Fifty years ago, Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah told Africa: “Seek ye political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you.” Independence came but we remain the most ignorant and poorest in the world. What happened? First, European and American powers built a basis for our unending poverty by subverting our independence at birth through the elimination of our best leaders, leaving in power only those who would safeguard their economic interests. To perpetuate our economic subjugation, we inherited a colonial education that was designed to keep us uneducated, psychologically inferior, forever subservient to the white man and poor. Without incorporating revolutionary principles of development in our education system, it has become more a generator of poverty and terror than of progress.
Emasculated by unchallenged biblical myths and colonial history that Africans are inferior, belong to Ham’s cursed race, poverty leads to heaven and that the poor will always be with us, many Africans now take their poverty as natural and a fate they cannot fight.
Endemic corruption and the resultant poverty are Africa’s real burden. Corruption has turned African leaders into enemies of development that will never self-prosecute to end the vice. By robbing them, African leaders have consigned their countries into perpetual poverty.
Ordinary Africans are like people who have been wet for too long to care. They have been poor for too long to fear their worst enemy. So in Africa, poverty reigns supreme and unchallenged even by its primary victims. Poverty outwits Africa because to it, development is not a journey that needs a road map. We seek development unguided by a road map and national values and get lost.
To develop Africans need focused leaders. But we lack visionary ones because we don’t value them. As the saying goes, when the lead sheep limps, the herd does not reach the pastures, but we don’t listen. Poverty and development, however, both start and end with leadership.
Trap of poverty
If Africa is poor because African leaders rob it, it is twice as poor because, since colonialism, foreigners have robbed it more. As long as foreigners – in whatever name – own African wealth and take it abroad, the continent will not escape the trap of poverty.
Africans don’t come to power to develop their countries, but enrich to themselves. To reverse the trend, Africans must first develop their countries and themselves later. When African leaders go to work not to develop their countries but to enrich themselves, the continent will always remain poor. Poverty rules Africa because growth is unshared. When most Africans do not share the national income, their poverty condemns the whole continent. Unshared wealth is not development. It is a cause of poverty. When one of us is poor, all of us are.
Poverty dogs Africa also because elections fail to replace bad with good leaders and a system that breeds poverty with one that develops our economies.
Donor countries will never offer a gift of development to us, yet we look up to them. After giving Africans brains to think, even God will not come down to fight poverty for us. Only we can develop ourselves. Other people develop because they and their leaders think hard.
If others have been to the moon and back and we have yet to make a bicycle, we are not thinking hard enough and shall not develop. If developed peoples use 20 per cent of their brain power, Africans must surely use less than 1 per cent.
All our people must think and not leave the thinking to a few leaders. Yet after disabling their minds, hunger does not allow the poor majority of Africans to think. Worst, when the poor try to think, it is about leaders’ problems, not their own. Rather than think, they prefer entertainment. With our minds disabled, it matters not that Africa is richest in natural resources; we are poorer than countries that are less endowed but think more.
Unfortunately, Africans don’t just think less, they don’t work as hard as other people. If people are judged by the output of their work, Africans don’t do a tenth of other people’s work. While other countries develop 24 hours a day, African leaders who shape their countries’ destiny work less than six.
As all developed countries have done, African countries must seriously embrace mathematics, science and technology. If they don’t, they will never develop industrially. Africans must have more scientists than anyone else.
Right now, our most popular belief is in development through information and communication technology. But we must do more than learn how to use computers. To develop, we must learn to make cars, guns and computers that we use. There is no short-cut to real development.
To develop, we must save ourselves from the folly of hating one another on ethnic grounds, or we shall remain locked in civil wars and genocides that have destroyed many African countries. Because it lures us into our own death, we must reject negative ethnicity or never develop.
Without patriotism, Africans will never develop either. Of all peoples, only Africans think they can be unpatriotic and develop at the same time.
Loyalty to donors
Equally, only they sneer at their patriots until others crown them as heroes. We must learn from history. Only patriots develop their countries. We embrace poverty when we substitute patriotism with loyalty to donor countries.
Like other nations, Africans must seek development through their own native, not foreign, languages. There is proof that if Americans, Europeans, Chinese and all other peoples developed through their mother tongues, we too must. Seeking to develop through foreign languages that we don’t know too well only makes it extra-difficult.
We are poorer, not richer, without African languages. Already Africa is burning. Brother is killing brother on account of poverty, desperation, ethnic hate and disregard for law. We must end poverty before poverty ends us.
Mr Wamwere is the former Subukia MP. He is CCM FOUNDER