In the past, it was said and often repeated that Africa was inflicted by three crippling scourges, namely poverty, hunger and disease. It is long since these three problems were identified. Most of Africa then was under the colonial masters. The continent is now politically free from foreign dominance, even though this is only in theory.
Unfortunately, the three severely handicapping scourges are still prevalent. It was so-called not so much because of the skin of the majority of its indigenous peoples, but because of its backwardness and underdevelopment. In the last centuries, many inhabitants of Africa were converted to Christianity, Islam or members of other religions. Many rites and practices of these religions were and continue to be alien to African culture and traditions.
With such cultures superimposed on African concepts of right and wrong, the holy books and foreign teaching transplanted the seven deadly sins which every religious adherent ought to know. They include hatred, envy, greed, sloth. They have since doubled to 14 and now include the dependence syndrome, corruption, HIV/ Aids, misgovernance, political persecution, authoritarianism and stagnation. We shall examine one of these new deadly sins, namely the dependence syndrome.
In Europe, China, Austrasia and America, the planning and development of the state and its people are almost exclusively in the hands of the local or indigenous politicians, planners, financiers, contractors, monitors, consultants and supervisors. Most of these vast continents and their people have reached a stage of development where the phenomena of the right of self- determination and adherence to national ethos are paramount.
On the other hand, most African leaders have steered their governments into the unpredictable and costly dependence syndrome. Many of these leaders and their bureaucrats continue to be seen in the capitals of the developed and developing worlds with begging cups in hand. On their return home, they jubilate and exhibit their triumphs in having convinced their counterparts in the former worlds to part with crumbs under their rich tables, in exchange for the surrender of local raw materials which consist of wealth.
If Africa could develop themselves and harness local energy and resources of their own countries, Africa would be even richer than those nations from which it begs and receives aid. Today, the dependence syndrome in Africa has come to mean the surrender of valuable national assets in return for cheap trinkets and poorly designed and manufactured transient goods and equipment. Consequently, the dependence syndrome exacerbates instead of reducing the three scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease.
Thus, Prof. Ali Mazrui, the well known East African scholar and writer has observed:
“In global terms, the African state has got increasingly marginalised, being pushed into the ghettos of the world systems. Like Africa’s refugees, many African states were already living at least partly on handouts before the 1990s. It has become worse since then. Just as a disproportionate number of refugees in the world are in Africa, a disproportionate number of disabled and impoverished states are also in Africa.”
Admittedly, the problems of development and the environment are nowadays pretty universal and occasionally have to be viewed and solved globally. However, it always appears that this view and the desire to solve social, economic and political problems globally least affects Africa. Notwithstanding the efforts of international organisations and bilateral aid, Africa always comes off worse.
It has been observed that solutions to under-development are best tackled by first undertaking basic and fundamental research to be able to utilise available resources more scientifically and efficiently. Unfortunately for Africa, much of the research and therefore better use of resources is concentrated in the more advanced and developed societies of the world.
Little or negligible research work that can be said to be devoted to Africa is scanty, and its impact minimal. Moreover, even the little research done on the African continent is supported by meager resources. Better research prospects tend to attract non- African money and researchers especially in the areas of economic development and social engineering.
Some years ago, it was observed correctly by an expatriate researcher that developing countries on the African continent continue to rely heavily on expatriate experts and money with their programmes of participation, personnel and paraphernalia, sometimes alien models of development have been thrust upon Africa while implementing international or bilateral agreements.
These are agreements that invariably favour the donor rather than the receiving host country. It is easy to believe that international aid programmes are wholly devoted to the aims and objectives for which they were negotiated and signed.
Justice Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court Judge