To some, foreign infiltrations, interests and manipulations explain all the leadership, governance, social, security and development crises in Africa. To some, Africa is still acutely underdeveloped because of these manipulations and exploitations, even till now. To some, corrupt and directionless African leaders were or are just reacting to these foreign exploitations and manipulations. This, they explain, is the reason why these African leaders have no other option than to cooperate with the West in worsening Africa’s situation.
Firstly, reference must be made to the Realism theory of International Relations (IR) for a theoretical platform in this counter narrative. Under Realism, Classical Realism and Offensive Neorealism sub-theories will be used. Classical Realism is associated with Hans Morgenthau while Offensive Neorealism is postulated by John Mearsheimer. Classical Realism first of all holds that the basic nature of human being is evil and that the world is all about the survival of the fittest. Realism focuses on state security and power above any other thing else. Offensive Neorealism scholars argue that the world is in a state of anarchy. Because of this, according to them, states are self-centered, power seeking actors, who seek to maximise their security and survival chances, hence can even go to war to advance or protect their national interests. Offensive Neorealism also believes in the capabilities of states. It insists that states are aggressive, obsessed by security and continuation of their existence no matter what it would take. Realism also believes that war is a legitimate instrument of policy interest in IR, reason why states with military capabilities have triggered enormous international conflicts and fuelled so many of them especially during the Cold War.
Realism acutely explains the behavior of states or empires (before the Treaty of Westphalia). Every “world power” has used its power wrongly. States participate in IR to advance or protect their national interests. These interests are mostly advanced or protected through military, economic, political, diplomatic and cultural capabilities – the military especially. Since mankind has been, there have been shifts in the power capabilities of states and acquiring new power capabilities have made states behave in certain ways, from the Ancient Egyptian Empire, the Hittite Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Tang Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the First French Empire of Napoleon. States with power capabilities always tend to apply its mobility to conquer more territories, exploit resources in other states, to colonise, to advance their national interests, impose their wills on weaker states or to help their allies. As absolute power corrupts, unipolar and bipolar world eras (most especially) have seen superpowers fuel a lot of conflicts by projecting their power on the international stage or causing enormous regional and international conflicts such as the World War I (WWI), World War II (WWII), Cold War [the Berlin Blockade (1948 – 49) – Korean War (1950 – 53) – Suez Crisis (1956) – Berlin Crisis of 1961 – Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 – Vietnam War (1955–75), the Soviet war in Afghanistan beginning in 1979)], United States (US) Invasion of Iraq (2003), US Invasion of Afghanistan (2001), the 2011 Libyan Invasion and the Syrian War (ongoing since 2011).
Realism explains the Pre and Post Independence exploitations of Africa by the West; exploitatory agreements such as the French Colonial Pact, the US invasions and installation of leaderships in the Latin America and Africa. It also further explains all the alleged and real killings of pro-masses, radical political leaders; the exploitations and influenced conflicts in Africa and Latin America by the West – the atrocities of the Cold War through proxy wars – the World Trade Organization’s unfair trade agreements – and the several cases against Foreign Aid and the practices of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) in the Global South. Realism explains the suppressions, intimidations, defense-strategy and repressions of weaker states by powerful states as natural and human phenomenon.
Secondly, states have been able to embrace Realism’s stance and “move on” (strive hard to progress) after atrocities against their territorial integrity and sovereignty or after terrible, gross human rights abuses against them. We all know about the Holocaust and the millions of Jews that were dehumanised and murdered by the Nazis. Israel “accepted” this reality of what happened, accepted reparations from Germany and decided to pursue greatness rigorously. Israel is currently one of the most developed states in the world, a record achieved within five decades of resettling in the Middle East. Latin America has “moved on” from the West’s exploitations, influenced political instabilities and support for the dictators they had (especially during the Cold War). One thing about them (that is the Latin Americas) is that when you kill a conscionable radical leader, the next one that would emerge would be “crazier”. Their own patriotism and allegiance to their states are impressive and fiercely nationalistic. The former Yugoslavian states, after the exploitative and suppressive union with the former Soviet Union have also “moved on”. Most of them are even performing better than a lot of African states, economic development wise, post-their 1990s’ Wars. Slovenia’s Human Development Index (HDI) is currently at 0.880 (25th); Bosnia and Herzegovina’s at 0.733 [(85th) (remember them?)]; Croatia’s at 0.818 (47th); Macedonia’s at 0.747 (81st); Montenegro’s at 0.802 (49th); and Serbia’s at 0.771 (66th). The least of them, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s HDI is higher than that of all African states except Libya’s, Mauritius’ and Seychelles’.
Then why is Africa the only one stuck with this blame game of blaming others for its failure and not making significant improvement development wise? Colonialism was exploitative throughout the whole world. China has moved on and doing so well economically despite the exploitative nature of the Japanese Occupation during the WWII. The newly industrialised East Asian states were mostly colonised or were occupied during WWII or were used for proxy wars during the Cold War. These states have all moved on, developed at a pace unprecedented in the history of the world. Singapore and South Korea are shining examples.
If one argues that most of these aforementioned success stories were all favoured and helped by the West or East to develop after their crises, especially during the Cold War, the question is then: why haven’t African States pursued such favours?”
Thirdly, for the-West-caused-most-of-the-series-of-crises-in-Africa warriors, several questions need to be answered. Did the West ask or make Idi Amin Dada of Uganda to commit those terrible and gross human rights abuses by killing more than 100,000 of his own people? Did the West ask Mobutu Sese Seko to run Democratic Republic of Congo for decades as a tyrant, embezzle public funds amounting to between $4 billion and $15 billion and commit series of gross human rights abuses on his own people? Did the West ask African leaders never to pursue economic development but just embezzle and siphon funds abroad? Did the West ask Pierre Nkurunziza not to leave power when he should have left and, presently, has led Burundi into crisis? Did the West ask or make Kamuzu Banda of Malawi to proclaim himself a “Life President” in Malawi and kill more than 18,000 of his people during his rule? In what ways did the West prevent Teodoro Nguema from developing Equatorial Guinea – a small rich country with low economic development and misleading democracy? Did the West ask Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan to siphon some $9 billion (according to WikiLeaks) of his country’s funds into his private bank accounts abroad with death tolls of 200,000 under his watch? Save the crap that the West supported most of them; that the West gave them weapons for their atrocities in some instances; that the West accommodated some of those looted funds. Would this justify their atrocities? States put their national interests above any other thing else – this fact should be accepted.
Which African leader went through what Fidel Castro went through, for a very long time, in the hands of the West?
The trade embargo on Cuba by the US that lasted for decades and all the manipulations to remove Castro from power. In the midst of all these suppressions, Castro built a country with great Human Capital (education and health care). Which African leader went through what Gamal Abdel Nasser went through, in the hands of the West, but still nationalised the Suez Canal and restored faith in his people through his Pan-Arabism and socialism?
Did the West ask most first generation of African leaders to abuse power, amend constitutions arbitrarily to stay longer in power, cultivate corruption, nepotism, pay lip service to the unity of their states, not to have visions and not to be focused on economic development? Did the West prevent these leaders from playing the formative roles that Atartuk, Nehru, and Lee played in their respective states? Now that Africa has pluralistic and multiparty democracies: How did the West make voting to be along ethnic lines during elections? Are they the ones asking African politicians to share moneys at polling booths (stomach infrastructure)? Are they the ones making it difficult for people that are not immensely wealthy not to be able to contest in elections (money politics)? Are they the political godfathers? Are they the ones that carry ballot boxes and rig elections in Africa? Are they the ones that made most of the continent’s electoral institutions not to have credibility? And why did the West allow Mauritius, Libya (pre the invasion), Seychelles and Botswana to make considerable progress, politically, socially and economic development-wise?
Fourthly, who could explain the reason why African states such as Nigeria could not develop economically after decades of Independence and with the presence of oil wealth? How has the West prevented Nigeria from developing? Unlike in other parts of the continent where lands were grabbed by the colonialists, like in Kenya and Zimbabwe, none was grabbed in Nigeria. Stories of foreign infiltrations or exploitation in Nigeria are very weak. Nigeria has been in-charge of her destiny since 1960 and still lacks basic elements of development. How did the West prevent Nigeria from diversifying away from oil? How did the West prevent Nigeria from industrialising? Between 1960 and 2010, around $400 billion was stolen by corrupt Nigerian government officials. Did the West ask them to do this? Did the West ask Sani Abacha to execute the Ogoni nine? Currently Nigerians sleep in their cars just to buy fuel, all because the country still faces elementary challenges in domestically distributing common fuel. In what ways has the West caused this?
This work is not justifying the foreign exploitations and manipulations in Africa, neither is it denying that there were not these exploitations and manipulations (Pre and Post Independence). But this is mankind’s reality; and states accept whatever others did to them and strive for greatness. Transfer pricing of MNCs that are into primary investments in Africa can never happen without the support of corrupt African leaders like Frederick Chiluba of Zambia. Nothing could they have done to prevent Africa from developing without the support African leaders. Africans should blame their literacy deficit leaders and their selfishness and greed and not any other person for their economic backwardness.
Fifthly, to some, one of the ways to perpetrate Africa’s dependence on the West, is or was through Foreign Aid. To some, Aid has ended up causing corruption, conflict in Africa and inhibiting social and foreign direct investments. To some, Aid has ended up making African leaders lazy and dependent. This is a very weak argument. African leaders get Aid and embezzle the funds and some would start blaming the West or Aid itself. Aid has never been the problem but the usage. No country has ever lived in isolation, states need the help of others (monetary, economic ideas etc.) to develop and grow – this has been reinforced by globalisation. Lee Kuan Yew with $50 million compensation in grants and loans from Japan, for their occupation of Singapore in the 1940s was able to lay the foundation of Singapore’s transformation. From the end of the WWII to the end of 1953, states have used Aid to stimulate development in their states. Through the Marshall Plan, more than $13 billion (approximately $130 billion in current dollar value as of August 2015) was pumped into the devastated Europe and they recouped with the Aid. Within this period too, the US provided grants and credits amounting to $5.9 billion to Asian states, especially Japan ($2.44 billion), China/Taiwan ($1.051 billion), India ($255 million), Indonesia ($215 million), South Korea ($894 million), Pakistan ($98 million) and the Philippines ($803 million). In addition, another $282 million went to Israel and $196 million to the rest of the Middle East. Some of these states made good use of these funds to develop.
In Africa, funds were mostly siphoned by African leaders. This has led to macroeconomic and financial imbalances and got most African states caught up with Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). The debate about the theoretical basis and the effects of SAPs is a debate for another day. But for the meantime, what would have been the state of African economies if most African states did not implement liberalisation and key market economy principles that SAPs forced on them? And what would have been the state of African economies if they had been run still by the public sectors that were marred by weak institutions, exaggerated bureaucracies, inefficiencies and corruption in a changed, globalized world of New Economic Order? And those looking at debt as a trap by the West to further throw Africa into the dungeons of underdevelopment should also remember that some African leaders have the wealth to pay off their states’ debt without blinking their eyes. And these wealth are stolen funds.
The blame game after decades of Independence is not working again. Africans should stop blaming the West but demand accountability, transparency and good governance from their leaders. The world has changed and despite the elements of Realism, very obvious in IR, Idealism is gaining prominence. Idealism believes in international organisations, integration, interdependence, global cooperation, bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, disarmament, protection of the environment and international law. Idealism is, therefore, the only hope for Africa.
Sixthly, the same West being blamed are the ones funding most African Civil Society Organisations to deepen the continent’s democracy, advocate for human rights and improve governance. The same West being blamed are the ones funding most of the continent’s programs on combating terrible diseases. The same West are the ones telling African governments that they should fight poverty, diseases, hunger and child mortality. They are the same ones emphasising why African governments should put girls in school. The same West gave scholarships to most African founding fathers and scholars. The same West give scholarships to Africans in this present day for studies abroad. They are the same ones asking Africa to stop series of abuses against their own women.
With corruption and leadership crises all over the continent, Africa might still be blaming the West, decades and decades to come, while other states continue to make tremendous progress. The story of Vietnam is a familiar one – how they suffered excruciatingly from a two-decade war, which was subsequently converted into a proxy war. The Vietnamese ended their devastating war in 1975. As at 2013, their external trade is at $128.9 billion (2013 est.), Kenya that has enjoyed a form of political stability since its independence has the external trade of $5.942 billion (2012 est.) and Nigeria’s is at $93.01 billion (2014 est.). The HDI of Vietnam is at 0.666(116th), Kenya’s is at 0.548 (145th) and Nigeria’s is at 0.514 (152nd). This was a country that suffered terrible suppression, oppression, intimidation, manipulations and incompatibility of foreign interests. This was a country that witnessed 1.5 million military and civilian deaths, and the subsequent exodus of one million refugees, including tens of thousands of professionals, scholars, technicians and skilled workers. But Vietnam has stood up, reclaimed its destiny in its hands and is pursuing economic development rigorously.
Finally, the works of Mahathir in Malaysia, Lee in Singapore, Park in South Korea, Nguyễn in Vietnam, Suharto in Indonesia, Deng in China, Castro in Cuba etc would cement the debate that the greatest factor behind Africa’s development backwardness is Leadership Crisis.
Africa should increase intensity on pursuing economic development. Africa should look inwards. How do you have enormous resources and you are not developed? Whose fault is it that you cannot negotiate effectively in the trade of your primary exports?
Nigerian Novelist, Revolutionary and Youth Advocate