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Bottom-up approach: the solution to Africa’s underdevelopment

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If the states fail from the top, let communities take over from the bottom.

Now that it has become apparent that African governments charged with the affairs of the states have failed to bring their respective countries to the desired level of development since independence, it is the responsibility of each community to mobilise its human and material resources at their disposal to approach development from the bottom to up. The situation in The Gambia isn’t any different from the rest.

Let’s stop lamenting now and fix the problem

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The cry of underdevelopment has pervaded the media like never before, with its discourse preoccupying everyone probably more than its impact, while its remedy has eluded all. Of course, its impact in the form of illiteracy, poverty, hunger, lack of quality health services and suchlike are evident. However, Africa’s general problem is ‘mental poverty,’ which is worse than all of these. It is our lack of self-belief, manifested by our utter dependence, that has kept us stagnant, and unless we come together as a whole and face our problems, no amount of ululation will redeem us.

Blaming Africa’s underdevelopment on colonialism is no longer justifiable. Africa, like many other countries, was colonized, and most African countries gained independence around the same time as Asian countries. Despite being the world’s largest resource continent, Africa has remained retarded. If the so-called Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan) and other similarly colonised Asian nations can break free from the bondage of colonialism and achieve this level of development within a century, blaming Africa’s underdevelopment on colonialism is unjustifiable.

How do we solve the mayhem from the bottom?

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We can solve this if we mobilise our available local resources and harness the potentials and inputs of all stakeholders (elites, diaspora, masses, philanthropists, local associations and, VDC, and local government authorities). There is the attainable solution and there is the sustainable solution, with the former being ephemeral and the latter being, as the name implies, long-term. Our problems can only be fixed and sustained if we all participate and assume ownership. On the contrary, with complete reliance on the government, the diaspora, or some philanthropists, a solution may be attainable but will not stand the test of time.

To begin, we must believe in ourselves that together we can make a difference, and then we must organise ourselves in such a way that we can tap the potentials, talents, and every mental and skill input of every member of the community. In every community, there are the rich, the educated, the skilled, the youth and women’s associations, and the authority: the Alkalo and VDC, the religious leaders, the Khaliphs, the Council of Elders, the Board of Trustees, and the Regional Area Council. We can unite around common goals by using the Youth Development Association as a bridge between those who live in the community and those who live elsewhere, including the diaspora. 

Following that, with structures, organisations, and collaboration in place, we can now exploit our available resources. We have at our disposal resources such as community forests, land, minds, baobabs and the like, as well as the needed human capital. What we need now is to use our talents and skills to put these resources to use for the common good. With this approach guided by accountability and transparency, we can move a mountain.

In the next episode, we’ll break down the role of each stakeholder in reaching the solution, and elucidate how this approach will pay off.

Meanwhile, join us for practical lessons at Karantaa Baa in Karantaba. Worry not, with me is Karamo Batuwo.

Of course, there are many Karantabas – there is Karantaba in Badibu, in Sami, and in Kiang in The Gambia, and there is the Suna Karantaba in Casamance – but I’m referring to Jarra Karantaba in The Gambia’s Lower River Region (LRR). On this benchmarking tour, Afang Lang, Bubakar Kusi, Ra Boy, Omar M Jobe, and Seedy Wontonding will respectively give us introductory lessons on their forest, health post, streetlights, garden, and their overarching ethos. Of course, there will be Ara girl and Ra boy, and there will be Daada and Maanaa. Karleng Fc Kansanka.

My fear is that, upon your return, you will protest against Physical Planning and Area Council. In the government of Alkali Bunang and Chairman Fatty, you don’t erect a fence because your father shows you the boundary, and you don’t dispose of waste indiscriminately. They also stand in the courts in defense of their territorial integrity and the rights of their people. Please inquire about the date of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) so that you can assess the level of accountability and transparency for yourself.

I won’t conclude without mentioning Buba Kololi, the legendary ex-chairman. He laid the groundwork, raising the village’s Local Government ranking from 64th to 2nd in LRR. He set an even higher standard by handing over the baton at the end of his term, against every persuasion and plea.

Yankuba Yabou is an academic staff member at the University of the Gambia (UTG). He’s also an activist.    

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