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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Africa Day is not Socialism Day!

By James Shikwati
African Executive

Talk about Africa Day and the image that comes to peoples' minds is music, drums, dancing and food! In the 2005 celebrations, I was a guest to African friends in Muscat Oman, and they requested that I should show case a 'thinking Africa' as opposed to the traditional dancing and drunk Africa!

Every year, Africans mark May 25th as an official Africa Liberation day. The date is celebrated to push for an onward progress on the liberation movement and symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. A casual observation of many groups that celebrate this great day reveals that we are still entrenched in the mindset of entitlement - the belief that some other entity owes us, due to past misdeeds. Not that we are not owed- but the question is: should we put all our focus on what we are owed?

It will be difficult to effectively follow up what we are owed if we constantly stand on the international streets with a begging bowl. Entitled or not, we must build our economic muscle. This in my view, cannot be achieved through socialism where everyone is expected to be equal to everyone else. We cannot build our economic muscle by putting too much trust in our leadership who preach socialism (for populist purposes) while practicing what Hon. Prof. Anyang' Nyong'o refers to as 'parasitic capitalism!'

Continues Below

Also Read: Is America double faced?
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Guess who is holding your government hostage? Isn't it some freedom fighter elite, or friend and/or relative of the same who has been supplying biro pens, papers, chairs and fuel to the government? New leadership and new thinking have been thwarted because the 'parasitic capitalist' cannot fathom a world where he/she doesn't supply the poor African government with biro pens! Whereas capitalists create, parasites drain the system. We do not have enough of the capitalists on our continent.

Since independence, our elites have been vilifying capitalism in Africa. Unknown to them - it is purely the death of capitalism in Africa that has made foreigners to continue dominating us. That is why we are unable to exploit our subsurface wealth. Whereas capitalists see people as a resource and market; we choose to view our population as a burden; where capitalists engage in creative economy to earn a living; we simply dance and cry off our frustrations. Clearly, we must change the way we celebrate our Africa Day and turn it into an African open day for trade, travel and cultural exchange.

Our problems and challenges are of our own making: talk of press freedom, bungled elections, food crisis...the list is endless. Listen. Journalist Robert Mukombozi is deported from Rwanda; Andrew Mwenda is arrested in Uganda and his newspaper The Independence impounded. Zimbabwe joins the Kenyan queue on vote tallying fiasco. Guerilla war rages in Congo and Northern Uganda; Darfur is on fire and over 300 million Africans might starve due to ongoing food crisis. The old political order has refused to give way across the continent. Why did the African nationalism experiment collapse?

The post election violence in Kenya brought to the fore the fragile nature of our nationhood. Ethnic equations became so glaring that 'born - city' residents suddenly found themselves digging for identity. Matters were made worse for inter-ethnic marriages where groups suddenly put pressure on individuals to retreat to their ethnic safe havens.

Over 44 years of independence for most African countries and the political leadership has failed to deliver nationhood and Pan Africanism. An aerial view of Africa, especially Sub-Sahara Africa, reveals a leadership faced with double political and economic systems. Colonialism succeeded in driving native political systems underground but never extinguished them - what was in the traditional times an element of communities paying homage to the king through gifts was converted to the modern king (presidency) simply dipping their hands into the modern kitty of tax payers and donor funds. It is the kings of today who dish out to cronies.

The traditional utilitarian economy (hand to mouth) thrives among the masses while the African leadership leapfrogged to global economic system (saving and investments). It seems to me that the political leadership might well be privy to some feeling that their constituents do not need roads and other basic infrastructure as long as they can get a meal in a day!

African people have not been inspired by their leadership to seek higher goals. That explains in part the calamitous consequences the few Africans who seek to inspire go through. Why on earth would a Pan African leader deport an African journalist, detain others or raid media houses if he/she really stood for a brighter future for Africa? Why would simple summation of polls become very difficult for modern day Africa equipped with calculators and computers? "Son, you have no idea. A lot is at stake - the imperialists are using opposition elements to destroy Africa. That is why we must clamp down on their agents!" an African leader whispered to my ear. Pray tell – if the logic of imperialists is true, what type of soldiers do our African leaders wish to present to the war front? Sick, emaciated, ill informed, poor, tribal, and already mutinous soldiers!

Africa is too important to be left to the political leadership. Each of us must take responsibility to push our leadership to allow for openness on the way they run matters of state and government. We must be on the frontline to excite and incite our farmers to produce enough to feed the continent and engage in business. We should creatively merge the modern and the traditional to build a new Africa. We should not celebrate leaders who steal; rather let us produce so as to reward the best among us. Talk on fight against imperialism (if such a fight indeed exists) must provide reasoned strategy on how ordinary Africans can productively participate so as to avoid individuals enriching themselves by riding on the plight of the poor.

Open up Africa for business; free Africans to engage in business. Let African sons and daughters speak and move freely on the continent; generate a constituency of wealthy and well informed Africans - and this is achievable only through an open mind. A freed African mind is the best weapon one can use against imperialists!

Mr. Shikwati is the Director of Inter Region Economic Network