The question of why Africa is poor is surrounded by a myriad of theories, perceptions and assumptions.
Develop Me with Tapiwa Gomo
Several attempts to respond to this question have not been candid and have gobbled billions of dollars in conferences, protests, demonstrations and development projects, but African remains poor.
In fact, the quest for a solution to African poverty has become another thriving industry whose underlying objective is nothing, but self-serving. It has become another ideological monster more scary to criticise than poverty itself.
In this installment, I will not make an attempt to address the broader and global chicanery of the poverty reduction industry.
Doing so requires more space, time and resources or may be even more workshops and conferences. I am yet to see a country whose poverty was reduced through conferences and workshops, but of course I know a continent which was made poor, stupid and clueless by one Berlin conference of 1884–85.
I know countries that conferred to colonise Africa and make their people richer than they were. Am I just contradicting myself here?
If indeed I am contradicting myself then I am not alone. I am joined by gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who sacrificed their lives in the bush fighting for the freedom of the people, or rather their own freedom.
Could I be part of the group that believed that Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans that they must be equality in the distribution of resources even though some have become more equal than others? Yes, that means I may be part of those who once believed that every Zimbabwean deserves good life, not Mr Smith only and yet my grandmother is starving.
However, in that contradiction, I am not part of that group which believes that having fought the war of liberation is a licence to plunder resources, while my grandmother starves. I am not one of those who only think of my grandmother as a former, but useful Chimbwidos when there is election.
I am not one of those who think even after having fought for so many years to chase Mr Smith and his colonialism out of the country, Smith remains a safe custody of what is earned from the blessings of our natural resources because suddenly a free Zimbabwe is not a safe place to keep those earnings.
I will never be part of those who, besides being in power, have no confidence in that power to look after their earnings within our boundaries and they would rather entrust and follow Mr Smith to keep their earnings for them while my grandmother starves. If Mr Smith is the safest custody of our earnings then why did we allow our people to die fighting for what we thought was the freedom of the people and security of resources?
Why then today do we think everything earned from our resources should be kept in those offshore accounts under the tutelage of Mr. Smith when my grandmother is starving?
This is where the source of African poverty lies. It is a poverty of the mind – it is lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the trust we invested in Mr Smith to manage that which we own, but cannot trust ourselves on.
So why did we fight Mr Smith, if we are so confident that he and his systems are the only safe zones for that which has been looted from our country? Why then did we fight to gain power, if we are unable to use that power to look after what is earned of us?
Mr Smith might have been bad, but he is not totally cruel.
From that which he is given by the African nationalist to keep, he extracts the interest accrued from the nationalist’s savings to feed my grandmother. In fact he has a choice of keeping everything to himself.
But he understands that poverty is a soft spot for the African nationalist in addition to his lack of trust for his own management. But by allowing Mr Smith to look after the nationalist loot, the nationalist has given Mr Smith more power to pretend he is the nice guy in town than the nationalist to my grandmother.
In fact my grandmother believes that because Mr Smith sends few dollars to feed her and her friends in the form of aid. She feels the nationalist has neglected them. But she wonders why the nationalist suddenly trust Mr Smith after fighting him for so many years.
So why is Africa poor? Because the nationalist loots that which he fought for and gave it back to Mr Smith. Yes, they fought to chase Mr Smith so they can follow him again and give him that which the African nationalist cannot properly manage.
Africa is poor because its nationalists cannot save what they earn in their own countries and Mr Smith is ready to help not for anyone’s benefit, but his children and grandchildren. If everything that is given to Mr Smith is brought back home by the nationalist, my grandmother will not starve. My children and grandchildren will one day be like Mr Smith. And Mr Smith will not embarrass the nationalist by feeding his mother.
The nationalist’s children and their friends will enjoy the milk and honey from the blood and sweat of the liberation struggle. The nationalist would be a hero of not only his people, but Mr Smith as he would be subordinate to his powers.