Nkrumah’s dream of a united prosperous Africa remains unfulfilled
The African condition can generally be described by two words — Nkrumah betrayed.
These words encapsulate the continent’s shameful state of affairs as a result of the squandered opportunities, lack of vision and misrule by many African presidents over the last half century.
Had African rulers realized and secured Kwame Nkrumah’s vision 52 years ago of a United States of Africa the continent possibly today would be the world’s number one economic and military powerhouse given it’s abundant human, natural and mineral resources.
The Democratic Republic of Congo alone holds minerals whose estimated value is $27 trillion; that’s just one country. That also explains why Congo has been victimized by rapacious genocidal invaders: King Lepold II of the Belgians in the 19th century; the Belgian government in the 20th century; and, the reactionary Ugandan and Rwandan dictatorial regimes aligned with Western mining interests in the 21st century.
Other resource-rich countries include: Uganda, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan. The list is endless.
Major oil discoveries have been made just in the last decade alone in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya — meaning the African continent holds possibly additional undetermined trillions of dollars in exploitable resources.
A United States of Africa, or in Kiswahili, Muungano wa Afrika, with secured borders, Continental armed forces and a functional federal government engaged in governance — much like the United States of America’s– would allow each of the various states to focus on delivering services to citizens and nurturing conditions for economic development.
Instead, several combined billions of dollars throughout the continent is today squandered each year by various dictators who spend the money on individual armed forces that are in essence personal militias for prolonging their hold on power.
In Uganda Gen. Yoweri Museveni has ruled for 30 years, in Rwanda Gen. Paul Kagame for 21 years, in Cameroon the dictator Paul Biya has been in charge for 33 years.
It would be one thing all together if during their many years of dictatorship these Africans had produced economic miracles such as the late Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore where per capita income grew from $500 in 1965 to $14,500 by 1991 and $55,000 today.
Instead most African regimes are characterized by looting of the national treasury, in an orgy of corruption by the president and his family and close associates. While there are about a dozen countries on the continent approaching middle income levels, per capita income on average remains under $1,000.
African countries remain sellers of primary produce and importers of manufactured goods whose prices increase at a greater differential.
Ironically the only African dictator who transformed his country to a rich one like Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore, by using its immense oil wealth, was Col. Muammar al-Quaddafi. Per capita in income in Libya increased from about $1,000 when he seized power in 1969 to more than $12,000 by the end of his regime. He was much maligned by the West and ultimately deposed and murdered by opponents bolstered by NATO bombardments. The country descended into and remains in total violent anarchy.
On the other hand useless dictators like Gen. Museveni and Gen. Kagame who kill millions of their citizens and that of neighboring countries in cross-border wars are referred to as Western “allies.” They’re supported with financing for their government and training and equipment for their armed forces. Western-dependent dictators are adored.
A United States of Africa, or Muungano wa Afrika, launched at the time when Ghana’s Nkrumah made his plea on May 24, 1963 when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) the predecessor to the current African Union (AU) was formed, would have today been the world’s premier economic and military power or would occupy the number two spot now enjoyed by China, which also used dictatorship to develop. “We must unite now or perish,” Nkrumah had declared.
Nkrumah himself had been influenced and inspired by Pan-Africanists like Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, and W.E.B. Du Bois who spent his last years in Ghana where he’s buried.
With Nkrumah’s blue print, Muungano wa Afrika’s economy would today be accelerating inexorably ahead of other regions’.
Muungano wa Afrika would be a country providing its citizens with world class education with its best graduates engineering innovation and growth in Africa instead of powering development in foreign countries.
It would provide its citizens with adequate healthcare, jobs, housing and social security retirement benefits.
Muungano wa Africa would use the abundant land and livestock to feed its people instead of engineering land grabs by political and military elites that displace peasants by stealing their land, for sale to Western and Middle Eastern investors. The produce are shipped to feed people in other parts of the world.
The most damning manifestation of failure of African leadership are the thousands of Africans who drown each year during the desperate journey to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in vessels that aren’t sea-worthy.
There is a deafening silence about this shameful calamity by African presidents: which one of them has uttered a single word?
The same European countries that exploited the continent during the era of enslavement and colonialism are now the destination of choice of impoverished Africans who are willing to give up their lives to get there.
Consider the ugly irony. During the era of enslavement captured Africans were thrown overboard when they became sick or died; some escaped miserable conditions on the ships by jumping into the ocean.
In the 21st century Africans, forced by the failure of African leaders to deliver, make this deadly sea voyage of their own accord. They pay human smugglers thousands of dollars knowing full well they could die in the waters.
What kind of paradise in Europe awaits those fortunate enough to make it alive? Incarceration, or working menial jobs and living as second class citizens; sometimes harassed, attacked and even killed by neo-Nazi vigilantes.
There is no more damning evidence of African failure of leadership than this ongoing tragedy.
Of course the right and honorable thing would be for many African presidents to resign en mass. Many are shameless and won’t do such a thing.
Instead while Africans die trying to reach Europe, some presidents, like Uganda’s Gen. Museveni, fly around the world in $50 million Gulf Stream jets purchased with taxpayers’ money. They attend annual gatherings like the United Nations General Assembly to discuss “development” assistance to Africa and “global peace.”
When some of them return home they undermine development by stealing from the national treasury; they increase world insecurity by unleashing terror on citizens who resist their misrule.
In a way it’s a good thing that Pan-Africans like Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure and others are long gone and not witnessing this tragedy.
There are several additional benefits of a Muungano wa Afrika:
Absence of the recurrent civil wars and cross border wars that have killed millions of African civilians and driven millions more into exile; expansion of manufacturing industries as harmonized economic policies across Africa lead to efficiency through specialization; increase in production and trade as larger markets promote economies of scale; the emergence of Africa as a global power with a permanent seat on the United Nations security council; emergence of a continent able to protect itself and its sovereignty and not submitting to having bases for American and French soldiers; and the emergence of a continent not dependent on foreign aid from the rest of the world but engaged in trade and expanding its domestic industries.
More than 50 years after Nkrumah pronounced his vision for a United States of Africa his dream and that of other Pan-Africans remains unfulfilled.
Africa’s potential remains arrested.
The new dawn won’t be ushered in by ossified leadership.
It’s the youth of Africa who suffer from unemployment –50% in South Africa and 80% in Uganda– who must seize their destiny and usher in enlightened leadership that makes African unity the paramount policy otherwise the cycle of corrupt leadership beholden to foreign interests will continue.
Already in Burkina Faso and elsewhere we have seen brave young people resisting tyranny. In the long run they will prevail over dictatorship and militarism as will the rest of the continent.
Seek ye first Muungano wa Afrika and all else shall follow.