July 21, 2009
Et Tu Africa?
For the life of me, I can't figure out why Africans are so head over heels for Obama. A week or so before Obama's trip to Ghana, Africans from all over the continent were abuzz on the Internet voicing concerns about how horrible it was that Obama was only visiting Ghana and not their countries as well. Many Nigerians seemed particularly appalled claiming that Obama had "snubbed" them and risked creating new diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Nigeria. Some Kenyans also took offense, as they wondered why Obama didn't care enough to visit the land of his own forefathers.
Africans, I am confused. For over six months now I have watched and listened as many of you have tripped over yourselves to extol the non-existent virtues of America's forty-fourth president. You have turned yourselves into echo chambers for the BBC and CNN, both of which have already started dreaming of Obama's apotheosis and planning for the ceremonies that will follow. Your boilerplate talking points -- all of which articulate that Obama is presidential perfection -- have become as predictable as a glass of milk. You are starting to embarrass yourselves.
Here are a few questions to mull as you continue to bask in the rays of your anointed:
Question # 1: Why is Obama's presidency so significant for you? Is it the color of his skin? Understandably, Obama's victory was historically important for Americans who focused on the symbolism of their nation's first black president. You, on the other hand, have had -- with few exceptions -- nothing but black African leaders in your "sub-Saharan" regions. So what are you so proud of?
Question # 2: What has Obama ever done for Africa? Obama has allowed his own half brother to live in squalor in Kenya (not to mention his Kenyan aunt who has been living on public assistance, illegally, in the U.S.). This is an abomination. Since Obama does not know how to care for his African relatives, then I doubt that he knows how to care for Africa.
Didn't Michelle Obama say something along these lines about Hillary during the election?
Question #3: Most importantly, Africans, do you not realize that one of the most formidable and aggressive diseases that you have is one that the World Health Organization has yet to diagnose? Do you not realize that Obama is this disease's new carrier?
My dear Africa, you are dying. For decades now, you have been going through a slow but certain death. With every passing year, you become increasingly a shadow of your former self. Your customs and values are withering. You are losing your dignity, if it is not already completely lost. You have been reduced to poster-child status throughout the world. The Whole Foods and Starbucks of the world flaunt your misery with trendy, feel- good ad campaigns that encourage customers to help your orphaned and malnourished children, your disease riddled societies, and your masses of uneducated ignoramuses.
This is the picture that is painted of you.
Pretentious movie stars and musicians gallivant through your borders adding your neglected to their ever increasing collection of round-faced, dark babies. Shall I go on? Have you no shame? What will it take for you to wake up?
Africa, you are dying, and what is killing you is this: social liberalism.
Social liberalism is a political philosophy that many African nations embraced after the failure of their experiments with African socialism. Social liberalism supports heavy government regulation of a national economy, a redistribution of resources and power, and an eager support of government-funded services in healthcare, education, and overall welfare. Social liberals believe that because certain members of society are born into unfair circumstances, it is up to the government (democratically elected by the people) to give them opportunities that they might otherwise not have. And with Africa in particular, social liberals believe that for progress to happen, there is no other way.
Social liberals are closeted imperialists with no intellectual integrity.
Many African countries, including Nigeria (my other home), have had to dance to the tune of Western social liberal politicians in order to have three main things happen for them: continued diplomatic relations, the receiving of millions of dollars in government to government aid, and the opportunity to be showcased as a "model" developing nation, much like one is showcased and paraded as a "model minority".
Social liberalism in Africa is a dog and pony show. Because behind the scenes, for the masses of Africans, none of it works.
I listened to Barack Obama's speech in Ghana. I came to the same conclusion that I always come to after listening to one of his speeches. For a president, Obama doesn't know much. The range of his ignorance on so many issues has become a bottomless pit of fascination for me.
Obama addressed four main issues that Africans need to pay attention to if they wanted to see "progress" in their continent: Democracy, opportunity, health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. On all four, Obama's solutions are completely out of date and lack true intellectual vision.
Obama touts Ghana's democracy as the thing that propels its positive economic development. According to Obama,
"... development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient, which has been missing in far too many places, for too long...[for African nations that adhere to this] I have pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is Africa's interest and America's."
Really? Obama needs to add Dambisa Moyo's book, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa, to his Amazon shopping cart ASAP. In this short and very readable treatise, Ms. Moyo articulates what many have known for years: government to government aid in Africa is not working. If anything, it encourages government corruption. Many African politicians rely on these aid packages as a way of rewarding their corrupt cronies and fattening their offshore bank accounts.
Furthermore, Moyo also points out that a larger disconnect is forming between (Africa's) democratically elected leadership and its economic development. She states that,
"... democratic regimes often find it difficult to push through economically beneficial legislation amid rival parties and jockeying interests." (page 42)
The cold, hard truth is that there is no guarantee that the citizens of a nation know what or who they are actually voting for during democratic elections. Politicians use all sorts of propaganda to sway people who then vote for officials who push destructive policies that hinder prosperity. Just look at what happened here in 2008!
Obama flunks again.
"With better governance, I have no doubt that Africa holds the promise of a broader base for opportunity...and where there is good governance, we can broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in [the needs of the people]."
One of my favorite pastimes, whenever I'm in Nigeria, is spending time with friends and talking politics. I love watching as the gathered impatiently wait their turn to tell the crowd jaw-dropping anecdotes of government irresponsibility, mismanagement, and corruption. With glasses of the local brew in hand, the same thing always happens. People fall from their seats, begging for mercy, from the bellyaching laughter that the ridiculous but true stories are causing. Africans who live in politically corrupt nations know that government is not the answer. These governments are a joke. For them, opportunity depends on hard work and perseverance, not government handouts that don't even exist.
In addition to visiting slave castles, maybe Obama should have also made time to visit with some Africans "on the ground" to hear their perspective on things.
I'll cut Obama a little slack here, but not much.
"In recent years, enormous progress has been made in parts of Africa. Far more people are living productively with HIV/AIDS, and getting the drugs that they need... yet too many still die from diseases that shouldn't kill them. Individual Africans have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries."
Obama is right to say that progress has been made; and that this has happened because of a combination of things. However, especially regarding HIV/AIDS, Obama fails to understand that many Africans do make responsible choices to prevent the spread of disease. For some Africans, it is that same "tribalism" that Obama has so much disdain for -- that sometimes helps to keep peoples social values in check. Adherence to conservative values (that have been renewed from time to time) can help to keep all sorts of unpleasant circumstances at bay.
The bottom line is this: tribal/cultural mores still provide people with ethical standards to which they adhere. Contracting a deadly sexually transmitted disease is a shameful thing for many Africans. You shame yourself, your family, your community, and your tribe. It might sound old fashioned, but that's just the way it is. Most of the Africans that I know would rather not go through any of that. For them, reckless sexual behavior is just not worth all of the trouble that it might end up causing.
And concerning diseases like malaria, in her book, Moyo presents the story of a local mosquito-net maker whose shop is put out of business when an abundance of nets are provided to people by a government sponsored initiative. The net maker stops making money and so do all of his employees. Many people will go hungry because of this. Of course, we don't want people to die from malaria -- but sometimes, the negative effects of too much government intervention can be just as deadly as the diseases that it works to cure.
On the Resolution of Conflict
Here is where Obama is truly in his imperialistic element.
"Now let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at war. But for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes. These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck."
Obama, these conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck because of the overbearing paternalism that people like you continue to engage in.
Once again, corruption is the main culprit. What Obama fails to realize is that in many cases, it is the very aid packages that are being pledged for Africa that produces the conflict in the first place. Many Africans know that corrupt officials in the West are propping up their corrupt officials. So, in some places, conflict occurs when people decide to take matters into their own hands to prevent their governments from hording money that was pledged for the people.
The biggest problem with Obama's speech was his showcasing of Ghana as a model for African progress, whereby he was essentially saying this: "well if it works in Switzerland then it will work for Russia."
Africa, stop being a sucker for policies that continue to hold you back. Obama comes bearing the same poisons that have been killing you for decades. Open your eyes!