If you are feeling like you haven’t done anything good lately or are running low on self-worth derived from history-changing feel-good acts then load up on brownie points with the gods by doing this….
all you need to do is fast one meal
This is not just a critique of such approaches in the African scene but applies to our approach to the needy in general. Do we need to feast on images of the destitute among us at their worst for us to respond to their needs? How does all the poorism and poverty porn reflect on our consciences as humans who OUGHT to respect other people for who they are, regardless of whether they are needy or not; Or whether they are in America or Elsewhere?
Yours truly has a piece in Uganda’s Independent newspaper (as usual, the piece had edits because newspaper people know their audience better…). Here’s a quote:
As a young East African in the United States, I am constantly confronted with the uncomfortable question of; why Africa? The question becomes particularly touchy if raised in the presence of my East and South Asian friends who take pride in their respective nations’ gargantuan achievements on the economic front. Instead of discussing high speed rails, turbo-charged economic growth rates and potential for massive reverse brain-drain, the discourse on my home continent is often clouded by stories of famine, illiteracy, economic stagnation, disease, and misrule etc. My attempts to answer the “why Africa?” question have generated a number of case-contingent answers, but the one answer that invariably comes up in all the cases is bad leadership.
Throughout the region, from Senegal, Somalia, Sudan to South Africa, socio-economic stagnation and misrule predominate. The only success story is Botswana, a middle-income country of less than 2 million people. But even life expectancy in Botswana is 55 years and over a quarter of its adult population has HIV. That is Africa’s success story
The Central African Republic (CAR) is perhaps the biggest joke as far as states within the international system go. Francois Bozize, the Gabon-born dictator that currently runs it, has failed to meet even the barest of needs of his countrymen. The IRIN reports:
“There is plenty of fertile land in the region [south east of CAR] but violence is interfering with traditional ways of life such as agriculture, hunting and fishing, with farmers often afraid to stray far from town to work their fields for fear of attack. This has reduced production, pushing up prices to the point at which not everyone can afford to buy food, even when it’s available,” said Christa Utiger, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) economic security coordinator for the CAR.
4.8 million people live in the country. A person born in the CAR can expect to live to be 50. The literacy rate is a woeful 49%. Per capita income (PPP) is US$ 700 (yes, PPP). Gold and timber are the main export earners, with the vast majority of people living on subsistence agriculture. 16% of CAR’s children under 5 are acutely malnourished. Rebel groups, including Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army routinely use CAR’s territory as launching bases. The only people who appear to be benefiting from the existence of CAR as a country are the thugs who run it, from David Dacko, to the self-proclaimed Emperor Bokassa to Francois Bozize.