Can African Be Saved?

Africa is fabulously rich in natural resources, more than any other continent. According to Capitalism Magazine, it has 50 per cent of the world’s gold and diamonds. It possesses a seemingly endless supply of minerals, including most of the world’s bauxite, chromium, cobalt, manganese and platinum, along with large untapped oil reserves. It has an abundance of timber, millions of acres of fertile land, and lakes and rivers capable of producing 40 percent of the world’s supply of hydroelectric power. The list could go on.

Simply put, Africa is a treasure trove of natural resources. Yet, despite these riches, most Africans live in societies troubled by war, instability, corruption, poverty, hunger, disease and untimely deaths. The United Nations said that Africa has the largest number of poor countries of any continent, including 34 of the 50 least developed countries. Tragically, as many as 50 percent of Africans live on less than $1.25 a day.

Wars ravage the continent. Since 1981, no fewer than 28 nations in sub-Saharan Africa have been at war. Deadly diseases like AIDS and malaria wreak havoc throughout nations. The world’s wealthiest countries have provided billions of dollars in aid, but to no avail. Indeed, Africa is poorer now than when it first achieved independence from the colonial powers some 50 years ago. Every year, the continent is high on the list of the world’s priorities for development, but its circumstances continue to deteriorate.

As the international community ponders the plight of this troubled continent, the question must be asked: “Can Africa be saved?”

Africa is the earth’s second-largest continent; a vast expanse stretching some 5,000 miles (8,000 km) between its most northern and southern tips, and 4,500 miles (7,000 km) between its most eastern and western points. With a population of approximately 1 billion, it is also the world’s second most populous continent, accounting for 15 percent of the global population. It encompasses numerous ethnic groups in 53 countries, speaking over 1,000 languages.

The continent also leads the world in strategic minerals (rare minerals absolutely vital for industry), possessing 80 percent of the world’s platinum, 49 percent of its palladium, 55 percent of its chromium and 45 percent of its vanadium, among others.

Its fertile fields have the potential to feed not only itself, but also many other countries. Its forests have enough timber to build homes for much of the world. Moreover, Africa’s massive rainforests have the potential for maintaining or destroying the equilibrium of the earth’s atmosphere and ecology. For example, massive deforestation could deplete the world’s ozone layer and adversely affect Earth’s climates.

If the continent’s economic decline can be reversed, a prosperous, vibrant Africa, with its population of 1 billion, would become a huge market of consumers for products and services. A talented, educated populace would provide a skilled workforce, driving African economies capable of competing on the world stage, thus reducing—and possibly even eliminating—the need for aid.

Africa already contributes internationally in many fields of human endeavor—and its contributions would be even more significant if the potential of its peoples and lands were fully unlocked. All nations would benefit.

Lack of true leadership is a reoccurring theme in many African countries. Since achieving independence, corruption, instability and violence have hampered the development of former European colonies. Dictators arose, oftentimes poorly educated military leaders. Instead of serving the people, they served themselves and their cronies. Some deliberately fanned the flames of ethnic rivalry, marginalizing other ethnic groups, and applying a “divide and conquer” approach to leadership. Some dictators amassed billions of dollars in personal fortunes as they allowed their citizens to starve to death. Others favored those of their ethnic group above others, establishing virtually one-man states, killing or imprisoning the opposition, and fueling wars and conflicts.

To say that Africans have been underserved by their leaders is understatement! Incompetence and lack of vision is prevalent: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18).

Africa has had many leaders who ruled for decades, yet their people remained poor. With few exceptions, its leadership has been weak, ineffective, oppressive, incompetent, corrupt and downright inefficient.

The strength of any society depends on the quality of its leadership. If Africa is to recover, it must have leaders who can, and are willing to, properly guide the way.

From top to bottom, corruption permeates many African societies. Graft, nepotism, discrimination, bribery and outright thievery are prevalent in far too many nations. Corruption manifests itself in numerous ways (often blatantly) in government, industry, politics, and even in obtaining basic services. Sadly, to get important matters accomplished, individuals often face the prospect of paying bribes.

For Africa to have any chance of improving, honesty and integrity must become ingrained in its societies.