Africa’s Misplaced Priorities: Any Lessons Or Business As Usual?

Africa's Misplaced Priorities: Any Lessons Or Business As Usual?
Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is the latest African leader to die in a European hospital

AFRICANGLOBE – Earlier in life (even as a baby), I had learnt that if you want something, you had better made some noise. –Malcom X

We have been inspired to understand that our lives begin to end the moment we become silent over the things that matter. –Martin Luther King Jr.

The above statements explain the reasons why some of us the African people, having been fed up with the status quo, cannot afford to be silent any longer. In times like this when our most useful institutions are on the verge of collapse, choosing to remain silent is definitely not the way forward. Things must change. But the only way things will change is when we the people continuously demand these changes from our current leaders.

The Rise of African Democracy and The Collapse of Healthcare Institutions.

Democracy has arrived in Africa. Happy days! People are excited to vote and choose “their leaders”. It doesn’t matter whether these leaders would represent the people or not. Whether these politicians would appreciate the suffering of their people or not is not an issue. Every year, our governments are happy to spend the most part of their taxpayers’ moneys on elections, living little or nothing for the educational and healthcare institutions. Is it a wonder that many African leaders continue to travel abroad for their “routine” medical check-ups as many of them even die there?

Guinea worms, malaria fever and many diseases are killing our people because “there is no money”, yet billions are always available for elections. Our healthcare systems are in complete jeopardy because money is not available. As a result, even our leaders, who are the major stakeholders of our various countries, have NO confidence in our healthcare. Many of them therefore always travel overseas to seek medical treatment and some of them even die there. If our healthcare infrastructure were “good enough”, why would politicians travel abroad for medical their check-ups?

Since 1980, almost all African leaders who have died, passed away abroad or shortly after their routine medical check-ups. Even in our current 21stcentury, this attitude hasn’t changed as the list keeps increasing year-after-year. Here is a short list though not all of them:

  • Levy Patrick Mwanawas, the third President of Zambia died in France (2008) whiles receiving medical treatment.
  • In Ghana, a former finance minister, Kadwo Baa Wiredu (2008), passed away while receiving medical treatment abroad.
  • Then the President of Guinea, Lansana Conte, also died in 2008 after several medical check-ups abroad.
  • Gabon president, Omar Bongo, June 2009.
  • President Umaru Yar’Adua the former president of Nigeria passed away in Saudi Arabia (2010) while receiving medical treatment.
  • Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika, had a heart attack and passed away in April 2012.
  • In January 2012, the president of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in a military hospital in Paris after a long illness.
  • July, 2012 a president of Ghana, John Atta Mills died after several routine medical check-ups in the US.
  • Then in August 2012, Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia, also joined his ancestors in a Belgian hospital.

Apart from the above, there are several tens of government officials, ministers and other African politicians who have also passed away in a hospital somewhere overseas. Many of the women in government also travel abroad just to have their babies safely delivered because they have no confidence in our healthcare system. Yet, while we continue to cut the budget on healthcare and education, the amount allocated to holding elections continue to increase every year. What are our priorities?
It is very sad that the concept of “democracy” has been given a misplaced priority over basic necessities such as: quality healthcare, quality education systems, industrialization, etc.

From Nigeria to Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, etc. people are told to hail democracy while their healthcare institutions collapse. As many governments across Africa invest billions of dollars in “democracy”; their leaders continue to travel abroad for routine medical check-ups, while millions of their people also live in darkness and die of malaria/tuberculosis. Why would Africans invest huge resources in elections though many of their communities exist without electricity, good roads and portable water?

Go to Nigeria, even Ghana, and Liberia, plenty of money is always available for elections. However, when it comes to the educational sector, healthcare and the issue of industrialization, the people are often told “there is no money”, the money is not enough, and so on. Currently, many children are still studying under trees in the rural communities. Our capital cities have been overcrowded with many young boys and girls selling dog chains and all sorts of trade, when they ought to be in the classrooms. Hospitals are often overcrowded with many patients having to lie on the floors.

In the public university campuses, many rooms are overcrowded with as many as 6 to 10 students sharing a single room. Students are often forced to sleep in “shifts” because beds are not enough to accommodate roommates. Yet, our African governments do not see the need to allocate enough funds to address such pressing issues.
I must however admit that Ghana is the only country worldwide that commits a chunk of its national budget to education. Currently education accounted for 31% of the national budget, with Ghana Education Service’s share of the sector’s budget ranging from 60-70 per cent.
That notwithstanding, democracy, elections (and political rallies) consume billions of the taxpayer’s money as compared to the amount invested in healthcare and industrialization.

According to Ghana’s 2012 Budget Statement, it is estimated that meeting Ghana’s infrastructure needs would cost approximately US$1.6 billion per year (over the next ten years). Unfortunately, even though about 70% of this money is “not available”, it is very interesting that over $500 million will definitely be available for the 2012 elections. Yet after every four years, a majority of the people would still yearn for a change in government.

Time To Learn Lessons From History

Why do African leaders need a serious attitudinal change? The answer is not far-fetched. For the past few years, many African leaders continue to travel abroad for medical check-ups. Even though many of them have passed away shortly after these routine check-ups, it appears no lessons have been learnt from this cycle. In many cases, the huge amount of money spent on these medical trips could be enough to construct clinics in local communities.

Recently, in one of my articles (Multi-Party Democracy: An Imperialist Tool For Conflicts Control and Civil Wars), I recounted a tall list of African leaders/politicians who have died overseas after routine check-ups while the African healthcare infrastructure gradually collapses under our watch. Having personally written to the African leaders on the way forward, I was expecting that there would be a policy shift and a swift change in attitude. However, it seems like “business as usual” despite the numerous lessons available.

Therefore as we continue year-after-year to mourn the dead among our leaders, I would rather we take such moments to reflect upon the critical steps that ought to be taken to save the lives of the millions of the African people who do not have the resources to travel abroad for medical treatments like our leaders often do. The death our leaders should continually serve as a reminder of the urgent need for the current African leaders to pay attention to our local healthcare infrastructure. There is still enough time to act before the next African leader also joins his ancestors during his/her medical check-up abroad.

Let us allow history to teach us lessons so that it does not continue to repeat itself year after year.


By; Honourable Saka

The writer is a political analyst on African affairs, and a well-known social commentator in Africa. As a strong Pan-Africanist, he established the “Project Pan-Africa” (PPA) to create a mental revolution across Africa. He is the editor of “The Doctor’s Report”, your most reliable source of critical analysis on African issues. Email him at: Project Pan-Africa is sponsored by iTech Plus. Please join the revolution and support the project.