AFRICANGLOBE – If you pluck United States, Canada, Mexico, and Greenland and fit them into the map of Africa, there will still be room to add Central America, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. That gives you an idea of the actual size of Africa. But as a continent, we are perennial underachievers because of the avarice of our elite in whose worldview charity makes no meaning if it doesn’t begin abroad.
For centuries, Africa suffered the trans-Atlantic slave trade followed by colonialism. Then came the wave of independence movements as one country became self-governing after another. But what have we done with Independence? We are now in the era of economic slavery. We live by the riverside but wash our faces with spittle.
Europe and America have, over the years, taken their turn to loot our resources. But they don’t need to exert energy in that direction anymore because our sons and daughters, the neo-colonial elite of Africa, do the direct looting and then transfer the funds to Europe and America to purchase properties or simply to domicile the money offshore for the rainy day.
We no longer work for our livelihood. All we do is find a way to belong in the ruling elite and access the public till. Against all traditional admonitions against stealing, our new greed propels us to throw morality out of the window and celebrate our new treasury looters. In the area of infrastructural development we rank very low but we are the world champions in corruption. According to Transparency International, the Top 10 least corrupt countries are Denmark, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada and Germany respectively. There is no African country among the first 27, Botswana being number 28.
In a report, “People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015, part of the Global Corruption Barometer”, in which Transparency International partnered with Afrobarometer, which spoke to 43,143 respondents across 28 countries in Africa to ask them about their experiences and perceptions of corruption in their country, 58 per cent of the respondents say corruption has increased over the last 12 months. In 18 out of 28 countries surveyed a large majority of people said their government was doing badly at fighting corruption. The bright spots across the continent were in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Senegal. Twenty-two per cent of the people that came into contact with a public service in the past 12 months paid a bribe. People who come into contact with the courts and police were the most likely to have paid a bribe.
In South Africa, President Zuma continues to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time, the scandal is not about sexual indiscretion but using state funds to build his personal house and condoning a close (and mutually beneficial?) relationship with the well-heeled Gupta family. In many African countries the leadership is composed of crooked men and women who ought to be in jail.
The picture that many people outside Africa – especially ignoramuses like Donald Trump – have of Africa is that of famine, war, Ebola disease, anarchy and total backwardness. Meanwhile, Africans are buying up the choicest properties in the Western world. Rich Africans have spent nearly $900 million on luxury residential property in London’s best addresses in the last three years. Nigerians are London’s fourth biggest overseas shoppers, averaging $640 in each shop. Some spend an average of $7,500 per shop in places like Harrods. Most of the Africans spending big in London come from just six countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Senegal.
Equatorial Guinea is one Africa’s smallest countries and, in theory, one of the most prosperous. Oil revenues make it the wealthiest single country in Africa per capita, but 70 per cent of the population lives beneath the United Nations poverty threshold of €2 a day. In Congo-Brazzaville (a former French colony to the north of the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo), three quarters of the population lives below the UN poverty line. In Gabon, the population is a little better off: only 20 per cent survive below the line.
In February last year, French magistrates led a two-week “raid” on an €80m (£68m) Paris mansion as part of a judicial investigation into the alleged “biens mal aquis” (ill-gotten gains) of the leaders of three African countries. The magistrates also issued an international arrest warrant for Teodorin Obiang, 43, the son and heir apparent of President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. At a spectacular auction in Paris, two Bugattis, two Bentleys, a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, a Porsche, a Maserati and a Maybach – all belonging to Obiang, were collectively auctioned for €2.8 million. Back home in Equatorial Guinea, the 1,800 miles of roads are largely unpaved, being motorable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles during the rains.
All over the Western world, you find huge investments owned by Africans with links to their country’s government. Our erstwhile colonial lords no longer need to take the trip to the Dark Continent; they can now wait for us at home to invest our stolen funds in their economy.
Still wondering why we remain so backward? Search no farther. The answers are within our borders.
By: L. Adewoyin