What is wrong with African nations?

Tony Zakaria

The other day ay I aas listening to African news on a new TV channel I had just stumbled into. You know what happens when you are bored and flicking through every channel in the hope you will discover something interesting. I was shocked to hear that in Guinea they recently found that 50 percent of varsity students are missing. Where did they go? Home perhaps? Maybe.

One official interviewed by telephone claimed they are still investigating but possibly the missing chaps are upcountry folks who have not shown up for class. That would be serious truancy, something one would not expect at institutions of higher learning. In Tanzania we call them ghost students.

These ghost students are costing the Guinea public some 150 million ‘faranga’. This is not ‘karanga’ (peanuts in Kiswahili) but serious money. Some clever people put up names of fictitious students, government coughs up the fees and related expenses and some busy bodies smile all the way to the bank.

Imagine. But 50% ? Perhaps colleges embellish their enrollment statistics to look good on paper, or as a way to qualify for more funding. And here I was thinking it is only in Tanzania where ghosts walk freely in the corridors of learning.

Am beginning to think this is a wider phenomenon affecting other African countries. Or maybe it is a global phenomenon. What Africa can do, the rest of the world can do even better. Guinea is ranked 179th on the global human development index (HDI).

This despite having up to half (about 25 billion metric tonnes) of the world’s bauxite deposits, more than four billion tonnes of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and unknown quantities of uranium.

Maybe ghosts must have penetrated into the economy. Guinea had very friendly relations with Tanzania despite the French connection. I remember their old embassy Haille Selasie road. One of our regional hospitals is still named after its founding president.

The country gained political independence from France in 1958, three full years before Tanganyika, has a small population of a little over 10 million and is about the size of Britain. Why is it still so poor? Enough of Guinea. Let’s try Libya.

What is wrong with Libyans? Libya had it good before. Ancient Libya is the motherland of the biblical Simon of Cyrene, was inhabited for millenia BC, and colonised by different powers for many hundreds of years. Modern day Libya declared independence from Italian rule in 1951.

Then it was ruled by King Idris until he was toppled by the he army under Muammar Gaddafi in 1969. Under the king, the vast oil wealth benefitted few thus causing resentment.

In Gadaffi ‘s time education was free, housing was free, water supply was plentiful, fuel was dirt cheap and insecurity was not an issue. Between 1977 and 2011 Libya had the highest HDI in Africa, even higher than Saudi Arabia. I think many Africans would give up quite a bit of freedom to gain a lot of comfort, the kind Libyans had before 2011.

Libyans had a dictator who did not give a hoot about what western powers thought of him or them. At the start of this current decade, western powers and anti-government forces and allies decided enough of Gaddafi. The so-called Arab spring that quickly swept dictators in Tunisia and Egypt out of power came to Libya.

After months of fighting, Gaddafi was dead and his ‘green revolution’ died with him. Since then, the Arab spring became the Libyan winter Tens of thousands have died from fighting, thousands have fled, and peace is ghost among the fractured nation. Is this the liberation disaffected Libyans were looking for?

There is no central authority accepted by all. How can a disunited country in civil war develop its people? What is the state of basic services like education, health and water supply in Libya in 2017? Will the damaged infrastructure in Tripoli, Benghazi and other cities ever be rebuilt? Egypt is another ancient civilisation.

Modern Egypt under president Mubarak’s was a mini-paradise. The economy was booming, Cairo was a tourist Mecca, an Muslims despite being an overwhelming majority, lived mostly peacefully with Christians and other faiths. Like their Afro-Arab cousins in Tunisia, Egyptians took to the streets until their president gave up power. Then they put him on trial.

Meanwhile, without the strongarmed man on the throne, Egypt descended into organised chaos and the nation is no longer at ease. This is Egypt we are talking about, the country with probably the longest history of any modern nation. Egypt had a central government, agriculture, architecture (think of the pyramids) and alphabet/writing thousands of years BC.

Do the young masons of the Arab spring understand what they have done? Am looking at South Africa these past weeks with a long sigh. It used to be the #1 economic powerhouse of Africa before Nigeria took over that position. South Africa went through a lot during the apartheid era.

Two decades on, to hear black South Africans perpetrating xenophobic attacks on Africans of other nations is very disquieting. Any good news from South Africa is about cricket, rugby and soccer. Political wrangling, conflicts and crime are the more normal menu.

What happened to the rainbow land of Mandela? Let it take a leaf from USA. Love the president you have, even if a sizable population did not vote for him. Be happy with what you have. Nationals from other countries are not the enemy here. Nigerians are not amused by the attacks against foreigners in South Africa.

Nigeria has its hands full at home with the Boko Harram in the north and the unrest in the Niger delta. Every 5th African is a Nigerian but what has Nigeria been known most for? Nigerian movies, email scamming and con artists. With its vast population, educated masses and economic might you would expect Nigeria to be moving Africa fast forwards.

But where to Africa? And where to Nigeria?

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