexation, invasion, colonization and of course subjugation of the powers at the time. Partitioning of the continent ensued until in the 20th century when nationalist feelings and aspirations began. This was a message to the colonial powers that they have overstayed their welcome and that Africans were now matured and intelligent enough to take the destiny of Africa in their hands. In other words, they were asked to go by African nationalists some of which paid the supreme price for this dogged struggle for freedom.
In the middle of and until late 20th century, however, the colonial powers started leaving Africa. Countries on the continent starting gaining political independence from foreign rule. However, there is one question that agitates my mind: Were we better off under colonial rule? There is no denying the fact today that Africa is a crisis-ridden continent particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. The continent is underdeveloped compared to other continents. Hunger, poverty, disease have become its distinctive trademarks. This results in a mass exodus of its inhabitants to other parts of the world. Since the Europeans left the continent civil wars have been fought in many African countries which has also changed the continent’s demography.
Can Africans ever be good leaders or rulers? Does every African leader have the charisma to lead? I feel compelled to ask these searching questions because the colossal failure by African leaders to confront the problems head-on plaguing the continent is increasingly becoming a cause for concern. There is no denying the fact that the continent is hugely endowed with abundant mineral and human resources which if properly harnessed could transform the continent to be on a par with other industrialized nations of the world. Hunger, poverty, disease and the like are more pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recently there has been an upsurge in the number of African migrants leaving their homelands in droves to the coast of north Africa in the hope of moving on from there to Europe.
The reason for this mass exodus is clear. Dreams for a better life in Europe.There is nothing wrong with migration for it is been in existence through the ages but the rate at which migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa leave their homeland is alarmingly high. They leave in the hope of making it to Europe and this does not often see the light of the day for many have perished in the process either when trying to cross the the fiery Sahara desert to the coast of north Africa from where where they hope to move on or while crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats. Often times these substandard boats are not strong enough to withstand the strong ocean currents. The resultant effect of this is monumental loss of human lives at sea.
Only last week one of the rickety boats with over 700 migrants on board capsized off the coast of Libya. On whom do we blame these deaths? For each death that is recorded at sea the blame is better on our evil rulers back home who have sat on our collective or common wealth while the bulk of the citizenry feed daily from the crumbles that fall from their tables which is barely enough to keep the body and soul together.
The staggering truth is that the degree of greed and avarice by African rulers is so much that the call to leadership is seen as an opportunity to amass wealth while the ruled thrive in dirt and dirty surroundings. South Africa, for instance, used to be a high-income economy on the continent during the white minority rule and the standard of living in that country by all standard was second to none, in fact it was comparatively higher than the rest of other African states but the advent of black majority rule has changed all that. The value of their domestic currency has reduced drastically. Unemployment figures have soared, in fact, it is daily on the ascending order of magnitude. Reports have it that a handful of black South Africans are overcome with acute nostalgia for the return of white minority rule in the country because the black majority rule which they once sought after has failed the country. The white South Africans have again proven to be superior and better economic managers.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and biggest economy, more than 80% of its population live on the breadline which has forced many Nigerians out of their country. Many Nigerians have also died while taking this avoidable risk as they journey overland to Europe.There is no Nigerian leader or ruler that is more Nigerian all things considered than one of these unfortunate Nigerians on this boat who has embarked on this ill-fated expedition. Cases abound in Nigeria where self-styled grandees celebrate birthdays with over N2bn. This reportedly took place sometime ago in one of the South Western states in Nigeria which suffers infrastructural decay and where the inhabitants live on less that $1 a day. Into what dangers would this lead us all?
Iyoha John Darlington, aka Lington Donovan, a social activist, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.