Category Archives: Africa Political Economy

21Apr/19

If You Were 30 at Independence, You Will Be 80 in 2030 or Most Likely Departed

So Al Bashir is finally out, but it took 30 years for the Sudanese people to wake up!

During those years, many of the people he was stealing from considered him their champion. Many sang praise songs at rallies he addressed.

Many went along with the idea that those he considered enemies were also their enemies. As a result they (the people) became complicit in the savage brutalization of fellow citizens.

While Al Bashir and the political elites lived lives of privilege and wealth, it was the “patriotic duty” of the people to sacrifice their livelihoods and dreams to defend their leaders from “the evil machinations of external enemies.”

Consider this: by the time the people woke up, a man who was 30 years young at the beginning of Bashir’s rule was a tired 60 year old.

A young woman in her prime was now a grandmother past menopause.

A child born then was most likely a jobless and hopeless 30 year old.

We are still asleep in Zimbabwe 39 years after independence. No, we did not  wake up in November 2017. We took a bathroom break to relieve ourselves of some pressure but promptly went back to sleep.

Today we are expected to be excited about the government purchasing 200 buses for mass transit when those of us who are old enough know that we once had an urban mass transit system which was the envy of Africa but which was run down by the same incompetent government which was also responsible for the destruction of our national railway system.

Everyday we are hypnotized by promises of a middle income Canaan by 2030 by a ZanuPF government with a 39 year record of failure.
Here is a sobering thought:

By the time the latest ZanuPF experiment fails in 2030, which it shall at the rate at which things are going, a person who was 20 at independence will be 70. Those who were 30 will be 80, and many will have departed. Those born in 1980 will be 50.

There will be no significant change in this country until we understand the impact of bad governance on each of us. And perhaps it helps to stop using euphemisms like
“Those who were 30 at independence will be 80, and many will have departed,” and instead say it in the clearest way that many will be dead. Perhaps then we might wake up.

Is there not a cause?

23Oct/18

The Economy Is Not Stupid

The Economy is Not Stupid

Our situation won’t change from more information and more “dramatic” revelations from any “Communications Taskforce” when we don’t have the courage to act on what we know already. The truth is we knew enough and were sufficiently acquainted with our misery before we voted for the leaders we elected in 2018.

We knew the quality and reputation of those leaders. We knew that the tremendous wealth most of them had gained could not have been acquired by honest means in an economy as broken as ours.

We knew that the Community Share Ownership schemes launched by government after the discovery of diamonds and other resources never lifted poor Zimbabweans out of poverty, but enriched the leaders and those connected to them.

We knew that a party whose own administrators admitted was flat broke only a year before suddenly had more money than King Solomon during the final few months of the campaign at a time when our budget deficit was also increasing by $5 billion in one year.

We knew that the condescending business people who are now strangely quiet used to admonish us to choose “stability” over change not because they really cared for the people, but because they wanted to protect their exclusive access to power and the business benefits they could get.

We know that a government which has for decades failed to keep most of its promises to its people and cannot protect them from primitive diseases like cholera is the same one today saying it will clear our arrears to the ADB, WB, IMF etc within 12 months.

Thankfully the economy is not stupid. Because it has more common sense than many of us, it won’t be fooled by the idea that the winners of any election are the best ones to run a country when the objective facts say otherwise.

It will not bend to the will of brilliant technocrats nor decorated war veterans who suggest that fake money has the same value as real money.

We will deliver ourselves and win the war on poverty when we have the courage to act on what we already know from the one consistent voice for political and economic reform and renewal in our country. That voice is not the voice of any man, but the voice of our economy.

Is there not a cause?

09Jun/04

The World Won’t Slow Down for Africa to Catch Up

Let me start with a confession:

I have not always been my well-being’s best friend.

I have bristled when others have described my lapses in judgment as…lapses in judgment. 

I have not always been man enough to consider as friends those who point out my shortcomings, and at times I have insisted on my own way to prove them wrong, only to end up proving them right at significant cost to myself.  

Unfortunately as a father, husband and leader, there are others who are forced to share the cost of my poor judgment simply because they are under me.

Life has taught me that preferring only the company of those who esteem me highly is not always best for me.  I have indulged in the intellectual quackery that insists that the best ideas are those that only I and those who look and think like me come up with.  I have learned that the convictions from which I have drawn courage are not always based on wisdom, but often only on seeing one side clearly when in fact reality is multi-dimensional.  Because I have not always valued the perspectives of others, my decisions have not always advantaged me nor my cause.  I have learned the hard way to need others who see what I cannot see, and know what I don’t know.   I need them not just for me, but also for the sake of those for whom I am responsible.

It doesn’t do me nor my cause any good to draw comfort from the fact that there are many reading this article who are just like me.  Being in the company of many who are “just like me” would make the need to address my dysfunction less urgent.  Fifty-two years ago at the historic March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of tomorrow being today, and the “fierce urgency of now” that confronted people then.  He warned that in the “unfolding conundrum of life and history,” there is “such a thing as being too late.” One of my countrymen learnt this truth the hard way several years ago.  At the final family meeting on the day he was supposed to catch his return flight to England, no one had the courage to interrupt the head of the family’s monologue, even though the airport was almost an hour away, and it was getting awfully close to departure time.  The fact that the elderly man was not just talking, but praying and commending the traveler to God, made it even more difficult for anyone to interject.

Not that anyone would have dared.

By the time the elder said “Amen,” it was almost an hour before take-off.  Everyone knew it was futile to even try to get to the airport, but try they still did, only to be told on arrival that it was indeed too late: the plane had already left.  Someone could have reminded the elder that even the scriptures tell us that there is a time for everything.  In other words, there is a time to pray, and a time to get to the airport.  They could also have suggested another approach that would have neither offended God nor caused the traveler to miss his flight: the family could have simply prayed on their way to the airport.

What I have found to be particularly disturbing over the years is how similar the stories about missed opportunities and casual attitudes towards time told by fellow Zimbabweans and Africans are.  Without getting into the complicated science of measuring the ever so slight variations in the earth’s rotation period relative to the sun caused by what astronomers call “orbital eccentricity,” the simple truth is that the earth rotates at the same speed for everyone, neither slowing down for the laggards, nor stopping for those who believe there is no hurry in Africa.  It would not be tragic if the only cost of our sometimes asynchronous behavior is a missed flight or two, or mere regrets about lost but inconsequential opportunities.  Personally, I have more at stake than that, and can no longer be patient with myself nor with “friends” who try to make me feel good when I fail to make quality and timely decisions that are advantageous to me and my cause.

In a world where tomorrow is today and everyone lives in the present-future, none of us can afford to authenticate our Africanness by ignoring deadlines and being late for everything, including work, school, church, weddings, funerals, dinner appointments, meetings with potential investors etc.  Tardiness cannot be normal and acceptable behavior simply because many who are like us do the same thing.   Punctuality and valuing time cannot be wrong because our erstwhile “enemies” were punctual and efficient, and made the most of the opportunities time presented them as the world turned.

Turning time into a friend and ally needs to be an urgent quest not just for individual Africans, but for organizations, communities, governments and nations.   The reality that 40 of the 49 countries at the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) are African can only be changed when we recognize time as the bearer of opportunity, and make the most of what it presents.  Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of West Germany after World War II, would not wait until the whole world had forgotten the crimes perpetrated by the Third Reich to see in the period immediately after the war the opportunity for his nation to rise to become the second most dynamic economy in the world in less than a decade.  As far as Adenauer was concerned, the same time the nation could have spent wallowing in guilt and shame could become West Germany’s friend and moment to thrive.  By timely, informed decision-making that was not focused on what Germany had lost, but what it could be with what was available to it, Adenauer willed a vanquished nation to rise from ruin to produce the Wirtschaftswunder (German Economic Miracle) which gave the current unified German state the solid foundation for its prosperity today.

If there is a lesson we Africans can learn from those who may not look like us, think like we do or work at our speed, it is that there are opportunities in the unlikeliest of moments, and that to make the most of them, we may have to think like they do and work at the speed not of our culture, but of life.  As compelling as Guyanese scholar Walter Rodney’s argument was about Europe’s systematic plunder of Africa during colonial times in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, an inordinate focus on what was stolen can cause us not to see what is still available to us today.  With 50 percent of the world’s gold, the lion’s share of the world’s diamonds and chromium, “90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world’s potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, millions of acres of untilled farmland as well as other natural resources” according to economist Walter Williams and many others, our continent is still the richest in natural resources today.   We are therefore not poor today because there was nothing left after the plunder.

Martin Luther King Jr. was right: THERE IS SUCH A THINGS AS BEING TOO LATE!  While I don’t believe it is already too late for Africa, it will certainly be if we continue to choose not to be honest about our shortcomings.  It will be if we choose to learn only from those who look like us and think like us.   It will be if we continue to insist that the things that have been proven not to work…work simply because we are the ones who are doing them.   It will be if we choose not to need those who can see what we do not see, and know what we do not know simply because they are not our friends.

And it will certainly be if we do not understand that in the present-future in which we live, the urgency of now has become even fiercer than it was 53 years ago, and that the world is not going to slow down for us to catch up.

Is There Not a Cause?