By Patrick Achitabwino:
It has dawned on Africa and Africans that we have been enslaved in policies and doctrines bequeathed to us by progressive and first-world economies regardless of their practicability and harmonisation with the African scenario, cultures, philosophies and doctrines.
Africa has eventually become the dumping ground of policies and, at times, even reduced to a continent where policies cooked by advanced economies are experimented most especially in a bid to reduce poverty. It is obvious that this pushing of policies on Africa, cooked from the minds of highly industrialised nations with a viable infrastructure, have done little to change the trend in an Africa that is far from establishing a viable infrastructure to support its dreams.
In Africa we have been indoctrinated to think that all foreign things are superior to those which we can offer. We live in such a claustrophobic world such that if a product is made in our home country but packaged abroad, we will end up importing it because we have neither love nor trust for that which belongs to us.
It is in this dimension that we decimated even our own cultural values that had been the strength of generations before. We even adopted a democratic system that was far contrary from traditional politics that Africans followed. We adopted a capitalistic model of economic development that has no regard for the community good; no wonder, we had extended families and they were the chains that knitted people together.
Bingu wa Mutharika was right in The African Dream when he observed that “it is therefore important for African leadership and donor community to understand that the mere transplanting of Western-style democracies into Africa without taking into full account traditional cultural values would be like building a house on water.”
There is no shortage of evidence that the democracy we are practising in Africa is, to a great extent, a mere illusion; it is not resonating with the aspirations of the common man and, no wonder, Africa will keep on experiencing voter apathy. Democracy has been hijacked as a lucrative market for the political elite at the expense of the common man.
Political leaders have mastered the art of hoodwinking people into their egocentric needs, they have power to incite violence and justify it in the name of human rights, a term that even we, Africans, hardly understand its latitude. So we practice human that rights that have the rights to trample on the rights of others. Are other human rights more right than the rights of all? These are the questions we have to be asking ourselves.
Structural adjustment programmes came to Africa with pomp and went, leaving Africa as desolate as before. Dambisa Moyo cries that Africa, which has received aid in excess of $1 trillion since independence, remains a malnourished economy. The bottom line is that the aid that was pumped into Africa was in the light of those that developed the aid policies in Washington and other prominent cities. We have never been allowed to develop our own economic renaissance roadmap. Even if we were to develop one, it has to be reviewed with those that have never experienced our pain.
Any wonder, therefore, that even when hunger strikes any nation in Africa, with people having nothing to eat, international organisations and their local counterparts that benefit a lot waste time in meetings over three-course meals in five-star hotels trying to solve the problem of hunger?
Those that decide how best to address hunger sleep on three-course meals; they have no sense of urgency because they have never experienced the hunger. They will not even rush to the rescue of hunger victims until they have with them a battalion of media personnel so that their perceived ‘kindness’ graces television screens throughout the world – a desperate attempt for global publicity and attention that thrives on the vulnerability of others. So we are glorified through the suffering and deprivation of hunger-stricken souls.
Africa has to regain dignity. Africa has been pealed of its pride for too long and Africa will never live in the shadows of doctrines that it does not own. We sold our state enterprises in the name of privatisation and now we complain when services delivery is no longer a priority.
Malawi must create its own path. It is great that we have the National Planning Commission in place. The anticipation is that the commission will develop a plan that will be in tandem with the aspirations of the common man. It will be a plan for Malawians developed by Malawians for the development of Malawi. If the plan we develop ends up adulterated by foreign policies, principles and doctrines that our people have little understanding of, then surely, by the year 2063 which is earmarked in the Africa agenda, we will have achieved nothing.
The cancer we have is that we segment who to consult. Let the common man in Bwengu make a contribution to the development plan. From the cattle farmer in Enukweni to the fish farmer in Usisya, from the tobacco farmer in Kasiya to the tea picker in Thyolo to the cotton farmer in Katoleza, let all of them be part of the blueprint and appreciate its benefits on them and generations to come.
We have moved from colonialism to neo-colonialism and there seems to be no end, but we are the people that have to end this neo-colonialism that keeps on coming to us in other forms – ideological colonialism, economic colonialism, cultural colonialism.
As we are developing our development blueprint, the words of Alhaji Sir Abubaker Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria, speaking at the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, should still keep on ringing in our heads. His voice reverberates up to today: “Now I come to a very vital matter, which is the development of the continent. The African continent is very rich in resources but, unfortunately, these resources are not developed yet. We are born at a very difficult time: we have not the necessary capital, the necessary equipment or the necessary know-how for the development of our continent. Therefore, we find it necessary to rely on outsiders for the development of the African territories.”
A warning came from Sir Tafawa Balewa: “I would like to tell the conference that we must take every care to know who we invited to assist in the development of our resources, because there is fear, which is my personal fear, that, if we are not careful, we may have colonialism in a different form…. our economies can be colonised […] if we are not careful. Just as we fought political domination, it is also important that we fight against economic domination by other countries.”
There is a possibility that in our quest to develop, we are opening doors to foreign direct investors who we accord many tax breaks and countless investment incentives and lee-ways to make lots of money and eventually leave us in desolation as they invest that which they generated in Malawi on other international stock markets. Transfer pricing has been ripping us of our resources.
We just have to agree that our banks form the capital base of our development plans. We need to develop our minds with local resources. We need to make Mulanje Mountain the most visited mountain in the world, rivalling the table mountain in Cape Town. We need to develop cooperatives and retain our position as the breadbasket of Africa.
We can live our import substitution dream. We agree now, what is it that is worth importing? What strategic crops do we have to emphasise? What structured markets do we have to develop and how do we connect them with the people?
A prosperous Malawi is possible but only if we develop it in our own way. Singaporeans developed Singapore their way just as the Chinese with their China, the South Koreans with their Korea. We have our Malawi to develop and develop we will with our own hands, riding on the power of our unity, cultural values and diversity, hardworking spirit and, high above all, our love for all.