By Tochukwu Akunyili
I have often wondered who should be responsible for the development of Africa. This issue has been one of constant debates with the globalization push that began in the late twentieth century. A lot has been written about this issue. A lot also has been said. The more I have thought about this, the more I become convinced that it is Africans who will usher in the new era of African development. In my estimation, this ushering in has to be focused, brutal, well planned and thoroughly executed! In fact, it has to involve a revolution, conscious as it were, and in which the shedding of the bloods of patriots and tyrants (think Thomas Jefferson) may not be unlikely. From my observations, much as Africans are trying, the fire that need burn in their hearts to realize the level of development needed for the twenty-first century is not yet sufficiently aflame!
The issue of who should lead, take the blame for, or coordinate the leadership of the continent has been one of constant debates and academic discussions with scholars often pitted at polemical poles. Foremost amongst these have been such works as Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,William Easterly’s The White Man’s Burden: why the West’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good (2007), Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid: why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa (2009), and most recently Andrew Macleod’s A Life Half Lived (2013), efforts have constantly been made either to show the moral and historical guilt of Europe (Walter Rodney) or to show that in this post-colonial era, the development of the underdeveloped world must be led by the underdeveloped world actors themselves (William Easterly) or still to buttress the need for a new institutional order (Dambisa Moyo). However, on the other side of the spectrum, we have a mind like Jeffrey Sachs who shares a Panglossian optimism for the wonders that the world’s affluent nations must work in the world’s poor nations. Somewhere in between Sach’s Panglossianism and the nayism of Easterly and Moyo (with regard to expressing faith in the effectiveness of the affluent nations to cure the social and economic underdevelopment and dependency of the pauper nations – through engagement in positive moral duties like aid delivery) – comes Pogge’s moral philosophical approach. Pogge’s moral philosophical approach that a new global institutional order – in this era of global ethics and not international law – must be established just as positive moral duties like Official Development Assistance (ODA) are also engaged in.
For obvious reasons, since the two World Wars of the twentieth century, there has been a demonization of violence and/or conflict. The prevalent idea has become that wars and conflicts, especially those of them that might involve the use of guns and the shedding of blood must be avoided by all means. The international relations and the international institutions of the twentieth century were indeed established to avoid a repeat of the events of 1914-1919 and 1939-1945. In academic disciplines and literature, the events of these two wars can also be observed in the paucity of theorization of conflict and/or wars that is observable since the advent of the twentieth century. Lewis Coser, a foremost theorist of social conflict, is indeed of this opinion. He was the foremost to theorize conflict as a neutral phenomenon which can have either positive and/or negative consequences. In his classic, The Functions of Social Conflict, he elaborated on the various aspects and possible functions that conflict can have and can do in a society. When I here speak of the conflict that will usher in the new era of African development, I think of conflict in the Coserian sense of that phenomenon. A force that is actually needed to realize any meaningful change and improvement in that sub-Continent, a force that if it does not take hold of the soul of the citizens of sub-Saharan Africa will see only half-baked, patronizingly annoying results for Africans in spite of Pogge’s and Moyo’s reforms of the global institutions.
The necessity of conflicts and revolution is pretty much acknowledged in world history and indeed its (positive and negative) effects dot the history of the world. Patriots in all ages, especially so in the earlier centuries than now have had the need and the duty to shed their blood. They indeed knew it was their price to do the maximum duty and pay the costliest price for their countries or faith. They expected this as a part of service for their fatherland or for whatever other cause they believed in. The early Christian martyrs, upon whose blood it is believed the seeds of the early Church germinated, are core examples. The American, French and English revolutionaries did the same. The reason for such extreme price is that institutions so terribly entrenched need more than a tiny rustling of feathers to overthrow.
It is once again instructive that great men and women through much of world’s history have had either to advocate or to actually pay their price for their countries, their loves and their faiths. Such great men and women, indeed, more than any other person were aware of the necessity of the conflict or revolution I expect to usher in the new era of Africa’s development. And as can be expected, more than any other persons, these patriots have written and/or spoken in defence of my proposition. Thomas Jefferson, renowned author of America’s Declaration of Independence, did declare: The tree of liberty, must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Two hundred years later, Ronald Reagan, another American president asserted that since freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction …. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on from one generation to the other to continue the fight, otherwise, elderly Americans will one day spend their sunset years telling their children and children’s children what it was once like in a United States where men were free.
I will end this piece by paraphrasing the words of a man who though his body is separated from us, his memory still lives. No other than Nelson Mandela asserted that, [w]hen a man is denied the right to live the life he ought to live, he has no choice but to become an outlaw. The commonality of the phenomenon of poverty in Africa has denied the African poor of the life she ought live. It is now her duty to demand it when she is ready. The realization of the level of development the African poor needs will involve in my opinion, drastic measures, a total overhauling of the status quo, steps that might even include, blood and guns.
Tochukwu Akunyili is a graduate student of public policy at the University of Erfurt Germany. He is interested in management and development consulting, international development, climate issues and global affairs.
*This article was originally published on his website Tochukwu Akunyili . You can read it here.
*Cover image ‘Africa Food Security Research 6‘ by Kate Holt/Africa Practice