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Denial of ownership of mistakes is root of Africa’s problems

The colonial past taught Africa to see itself as a victim of an oppressive West; in many ways, the self-imposed victimhood is central to the continent’s failures; it has not only supressed the impulse for self-correction but has also become a potent shield for the inept leadership that frequently shifts blame for personal and political interests. African leaders will not take responsibility for bad policy but will point to the West to blame. A cultural shift is required that will see Africans take a step to look away from the West and instead look in the mirror and be honest with themselves, accept their mistakes, invest in knowledge, and find lasting solutions to real internal challenges.

While it is true that the West has not been angelic in its activities in Africa, it would be disingenuous to hold it solely responsible for Africa’s failures of today. For Africa to have a better chance at dealing with its challenges, crying victim must not feature as a preferred option, but Africans need to take ownership of their part in the continent’s failings of today and address underlying issues with honesty.  

Victimhood is apparent in how Africa conducts itself on the global stage; the continent stands and moves as if it has no right to the space it occupies. Apart from a handful of countries, African states have even adopted a position of non-alignment; basically, for most African states indecisiveness is their decision, and that is their best contribution to the international decision-making process; they would rather not put a finger at ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ if they were put before them; we then wonder why others often fail to treat us with respect when we are effectively signalling to other nations that it is not necessary to treat us with respect.

Reconditioning and conscientizing the public to increase active participation in politics would be essential; the public mindset must shift from one that is easily convinced by politicians to being more inquisitive of politicians’ intentions versus public interests, and demand more from their political leaders. The most disturbing reality, however, is that the African citizenry seems not ready to challenge and make lasting systemic changes; people are not fighting against the openly repulsive systems and institutions but fighting to be included in them.

The Western imperialism and colonialism in Africa are inseparable; and it is a fact that colonialism did reshape Africa to meet Western society’s needs, and in the process negatively disrupted African society. Under the unscrupulous Western control, Africa became a source for cheap raw materials for the Western industrial development. Important as it is to understand the past, dwelling in the past will not be the best approach to addressing our challenges, and to suggest that all of Africa’s problems today are a Western creation will be a misleading disservice to the African citizenry and a bonus to the failing leadership.

Let us look at the social, economic, and political problems of today and put them in their rightful context. We have conditioned ourselves into seeking approval from the global West or East which makes independent planning for the future seem impossible or disloyal.

Another weak point for Africa is the disjointed engagement of countries in all things that matter; that lack of political and economic cohesion and absence of common development goals makes the continent too weak to stand up against the more organised global West and East discourse. The pre-existing cracks only widen with the emergence of a third hand, and then we start blaming the third hand when we should be sealing the internal cracks.

If all of Africa’s problems are the result of the West, how do we account for the wealth of African politicians? A recent series of Al Jazeera documentaries exposed unbelievable levels of corruption in the ‘Gold Mafia’ of Zimbabwe, the West cannot be blamed for that, but a combination of internal lack of due diligence, weak institutions and clearcut criminality in the different countries where the shenanigans were facilitated.

Perhaps the starting point of our solutions is civil society taking control of government and demanding for accountability from the political elite and their allies. As a continent, we have failed to set boundaries and make people accountable.  

When the African citizenry come to the realisation that our main problem is internal and the West and East only exploit pre-existing cracks, our mindset will change and so will be our focus and methods of dealing with challenges; when you do not take accountability of mistakes, chances are that you will not bother to understand how you made them let alone take necessary steps to correct them. Africa needs to offload the victim mentality to realise the potential within.



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