By Madi Jobarteh
The comment by Donald Trump that Africa and Haiti are shitholes is utterly untrue even when viewed in terms of the level of human development on the continent. Indeed Africa is the poorest region of the world going by United Nations human development indicators. But this does not make what Trump said a truth. That Africa houses more poor people than any continent does not make the continent a shithole otherwise Europe could have also been said to be a shithole many decades and centuries ago when scores of Donald’s ancestors embarked on a massive exodus to America, their New World to escape poverty, oppression and conflict in their motherland.
Similarly the United States could have also been described as a shithole when poverty, deprivation and inequality was the main feature of most White Americans in the years after Independence to the Civil War to the Reconstruction and until the Civil Rights Era – a post-independence period of 200 years.
Yes, by several social, economic and political development indicators, the incidence of corruption, lack of freedom, fragility, peace and conflict and overall governance Africa is found to be at the bottom of the world. Until today more Africans lack electricity and running water than any other region of the world.
Illiteracy, infant and maternal mortality and the prevalence of preventable diseases that are killing more people are higher in Africa compared to the rest of the world. These are facts that clearly point to the fact that Africa indeed faces quiet a challenging life and future. Have America and Europe not experienced far more dire conditions in their post-independence history of centuries than Africa’s 60 years of independent at most?
Therefore to merely look at Africa from this perspective and then conclude that it is a shithole is to reach a conclusion that leaves out lot more as to the reason why indeed Africa is a shithole today, if at all.
Yes Africans bear responsibility to salvage themselves like all other peoples of the world, but it would be simplistic to imagine that America of all places and even Europe merely pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. History has recorded that without the invasion and exploitation of native populations of America, Africa and Asia in order to loot their resources Europe and the United States could not have attained the level of human advancement they enjoy today.
Hence it is important that we unravel how Africa is a shithole as claimed by Trump. I need not search any further but to go back to my own notes over the years since I have written about these issues extensively. By claiming that Africa is a shithole it gives the impression that therefore Africa has no value and offers nothing. But when we analyze the facts we will see that indeed America of all places has been hugely benefiting from this Donald Trump Shithole to the point that one can only describe Africa as a Donor to America – as well as to Europe and China hence the rest of the world since time immemorial.
In an article on 25 May 2017 I wrote the following,
“Today the EU as a collective makes nothing less than 150 billion US dollars in trade with Africa. In the same vein the US makes nothing less than 100 billion dollars out of Africa, while China collects at least 200 billion dollars a year in Africa. Meantime the total intra-African trade amounts to only 11.3% of Africa’s total trade with the world. For example, non-African airlines account for 80% of the intra-continental market share… the International Coffee Organization reported that in 2014 Africa, the home of coffee earned nearly $2.4 billion from the crop, yet Germany, a leading processor, earned about $3.8 billion from coffee re-exports. The reason for this anomaly is because the EU imposes tariff barriers for which non-decaffeinated or unroasted green coffee is exempt from the charges, while a 7.5% charge is imposed on roasted coffee.
As a result, the bulk of Africa’s coffee export to the EU is unroasted green coffee. This means technically the EU disadvantages African farmers and consequently undermines industrialization in Africa through tariffs.” Does this trade phenomenon make Africa look like a shithole?
In particular reference to the US and how it benefits from Africa, I referred to the comments by former US Senator Jesse Helms, a Reagan Administration politician who backed Apartheid on the basis that if America cuts off South Africa it would effectively hamper American interests.
He stated clearly at the time that South Africa was the source of over 80% of America’s mineral supply, noting that there is no substitute for chrome in their military and industrial manufacturing; that without South Africa’s chrome, no engines for modern jet aircraft, cruise missiles or armaments could be built and no surgical equipment and utensils could be produced hence render American hospitals and doctors helpless. In fact a former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig further buttressed this point that the loss of the mineral output of South Africa could have the severest consequences to the American economy and the security of the world! Does this description of Africa sound like a shithole?
In another article following the July 2017 AU Summit, I reported,
“A study commissioned by the EU Parliament in 2011 found out that currently 500 oil companies are estimated to operate in the African upstream oil and gas industry.
The biggest five players with market capitalization between $150 billion and over $500 billion include the multinational oil giants ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total and Chevron.” Does this description of Africa sound like a shithole? Does this description of Africa sound like a shithole?
In that same article I spoke about the issue of capital flight in which Western and other foreign governments, businesses and their institutions siphon off billions of dollars out of Africa through corruption, bribery, misinvoicing, tax evasion and avoidance as well as illegal pricing amon other malpractices.
“A 2015 report by the High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa commissioned by the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) puts the average financial losses at between 50 billion and 148 billion dollars a year through trade mispricing. This is more than the combined foreign direct investment and aid (ODA) to Africa thereby proving that Africa indeed has the capacity to finance its own development if indeed the continent has democratic leadership and strong institutions of good governance.”
In fact a 2008 report by the University of Massachusetts on capital flight from Africa between 1970 and 2010 found out that the continent lost over a trillion dollars. These funds, stolen by America and European governments and their private businesses along with their African counterparts are all saved in American and European banks or used to purchase properties in the West yet neither the US nor the EU governments stop those funds from reaching their shores or return them to Africa.
Furthermore we know that the whole of the former French colonies in Africa until today pay a colonial tax to France for the infrastructure the French claimed to have built during colonialism. Not just that, but these countries also keep their reserves with the French Treasury such that none of them can access more than 15% of their own money without the consent of the French finance minister!
How therefore would Africa not become a ‘Shithole’ when American and European governments and private companies are frantically working to loot and weaken the continent through legalized and legitimized methods using their control over global financial, trade and political institutions?
Above all this Africa we have today is a result of European invasion to enslave and colonize without the invitation of Africans.
In 1885 European powers and the US met in Berlin to demarcate political borders in Africa without any consultation and participation of Africans. Even when Africa gained independence through their blood and tears, the indisputable evidence is that the US Government in particular had practically devised schemes to undermine democratically elected leaders such as overthrowing Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and seeking to kill Patrice Lumumba of Congo before the Belgians did eventually as well as effectively destabilizing other countries such as Angola among many other acts of interference just to weaken and undermine Africa.
Hence when Donald Trump makes such a comment it does not mean he is telling the truth but rather it is more about what he has not said or seeks to cover up and what we need to know. In other words he is misinforming, misleading and distorting the facts about Africa and America. Yes Africa is severely beset by bad leadership which Africans themselves have recognized a long time ago.
To get a better perspective on this I refer to an article I wrote on 25 May 2016 by recalling that little but powerful book written way back in 1983 by the late Chinua Achebe, ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’ in which he concluded,
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership… Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun.?”
He went further to dilate on the issue of the leadership malaise that Nigeria suffers which is in fact a microcosm of the entire continent.
“The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership… Leaders are, in the language of psychologists, role models. People look up to them and copy their actions, behaviour and even mannerisms. Therefore if a leader lacks discipline the effect is apt to spread automatically down to his followers.?”
From the foregoing, it is therefore important that Africans tell the world that we know what our problem is and there a millions of Africans that are frantically dealing with this issue of leadership, governance and development. But this is not an issue only for Africa.
For example we know that until 1990 Western Europe also had dictatorships while you can find dictators and excruciating poverty in the rest of Europe up to today.
Secondly the African leadership is not simply and squarely a problem of its own. From the facts provided above there is incredible amount of Western interference, politically and economically in the affairs of Africa to the point that the continent cannot until now find its own bearing. For example the French have ensured since 1958 that no former colony obtains a leader who is pro-Africa, honest and committed to his or her people.
The strangulation of Sekou Toure of Guinea and the overthrow of Sankara of Burkina Faso or Pascal Lissouba of Congo not to mention the blatant EU support for the Biafra secessionists are few of the many intrusions that the West continues to make into Africa hence stifling any serious attempt by Africans to stand on their own. But this still does not exonerate Africans and their leaders in particular in their failure to take up their responsibility to salvage their people.
Thus the comments by Trump must be viewed as part of the same Western intrusions that continuously seek to undermine Africa. Let us therefore tell Trump that Africa is not a shithole but a mountain of opportunity and wealth and none more than America continues to benefit from Africa. By all accounts Africa, until today Africa continues to be a Donor to the US and EU. Africa gives more to America and Europe more than they give back to Africa, if they ever did! The facts are there buried in the vaults of those Western institutions in Bretton Woods, New York, London, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam, Oslo, Geneva and Vienna.
Africa is wealth but made a shithole by America!