Africa: The tragedy of underdevelopment

In 1999, the heads of state and government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) issued a declaration for the establishment of an African Union {AU} with a view to accelerating the process of integration for common good of the continent. The OAU initiative paved the way for the birth of AU in July 1999 with a vision of an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the world. 

African leaders subsequently pledged  a New Partnership for Africa’s  Development based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and politics.

That vision is currently under threat by terrorism, poverty and super power politics that is rubbishing the resolve of African heads of state to always find African solutions to African problems Nigeria and other sahelian countries have continuously been in the last ten years the play ground of terrorists and bandits which have pushed them to become more dependent on the west for  their security and economic survival in this era of Covid-19.

The Nigerian Defence Headquarters recently said troops in various operations across the country have killed no fewer  than 1,910 bandits, terrorists, and kidnappers, among others, between May 20, 2021 and January 6, 2022. Only recently bandits who were fleeing as a result of ongoing military operations in Zamfara state attacked villages in two local government areas, killing 200 people.

So far, Nigeria has been ranked eighth among 162 countries suffering from mass killings by the Early Warning project; a joint initiative of the Simon-Skjodt Centre for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Dickey Centre for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. Over the past decade many African states have experienced a spike in the number and severity of security threats. 

They include religious and ethnic conflicts, terrorism, illegal migration,pisracy, banditry, smuggling, armed robbery at sea, drug, and human trafficking as well as crude oil theft. Despite the deployment of the U.S. AFRICOM forces since 2008 in more than a dozen African countries, little has been achieved so far and the number of security  threats have continued to increase. It is believed that the increase in the foreign troop deployment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation {NATO} forces is responsible for the current growth of activities of Islamic groups in Africa. 

The radical elements see the NATO deployment as a direct invasion and interference in domestic affairs of their countries. They believe western powerhouses have their own hidden agenda in Africa, and their growing presence through their numerous NGOs is being concealed and in most cases explained by the need to assist in addressing Africa’s security constraints, human right abuses, ecological issues and in promoting beneficial partnerships.

Meanwhile, current reality is making it more difficult for them to hide their motives in Africa, and that is the unlimited access to the continent’s natural resources. The U.S, concerned that its interests in Africa are being undermined by China and other powers, announced in 2018 under President Trump an African Strategy to simply counter the $10 billion Chinese soft power initiative and better competing with other global players. In fact, the US provided a paltry $3.5 billion towards better health conditions in Africa in 2018 alone.

The truth is attention to what has crucial value for African publics may not be a typical priority in the crafting of the west foreign policy. Africans’ need do not always align with the west policy priorities, most notably regarding the attachment of economic or political conditionalities to development assistance and national control over development spending.  Recently as the Nigerian military was set to deploy the A-29 super Tucano aircraft bought from the U.S  in terrorist effected North-west and North-central, the U.S warned that the use of the aircraft must comply with international norms as articulated in the United Nations Charter.

The U.S earlier had stopped Nigeria from delaying the aircraft until it declared its bandits as terrorists. Even as unrelenting terrorists  and bandits burned down farms in Niger state, ambushed  and killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers, and showing the inclination to use micro–organisms to cause bioterrorism, mayhem and havoc in the country. In their  desperation to achieve their murderous goals, they even resorted to the use of redo frequency walkie-talkie trans- receivers as alternative to the government blockage of GSM telecommunication network in the affected areas.

Given China’s increased unconditional spending and attention to Africa, as well as emphasis on Africa’s stated priorities such as improved infrastructure, it’s no surprise China and partners with similar strategies have been gaining influence in Africa so quickly. But African leaders should be more cautious in choosing foreign partners for political and economic relations. The truth is once they are no more of profit to their  partners, the most influential players could force regime changes under the guise of defending human rights, democratic values and enhancing socio-political stability. That is our tragedy of being underdeveloped. Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, the vice president of Zambia (1967-1970) had warned Africans in 1967 that: ‘’If we don’t handle our independence very well, colonizers will come back in form of investors; It is happening right now’’.
Mbah, a journalist, writes from Lagos.