Zimbabwe today joins 54 other nations on the continent in celebrating Africa Day.
The day was set aside for Africans to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963.
It is insightful to note that the first Congress of Independent African States was held in Accra, Ghana, on April 15, 1958 and was convened by the Prime Minister of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
It was attended by representatives from Egypt, Liberia, Libya, Ethiopia, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon and the host country, Ghana.
The thrust of the conference was to showcase the progress made by African liberation movements in emancipating the continent from the shackles of colonial enslavement. Despite the fact that the Pan-African Congress had worked towards the same goal since its formation in 1900, this was the first time that such a meeting had taken place on African soil.
The conference was a huge milestone in African history as it laid the foundation for further meetings of African heads of state and government, finally leading to the formation of the OAU in 1963.
On May 25, 1963, representatives of thirty African nations met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Emperor Haile Selassie. By then more than two thirds of the continent had attained independence.
The OAU, the forerunner to the African Union, was founded to spearhead the emancipation of African countries from colonial bondage.
Today, all countries in Africa are politically free, except Saharawi Republic, which is still a colony of Morocco.
But is the continent really free?
In his epoch-defining speech at the founding of the OAU, Dr Nkrumah, then Prime Minister of Ghana, made a poignant remark, noting that:”
On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence.
Independence is a prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference.”
It is important to observe that the luminaries of Pan-Africanism, among them Julius Nyerere, Dr. Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and Haile Selassie all had a vision.
Their greatest legacy was not so much in their fight for the total political emancipation of African countries, but they envisaged a situation where Africa would be free, politically and economically.
Sad to say, these paragons of Pan-Africanism did not succeed in actualising their vision of a truly free Africa during their lifetime.
Placing events in Africa in their proper context, it is easy to see that while most African countries attained political independence many years ago, their economies are still controlled by their erstwhile colonisers. But political independence without economic independence is inconsequential.
Today, it is generally accepted that Africa is the richest continent in the world in terms of the resources that create wealth. Shockingly though, the majority of Africans today find themselves marooned on a small island of searing poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of lucrative natural resources.
Why, may I ask?
In all honesty, how can one explain a situation where people, who are super rich in all the natural resources that create wealth, wallow in abject poverty? Alas, without the grace of aid liberally begged from abroad, the majority of Africans are failing to make ends meet.
However, relying on aid from the West has proved disastrous for many an African country as the imperialists often use it as an excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of African countries. He who pays the piper dictates the tune, says an ancient adage.
Malawi went through a turbulent economic period when the country’s late former President, Bingu waMutharika denounced homosexuality. The UK and her allies promptly cut aid to Malawi, whose budget relied heavily on foreign aid. There was chaos and mayhem as the standards of living in the country deteriorated.
Zimbabwe also suffered the same fate when it embarked on land reforms in 2000. In 2001, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared the country ineligible to access the general resources of the IMF, and promptly removed it from the list of countries eligible to borrow under the poverty and growth facility.
Today, Africa is going through a radical socio-economic and political metamorphosis, which is fraught with obstacles and challenges that appear insurmountable. What offends my own moral sensibilities as an African is that the same nations which today strangle Africa’s economies through harsh economic policies are the same nations which have plundered its wealth for centuries.
According to one estimate, the majority of the world’s natural resources are found in Africa. And yet most Africans are literally scrounging around to eke out a living. Why is Africa so poor in the midst of these stupendous riches?
As Africans, we must awaken to the reality that the development of the mighty Western Empire is not above board and is, to a very large extent, premised on the wholesale plundering of resources from developing nations.
The unpalatable truth that we must swallow in huge gulps is that the West, greedy and selfish as it is, does not have the time, will or inclination to see Africa develop as this does not augur well with its diabolic expansionist machinations that are oiled by the resources that it siphons from Africa for a song. This is the reason why the West is vehemently opposed to Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.
The refusal by the colonial powers to help African countries recover from the horrors of colonialism in the same way they have helped other countries since the end of The Second World War is one of the major reasons why most African countries are poor.
The heart-rending reality is that while Africa has massive deposits of minerals like gold, silver, copper, diamonds and so forth, it does not have the requisite capital-human, financial, machinery and know-how to exploit these natural resources and has to rely on multinational companies to extract them on its behalf.
And this is where the problem lies. Due to Africa’s lack of capital to exploit its resources, multinational companies use the muscle of their capital to compel African countries to grant them concessions that give the multinational companies the lion’s share of proceeds that accrue from the African natural resources.
It is the strong contention of this pen that Africa has the potential to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of development because it has the resources that the world’s economy needs to turn on its axis. In this vein, Africans must stop relying solely on the West in their development endeavours.
Instead, they should cast their nets far and wide by seeking foreign investment from friendly countries like China and Russia. This is what President ED Mnangagwa is currently doing through his Government’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
Since establishing the Second Republic, he has made attracting foreign investment, one of the key pillars in the quest to establish a middle-income economy by 2030.
He has visited China, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and so forth at the invitation of these nations’ leaders, who want investors from their countries to do business in Zimbabwe. This has seen Zimbabwe sign a plethora of major investment agreements with investors from these countries.