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African Union Day. Time to Reflect on Africa’s Glaring Problems


Last Thursday was African Union Day. It is a day fondly observed by Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

While we celebrate the Union, we should also reflect on the hydra-headed problems afflicting our much maligned continent and how far it has come in spite of those challenges.

The AU which morphed out of the Organization of African Unity in May 2001 has done much since its inception to project our successes and struggles.

Though the Union’s stated goals of removing the vestiges of colonization, promoting unity and solidarity among African States and safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states have not been entirely achieved, it nonetheless deserves our unqualified support.

It is the only thing in terms of an internationally recognized political organization that we have.

The Union still has a lot of work ahead of it, no doubt about that. Africa is still embroiled in economic stagnation, migration of its youth abroad, terrorism, civil wars, border disputes, famine, and disease.

In short, millions of Africans are still trapped in relentless poverty, and there seems to be no end to their sufferings.

Much as we all like to look on the positive side when it comes to issues concerning our continent, it is worth pointing out that a great deal could have been done to fashion solutions to our countless problems only if we had the right political leadership — military and civilian.

Our continent continues to suffer unfairly and massively all because our leaders over the years have sold us short, indeed, woefully failed us.

Since the continent broke free from the shackles of colonialism, we have had leaders who have demonstrated the least interest in the welfare of the citizens they govern.

Instead, our political leader mouthed platitudes and promised citizens milk and honey, and chose to do things their way.

And as they solidified their rule, it became increasingly evident that the impulse to enrich themselves and their immediate families was the driving force behind their quest for political power.

There was a time when the continent’s political landscape was dotted with military regimes. The army not much versed in governance broke conventional norms, trampled on human rights with impunity, and willy-nilly destroyed the economies of the countries they ruled.

But those days are now gone, confined to the scrapheap of history.

As participatory democracy gradually and steadily took root on the continent from the early 1990’s onward, the army grudgingly retreated to the barracks, where it rightly belongs.

The army’s civilian replacements, however, have just been as disastrous; they have presided over absolutely weak economies as evidenced by feeble exports, huge balance of payment deficits, high uncontrollable youth unemployment numbers, and endemic corruption.

Politically, Africa is ruled by duopolies — two major political parties dominating the political scene…..smaller political parties just don’t stand the chance of ever eclipsing these behemoths…..they simply lack the financial resources to make any meaningful impact on the electorate, thus blunting the political aspirations of those who perhaps have a better vision of transforming their countries.

Sadly, African populations have had to pay hugely for the mistakes of their leaders. Let’s be brutally honest; in fact, let us face the hard truths without any ambivalence.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world in many categories; you name it, and we are dead last — in education, health, technology and agriculture.

The consequences of being in this godawful position is both embarrassing and discomforting. Our place in global affairs has been reduced to one of asking others to come to our aid when a crisis erupts, to solve problems peculiar to Africans.

However, despite the mountains of problems, all is not lost yet. There is still a sliver of hope for our continent. Progress has been made on many fronts on our continent.

Millions of Africans are now enfranchised; though our elections are still problematic, that is compensated by the fact that we get the opportunity to elect representatives of our own choosing.

African economies are beginning to show signs of revival and growth after the 2008 global financial disaster took a particular hard hit on our fragile economies. Hopefully, recovery from years of stagnation will translate into jobs for our young people and ultimately prosperity for all.

All we Africans are yearning for is that the continent continues on this progressive path/trajectory, and that our leaders do the right thing by enacting coherent financial and economic policies that will lift us out of our grinding poverty.



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