African State is too busy having fan to be viable

Tuesday August 20 2019


By Nicholas Sengoba

All around us is a persistent story of administrative units or bodies that are either barely breathing on shoe string budgets or have totally collapsed under the weight of inadequate financing and corruption.
Writing in the current edition of The East African newspaper, Mr Charles Onyango-Obbo says some East African Community (EAC) Secretariat staff in Arusha have deserted their work stations as “a cash crunch continues to bite due to delayed remittances by the partner states.”
The appellate court of the community cancelled its August session due to lack of funds. By June this year, Uganda had an outstanding contribution of more than $2 million; Burundi $6.3 million; Kenya $160,653, Rwanda more than $1 million, South Sudan $19.3 million and Tanzania $957,83….
“Burundi owes the Inter-University Council of East Africa more than $5.6 million for 2017/18 and earlier; Kenya $6,168; Rwanda $2.8 million; South Sudan $2.1 million; Tanzania $2.4 million; and Uganda $3.4 million,” writes Obbo.
Last week, Saturday Vision reported that workers in about 85 districts and municipalities will miss their salaries at the end of August. They may also not be able to fund other operations thereafter because of the same issue - lack of money.
If you go to the African Union (AU), it is the same story. There is always a shortage of funds even of the most mundane of things like office equipment, payment for electricity, phone, Internet and water bills.
The whole problem stems from how Africa in general conceived the whole idea of self-rule after attaining independence. It started when the fanfare and euphoria that came with the self-rule ceremonies ended.
The most important lesson learnt here was that it was rewarding financially to be in a position of high office even if you did not work hard thereafter to deliver services and make changes to the lives of your charges.
The African did not get to know that nation building was more about rolling up the shirt sleeves and getting things done.
So we have overtime not been challenged to do the dirty back-breaking work. That is to develop managerial capacity to turn resources all around us into economic assets for our own good.
The African State is in a very ironic situation. Most of the continent is well endowed with much sought after natural resources. Africa is gifted by nature with minerals and good soils from which we may feed ourselves and have a surplus to feed the world. It also has an abundance of youthful human capital.
To take advantage of all this is a back-breaking work. So we take the easier route. Call in the donor with his grant or the foreign investor with his capital. All these come with their, own interests for which we pay highly in interest and sovereignty. Because they help us survive, we have enough legroom to continue with the whole gobbledygook of form over substance.
So we can then create more unviable cities and districts complete with bewigged mayors and councillors. These have a great sense of self-importance that they occasionally make news for threatening not to pass budgets (whose source of funding is almost non-existent) if their allowances are not paid.
Because we are an independent State, we must have a big government. So you have all these ministries with officials each asking for a huge fuel guzzling four-wheel drive, which is in tandem with his title, MPs who sign registers and dodge plenary sittings, etc.
Then we should also be seen in the company of other equally independent states in organisations like the AU, the EAC even if we cannot pay for our membership in time. We must have embassies even if they end up being the most run down eyesores in the cities in which they are located.
That has been the story of most African countries. They were not viable from the word go and have not made any effort to become so. The donors have spoilt them into living beyond their means and they are enjoying it by living large with all the fanfare and form without serious substance that follows.
After paying for the fat to feed all these layers of administrators, there is almost nothing left to build the very foundations on which they sit.
So teachers, health workers, police officers, and other managers and developers of vital sectors responsible for the growth and development of the State are left with the crumbs.
They are not motivated to work as hard and be innovative. A vicious cycle begins and the end result is a weak State that cannot harness its potential. It either has to be in perennial striking mode or beg to survive. It is a reflection of the African country.
Whatever you associate with such countries will almost certainly end up on the list of entities that are unviable. They simply exist in name as high sounding republics. It is a terrible dilemma.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.