“We find it difficult to bring the available evidence together with plausible counter-factuals to argue that there is any country today in Sub-Saharan Africa which is more developed because it was colonized by Europeans. Quite the contrary.”
Interesting attempt at positive analysis of a difficult subject (esp. with regard to counter-factuals), although normative undertones drive most of the analytical narrative.
The negative legacies of colonialism – despotism, negative ethnicity, aid dependence, and general underdevelopment, etc – certainly do persist.
But for those unwilling to submit to the gods of path dependence, the question remains of how long incompetent African leaders will continue to blame outsiders for their own ineptitude. After half a century of independence, many Africans are wary of being the only ones left in the “bottom billion” once the East and South Asians climb up.
To paraphrase Achebe, the trouble with Africa is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the African character. There is nothing wrong with the African land or climate or water or air or anything else. Even external conquest and subsequent colonialism was not unique to Africa.
Chinua Achebe has an editorial piece in the NY Times on the prospects for economic and political development in Nigeria. Below is an excerpt that I think applies to most of Sub-Saharan Africa.
During the colonial period, struggles were fought, exhaustingly, on so many fronts — for equality, for justice, for freedom — by politicians, intellectuals and common folk alike. At the end of the day, when the liberty was won, we found that we had not sufficiently reckoned with one incredibly important fact: If you take someone who has not really been in charge of himself for 300 years and tell him, “O.K., you are now free,” he will not know where to begin.
This is how I see the chaos in Africa today and the absence of logic in what we’re doing. Africa’s postcolonial disposition is the result of a people who have lost the habit of ruling themselves, forgotten their traditional way of thinking, embracing and engaging the world without sufficient preparation. We have also had difficulty running the systems foisted upon us at the dawn of independence by our colonial masters. We are like the man in the Igbo proverb who does not know where the rain began to beat him and so cannot say where he dried his body.
The BBC reports that the Nigerian state owned oil company (NNPC) is insolvent, with a US $ 5 billion debt. Most of the money ($ 3b) is owed to the Federation Account a lootable cash cow that distributes money to different levels of government within the Nigerian state. The country is divided into 36 states (and one federal capital territory, Abuja) and 774 local governments, all of which have legally guaranteed claims to oil revenues.
The report also notes that: Despite Nigeria being a major crude oil producer, it must buy almost all the oil it uses on the international market because its own refineries are insufficient and dilapidated.
Recently the Nigerian government signed a deal with the Chinese that hopefully will result in the construction of an $ 8 billion refinery in Lagos to ease the country’s dependence on imported petroleum products. 80% of the cash will come from the Chinese and 20% from the Nigerians.
No prizes for guessing why on earth A LEADING INTERNATIONAL OIL EXPORTER should import almost all of its petroleum products or why it took so long for the Nigerian leadership to start thinking of expanding Nigeria’s refinery capacity…
Achebe’s assessment of the Nigerian condition in the early 1980s still rings true: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.“