By Chris Odinaka Nwedo
The proposition that the comparatively low quality development in some states of Africa is expressive and direct results of catastrophic colonial impact no longer evokes sufficient sympathy. The argument is increasingly becoming fragile and difficult to support by concrete facts. The argument desperately failed and became invalid in the face of the understanding that African continent is not the only continent that was savagely pillaged by inhuman colonially forces and treacherous wars of subordination and territorial acquisitions. Many outstanding kingdoms were wrecked while supplanting of various populations necessitated extensive destructions and vicious campaigns of massacres of millions of people. The devastation, the man’s inhumanity to man and the wars of total destruction were not specific to any continent. The wars came with woes, intolerable suffering, pains and deaths of several hundreds of millions statistically. The encouraging thing about this argument that blames colonialism for the present day embarrassment in Africa is that it is substantively a minority view, very unpopular.
In a definite term, every continent has horrifying chronicles of ordeal with colonialism, senseless wars of destruction and vicissitudes of different sorts. Margaret Macmillan, (2009) noted that “at the end of the first world war it had been possible to contemplate going back to business as usual. However, 1945 was different, so different that it has been called ‘Year Zero’. The capacity for destruction had been so much greater than in the earlier war that much of Europe and Asia lay in ruins. And this time civilians had been the target as much as the military. The figures are hard to grasp: as many as 60 million dead, 25 million of them Soviet. A new word, genocide, entered the language to deal with the murder of 6 million of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis.1
Germany today is an evidence of the resilience of the determined citizens to get it rebuilt after it was catastrophically ruined by the wars. The situations were bad, horrible and intolerable within and after the WWII. It was difficult to estimate how many millions of Germans that perished or uprooted. About 3 million Germans were humiliated and expelled from Czech and 1.3 million from Poland alone. It is difficult to estimate with precision how many millions of Germans that were decimated directly or indirectly by the wars. It is on record that between 1945 and 1948 over 2 million German women had abortion every year, a direct consequence of the WWII. It is believed that 70% of the houses and investments in Germany were destroyed during the war. And in the Soviet Union, 1,700 towns and 70,000 villages were obliterated. “Apart from the United States and allies such as Canada and Australia, who were largely untouched by the war’s destruction, the European powers such as Britain and France were grounded. Britain had largely bankrupted itself fighting the war and France had been stripped bare by the Germans. It was an era of pestilence famine and death. Great cities such as Warsaw, Kiev, Tokyo and Berlin were piles of rubbles and ashes.2
Violence, death and destruction were intrinsic to colonial exploitations. Colonialists used extreme forces which in most cases resulted in annihilation and expropriation of populations. In the case of Africa, these also included slavery that resulted disappearances of so many Africans some of whom perished on transit to America. “It is argued that colonial wars had strong genocidal overtones. The colonial situation was favourable to the deployment of extreme violence against indigenous people. This stretched as far as the war of decolonization, an extremely violent episode that defies clear characterization, but which fomented genocidal and other kinds of extreme violence from various contenders. 3
The world as it is today recuperated from the ruins of destruction, pains and deaths. It is an expression of the indomitability of human spirit. Man has always invented means of surviving self-imposed vicissitudes and he is today matching on boundlessly. Made in the image and likeness of God, man is creative, inventive and not subject to suppression, rather he is a ‘suppressor in chief’ and has subordinated the entire universe capriciously by means of science and technology. Creativity, inventiveness and indomitability are inviolable gifts of God to man. However, it is difficult to understand why the innate capacities are active and redundant at the same time. The capacities seemed expressively redundant when they are not effectively deployed to challenge demeaning experiences and situations. The redundancy cannot be justifiably blamed on God because he has already endowed man with the powers of invincibility. Man, also, cannot blame circumstance of any nature because he already has active powers to overcome.
The above hypothesis makes it difficult to understand why many nations are unable to stampede negating experiences of the past and match progressively forward reinventing themselves and providing creative solutions to their problems. The main objective of this essay is to demonstrate that African states and indeed many poor nations have to absolutely blame themselves for poverty and pitiable abjectness. This is because there is nothing complicated about their own experiences of wars, pains and deaths, the direct effects of terrible wars and/or colonialism. That colonialism devastated African states, enslaved the people and expropriated some of the resources are glaring facts, very self-evident. However, many Asian nations have grief-stricken colonial experiences comparable to that of Africa but unlike the Africans, Asians have successfully walked past the sorrowful path and have reinvented themselves, and through creativity exploded into fame and prosperity.
According to Negussie Siyum (2018), “the socio political set up of African countries has a similarity with those of the East Asian nations that achieved economic progress through exercising developmental state. These countries were able to solve their citizens’ unemployment through implementing technical education in their education policy, which is the peculiar feature of developmental state. Therefore, African leaders have to strive for change in the continent to reverse the situation through applying developmental state theory and gradually improve democratic culture in the region.4 Besides, “Africa is rich in natural as well as human resources which are the basis for the prosperity of a given nation. Despite its potential, the continent is still underdeveloped. Africa’s economic performance remains dismal and prospects for the new millennium are bleak. The continent, consisting of 54 countries, is the least developed continent of the Third World despite its immense wealth of mineral and natural resources.5
The Asia nations are becoming unmatched, championing innovations in science and technology and exporting prosperity. The nations crumbled and “exploited in 1900 had been transformed by 2017 into an industrious, dynamic and increasingly creative force capable of taking humanity to new heights in the 21st century. An Asian renaissance of the kind unfolding today was incomprehensible 100 years back. Such countries as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India rose from the aches of ruin and defeat of colonialism and intolerable man made vicissitude to the present-day resurgence and renaissance, super powers of a sort. The second half of the 20th century in Asia is better known as the era of the emergence of prosperity in the East.6 Asian rebirth is a scolding-stick for Africa urging them to wake-up from perennial slumber. The rebirth reproves and nullifies ill fated thesis that Africa cannot help herself because she was colonised, exploited and enslaved more than a century ago. Regrettably, Africa’s economic forcast has been and steadily declining. Ayittey GB (2000) noted that economic growth rates in Africa in the 1970’s averaged only 4 to 5 percent while Latin America recorded a 6 and 7 percent growth rate. From 1986 to 1993 the continent’s real GNP per capita declined 0.7 percent, while the average for the Third World increased by 2.7 percent. For all Africa, real income per capita dropped by 14.6 percent from its level in 1965, making most Africans worse off than they were at independence.7 The principal reason for this continuous depressing economic degradation is that “African leaders are highly reluctant to change and bring new ideas. They are mostly unable to accept new policies that are compatible with the regions resources. Rulers in the continent have been and are still serving as weapons of politics for foreign and powerful governments rather than focusing on domestic prosperity in their respective countries. Development policies and strategies are not designed for the benefit of the citizens.8 The citizens are denied economic properity because the rulers deliberately ignored democratisation of the society, investment on education and active employment policies that have the potentials to increase productivity and invention. For Negussie S.,“today’s new economic winners are following much the same roads to power, while the laggards have somehow failed to duplicate this crucial formula for success. The key to relieving much of the world’s poverty lies in understanding the lessons history has to teach us…9
The Asian countries that are making waves today in science and technology were former colonial territories, pilloried by the former masters such as Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, the United States, and Japan between the 1500s to the mid-1940s. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia not colonized by Europeans. All of its neighbors were controlled by either the British or the French. Burma and Malaysia were British colonies, and Laos and Cambodia belonged to France. Some of these countries have dusted themselves of the disparaging past and have moved on in grand-style spreading development and prosperity. South Korea was able to absorb technology from the same Japanese that colonised and repressed them. The Koreans are the owners of Mitsubishi, Hundai etc. Japan ruled over Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and half of China. These nations are today super successes and have risen to become economic giants.
The fact that the Asians threw off the colonial yoke in the 20th century is a great lesson for Africa and indeed all others who have refused to look inward for self redemption instead of transposing blames. Africa needed re-invention. It is imperative that she is able to adopt and acclimate models of development that best suits her multifarious challenges of growth in science and technology in order to lift her citizens out of self pity and poverty. The leaders of the individual nations needed to pave the way for ideal development models. By exaggerating the disparaging impact of colonialism, the Africans directly underappreciated the innate power they have to triumph over the negative past just like others.
My candid view is that colonialism ceased to be the political, social, economic and developmental problems of the colonized at the end of the forceful occupation. This is because the autonomy attained is autonomy for sovereignty. The sovereignty implied choice and right to self-determination. It is within the power and right of the former colonial states to make informed decisions to move forward away from the past or to surreptitiously re-invite the former oppressors in a new phase of neo-colonialism as it is alleged in French African countries. If all other former colonial states decidedly reinvented themselves, Africa has no reason to remain behind in self-pity because states were invaded, overpowered and plundered more than ten decades ago. Colonial stories humidify the spirit of the African. It is a dark spot for Africa. Colonialism left Africa with psychological damages, thank God for the dismantling decades ago. Today, African nations have unlimited opportunities of quality progress by emphasizing technical education and economic nationalism. Focusing on technical education will help the continent to reduce youth unemployment and the negative implications. If other continents were able to cure the psychological damages of colonial cruelties, Africa can.
It is more infuriating when these arguments against breaking the york of the past curses are juxtaposed with the chastising imprudence of the continent’s treacherous rulers that the citizens permitted to dictate, oppress and subvert meaningful processes in the nations’ development. By means of retrogressive politics, the rulers imposed themselves on their various nations and consequently tinker the constitutional systems to give them leeway for perennial seizure of political power and control. With the distortion of the constitution, the demobilization of national institutions and destruction of civil service, the rulers intentionally defer and stunt all genuine processes of development in their respective states. The desecration of the constitution and viral attacks on the institutions of the state immediately after independence were part of the major reasons why many states in Africa are descriptively poor and ravaged by dearth of meaningful development and spells of insecurity.
Southeast Asian states are dynamic and independent from desperate povery and want today because when they took their nations away from the former oppressors and collaborators they handed them over to leaders with proven records of productivity and integrity. Besides, the Asians are vigilant and actively superintended trends in their developmental aspirations. Today the economies of these nations are booming and advancing. Africa failed and she is failing continuously not on account of colonial denigrations but on account of her inability to untie herself from suffocating york of self-injuries such as bad leadership and lethargic citizens. Africa’s foremost plagues are bad leadership and citizens that uphold and reward leaders without capacity for progressive utilization of her vast endowments. Africa rewards indolent leaders; these leaders have been colossally counter productive. What the Asians did and still doing for the stupendous progress is not magical. It is a familiar tactics, the prioritization of quality leadership and productive governance. The leaders took the citizens serious, while the citizens show that they are unprepared to countenance compromise in responsibility and service delivery. With the active consent of the people the Asian leaders invested on quality education emphasizing perfection. Science was the topmost priority. They focused on literacy and education, reformed agrarian structures, developed effective infrastructures and invested in genuine industrialization. The implication is that African states will be comparatively poor, delegated and disparaged if they are unwilling to embrace the above redemptive options. When African states individually and/or collectively embrace the Southeast Asian models of development, past colonial experience, past pains of death and former exploitations cannot stand on their paths to explosive development. Africa has the resources to cause consternation in the world of science and technology if only she takes the right path.
Let us cursorily look at what Japan did to hit top and remain paramount even without natural endowment. The Japanese rank second only to the United States in spending on scientific research and technology development. “However, in Japan, 80% of all research and development is carried out by industry. This is important because industry is more likely to support the type of research that will result in new technologies and products. This is the reason why Japan is the world’s economic powerhouse. Some of the more successful applications of the fruits of Japanese research and development include high-speed trains, robotics, semiconductor chips, telecommunications, cancer research, and environmental technologies.10
If the pains of wars and destruction of Hiroshima and Nagaski failed to stop the Japansese from bewildering the world by their spate of development, why will the pains colonialism stop collective African states from making meaningful progress? According to MacMillan, the political “impact of the war was also great. The once great powers of Japan and Germany looked as though they would never rise again. In retrospect, of course, it is easy to see that their peoples, highly educated and skilled, possessed the capacity to rebuild their shattered societies. As many as 60 million dead, great cities reduced to rubble, families torn apart … The second world war caused unprecedented hardship, but it also accelerated change. 11
It is imperative Africa looks at herself with critical seriousness to discover this urgency of reinventing herself. Africa needs to learn from Asia the miracles of her resurgence from similar colonial ruins to power house of development, technology and innovations. According to Nwedo, C.O, “the reverses of progressive advancement to productive politics after independence in some states of Africa are largely responsible for retrogressions evident in depraved politics, imprudent policies and bad governance. There is demonstrable degeneration in adaptations to constitutional democracy after intense struggles that ended in political independence.12
Many African states are finding themselves in extremely disappointing positions due to lack of commitments of the rulers to national development prescriptions. About a decade after independence, 1970, Nigeria was adjudged far better than most countries in the so-called Asian Tiger. The oil was flowing and resources were multifarious, there were practically everything that makes a country great and powerful but Nigeria failed traumatically due recklessness of her imprudent leaders. The failing became inevitable as the leaders were and still unable to deploy resource in the expansion of sectors and diversifications of the economy. Today, what is evident is diminished profiles of quality development, prospects of increasing poverty and dearth of viable infrastructure worsened by comparatively non performing economy and combative general insecurity.
The predicaments of Nigeria are self-inflicted and therefore, a folly to censor extraneous factor such as imperialism. This proposition does not exclude the fact that imperialism still exists in Nigeria. Sadly, we have agonizing cases of tiny elites of all classes imperializing the rest by seizure of political and economic powers and narcissistically enslaving the vast majority. The oppression and repression, the stealing and expropriation of the resources, the theft of political mandates, corruption and violence are devices used by the Nigeria’s elite cliques to subjugate and rule the citizens more treacherously than the former colonial masters. Experiences in Nigeria are replicated in other African states where there are intractable problems of development and bad governance. The primary reason for lack of development and bad governance among other factors is weak national institutions.
Institutions are the basic elements orchestrating sustainable and desirable development. Strong and well-structured institutions are powerful forces for quality national development, while reverses are scripts for irredeemable failure. Usually institutions in the African continent are mostly characterized by bureaucratic process superintended by intensely corrupt officials and professionals. For Nwedo, “it is unconstructive that many African states have spiralled double times way from parts of authentic political aspirations and approximately into deep self-inflicted lawlessness. The most popular political trend currently is totalitarian rule by an institutionalized oligarchy where elections are not meant for change of unproductive governance but for its legitimisation.13 The end result of fixed elections are wrong leaders. Wrong leaders make bad decisions that affect the people and development comprehensively. According to Napoleon Hill, “there are two forms of leadership. The first and by far most effective, is leadership by consent of, and with the sympathy of the followers. The second is leadership by force, without the consent and sympathy of the followers. History is filled with evidences that leadership by force cannot endure. The downfall and disappearance of dictators and kings is significant. It means that people will not follow forced leadership indefinitely.14 However, the very confusing thing about the question of imposed bad leaders in Africa is that these leaders refused to go notwithstanding woeful lack of imagination and low profile performances. “Without imagination, the leader is incapable of meeting the emergencies, and of creating plans for guiding his followers efficiently.15
If we consent to including India among Asian countries that are robustly challenging the disparagement of the colonial past, and have productively adhered to self-targets of rapid development and mortal combat against poverty, one is confronted with the challenge of answering the question why is Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh for instance still in deep poverty and stagnation? The answer to the question is self-evident. Most countries in Central Asia are overwhelmed by their contradictions. Like some African states, they were ‘cursed’ by bad leadership syndrome, traitorous politicians and terrible mismanagement of their religious and ethnic disparities. Factors kept the nations profoundly distracted and impoverished. But, they are inclined to blame the West, colonialism and/or the Zionists for culpable inability to triumph over their perennial developmental plight.
Regrettably, the countries have very smart political and religious elites that kept the masses busy contending with empty casts of religious piety, as their common patrimony are mismanaged and looted. The intermittent religious fights are part of the tactics of running the nations aground. Iranian revolution that was expected to provide the platform for democratic governance imperative for speedy development of the vastly endowed nation ended surfacing powerful and irreproachable rulers. The combination of both secular and theocratic powers made rulers of Iran extra-ordinary, determining unilaterally the country’s national interest. With the increasing contraction of the world, the nations that have performed badly have vast arrays of models to choose from. These models have been tested and trusted instruments for hastening economic growth and quality national development. No nation can afford to do nothing fast and urgent in the face of confrontational mass unemployment and poverty without devastating consequences.
- Margaret MacMillan, “Rebuilding the world after the second world war” in The Guardian September 11, 2009).
- Journal of genocide Research vol.14, 2012 Issue 3-4
- Negussie Siyum (2018, )Why Africa Remains Underdeveloped Despite its Potential? Which Theory can Help Africa to Develop? Crimson Publishers February 15, 2018.
- Ayittey GB (2000) Why africa is poor. Lome, Africa, pp. 1-16.
- Negussie Siyum (2018, )Why Africa Remains Underdeveloped Despite its Potential? Which Theory can Help Africa to Develop? Crimson Publishers February 15, 2018.
- com/Asia-and-Oceania/Japan-science and technology
- MacMillan M. op.cit.
- Nwedo, C.O. (2019) in “Laurent Gbagbo: How Failed Democracy Turns Africans Against Rulers” in news Oct. 20, 2019).
- Napoleon Hill (1960) Think and Grow Rich, Ballantine Book New York p.86.