Not only religion but also empirical evidence have shown that the world is dichotomous: the world of the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the haves and the haves not, the knowledgeable and the ignoramus. Thus, the Darwin theory has explained why some countries of the world are classified as global north, while others global south. In essence, we have developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. Without unnecessary justification, none of the African countries falls within the first category. In fact, the largest African economy, Nigeria, is still regarded as a developing country, if not underdeveloped, as some critics would argue. Therefore, the reason Africa has always been at the lowest helm of world affairs cannot be far fetched.
The humiliation meted out on the continent by the outside world is worth demystifying. Recently, the World Bank, through its lead economist for Nigeria, Alex Sienaert, came up with another of its advice or proposal, as it were, that the federal government of Nigeria should raise the cost of petrol to N750 per litre. The statement reads partly: “we think the price of petrol should be around N750 per litre more than the N650 per litre currently paid by Nigerians.” While not always altruistic, such an advice is detrimental to Nigeria and its citizens, who are apparently the driving force of the economy. This was one of such ways the global north affects Africa for its self-interest.
A continent richly endowed with mineral resources and raw materials has been a dumping ground for western goods, ridiculously, produced largely with African raw materials. The social darwinism theory—survival of the fittest—explains why Africa has always remained under the shackles of imperialism and colonialism. It explains why some countries of the global north waited at the coasts and African borders (between the fifteenth to the nineteenth century), collected and carved out African endowments to Europe. The theory also explains the reason for the forceful exploitation of African resources between the late nineteenth century well into the second half of the twentieth century, after the exploitation of many centuries earlier. After all, they have learnt from the bible that, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance” but “whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Too much has been taken from Africa!
This notwithstanding, Africans themselves have become more acculturated than those they once repelled: they are more catholic than the pope. That is not our argument. Of what essence is an Independence in which its granters intend more harm on the recipients? Apparently, colonialism has not left Africa! The baffling issue, however, is that the new form of colonialism—or neocolonialism—is worse than colonialism itself, when thoroughly examined. Although the colonial atrocities on Africa were promulgated during the first phase of colonialism, the West now hypocritically dominates African economies while claiming to be messianic. I understand that African rulers have been so dumb not to realise the need to liberalise the continent from European fetter. They have been trained not to realise the bad in exploiting their own subjects. Instead of helping the poor former colonies, the West and former colonial masters prefer to further subjugate them for self-interest.
I am convinced that the underdevelopment that Africa is battling with today is consequential to a bipartite factor: internal—bad leadership, propelled by an external factor—western influences.
This was evident in its meddling into African affairs—political, economic and religious affairs. Politically, this was done, most times, through power intrigues that bedevilled Africa’s politics, like elsewhere. Power intrigues, created largely by colonial experience, has tended to be the easiest means for the colonisers to execute their plans on Africa. Because they needed dumb but loyal rulers to further expropriate Africa’s raw materials for their burgeoning industries, and deindustrialised the continent to remain a market for its industrial products, they supported one faction against another. This was the basis for more than ninety percent of the colonies that were colonised during the colonial era. So, when they successfully did, such a ruler became a puppet. He seeks their go ahead and dies for their cause. Helplessly, the Western powers have continued to use this mechanism—even in the contemporary time—that has resulted into poor representation of rulers, bad governance, underdevelopment, insecurity, poor economies, and protracted intrigues, during and after African elections. This factor, no doubt, was instrumental in the protracted Sudanese Civil War, where two old men have continued to ravage their country, killing innocent citizens and causing many to be internally displaced. While the war was inarguably factored by thirst for wealth and power, the Sudanese Civil War has a western influence. Furthermore, the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War, and the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, among others had a western conspiracy. Not to talk of incessant coups across the continent? we can not exhaust it in an article such as this.
Surely, if your watchdog is a cat, the meat in your house is not safe. In other words, a country is in danger if its administrators are not accountable to its people, but to outsiders and themselves. The economy thrives when leaders are not manipulated and corrupted. This is not the case with Africa. Our leaders have been misleadingly trained to impoverish their citizens, divert public funds into their accounts in order to remain forever at the helm of affairs, fight one another for a democracy that has failed on the continent, ruin their economies so as to keep their countries indebted to and absolutely rely on the global north for aid.
Therefore, the United States policy of counteracting Russia’s expansionism in the heydays of the Cold War was excellently manifest and realised. For clarity purposes, the second main reason (beside rejuvenating of its economy) that the United States initiated the Brethren Woods institutions—IMF, IBRD—was to prevent Russia, after World War 2, from incorporating the weak and developing states—mostly African—into its hegemony. Therefore, the poor African states had to borrow money from these institutions, largely dominated by the West, and remain subservient to their will. He who pays the piper, of course, dictates the tune!
I am convinced that the underdevelopment that Africa is battling with today is consequential to a bipartite factor: internal—bad leadership, propelled by an external factor—western influences. Aside from the discrimination meted on Africa in terms of policies and international functions, the Global North has weaponised supranational organisations to deal with the global south. They create problems and then present themselves as advisers to solving those problems, because they are sure that their dumb puppets (African leaders) would pat them on the back. Unfortunately, they got rid of African leaders who wanted to liberate their citizens through conspiracies. You wonder about the untimely death of great Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana? Or Julius Nyerere of Tanzania? Or the Congolese Patrice Lumumba? What about Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi? Former Nigerian heroes, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo? These people were either conspired against or killed from within Africa or outside, with Gaddafi’s killing being obvious.
However, a glimmer of hope emerges. The mass exodus of young Africans seeking greener pastures abroad signifies a growing awareness of the consequences of exploitation. As they integrate into developed economies, they carry the power to influence change. Additionally, the West shows signs of acknowledging its role, albeit belatedly, in addressing issues like climate change that disproportionately affect Africa.
On this note, I believe strongly that until the West decides to genuinely help Africa to develop, rendering devastating advice and aids would be a beginning of an end; it would be heading for the rocks! It is time to move beyond harmful interventions and work towards an equitable future where all nations, irrespective of their geographical location, can reach their full potential.
Abdulkabir Muhammed is of the Department of History and International Relations at the Lagos State University. He can be reached via [email protected] or 08142957061