Tuesday, September 22, 2009



By Dan Kashagama

There are many who believe the double fallacy that Africa is failing because Africans "blame the West" and "don't work hard"... and point to the personal success of a few erudite and photogenic people as a barometer of the correctness of this theory. They advocate for the piecemeal approach... fix Africa one initiative at a time, one little project at a time, one orphan at a time, one dollar donated every month, one state at a time, each one work harder, etc.

Yet that narrative remains unable to articulate the structural means to bring about lasting or substantive systemic reform. This narrative always devolves into personal initiative - believing that if enough hardworking Africans get a first class degree, a big salary, and run a business or NGO - then Africa's problems will be solved incrementally.

Not only is it not enough for individuals to work harder or smarter, but doing so in any misguided direction is counterproductive. With 10,000 different NGOs running unrelated projects in 10,000 villages, coupled with 54 state governments, all negotiating separately with 500 corporations for funding, food, mining concessions, weapons, markets, etc - all of them at cross purposes ... what we have created is a dangerous recipe for chaos and crisis.

Africa is part of a global system of markets and politics... even if a leader has never lived outside Africa, they are part of a global system that operates according to certain rules and values. A leader's compliance within that system determines how long s/he lasts...or how well s/he succeeds. The legality imposed by competing corporate and state interests is corrosive to morality... it feeds war, displacement, dissent, poverty, genocide etc... and legitimizes greed, tyranny, corruption, racism and misogyny.

The sustainable solution to Africa's recurring crises lives in the direction of policy and structural coherence [i.e., democracy and unity - which demands the empowerment of the Pan African Parliament, electoral reform, participatory democracy etc...]. It is not enough to work hard or be smart, it is not enough to elect one or two good guys, or save one or two orphans, or educate one or two Africans, or free one or two political prisoners here or there.

The only way forward is to work hard and smart in empowering the Pan African Parliament, protecting its integrity and improving its legislative procedures, and ensuring that it is truly representative... the PAP is Africa's only real hope for coordinated diplomacy, continuous conflict resolution, as well as structural and policy coherence. We need democratic unity in Africa.

Africa has lots of smart, well-meaning, hard-working people. We are not lagging because of laziness or because we have abandoned personal responsibility in favor of blaming others... we are lagging and conflicted because our coherence has been fractured. We need to get our coherence back.