By Patrick Achitabwino:
Africans are people with great dreams and ambitions, people that go to any extreme beyond human comprehension just to realise the dreams of their families and countries. The history of Africa has no shortage of extreme sacrifices of its young men and women risking everything to attain a better life.
A short message that was found on the bodies of Guinean teenagers Yangine Koita and Fode Tounkara, who died attempting to reach Europe in the landing gear of an airliner, should be a wake-up call. It simply read: “To excellencies and officials in Europe: we suffer enormously in Africa. Help us. We have problems in Africa. We lack rights as children. We have war and illness, we lack food….we want to study, and we ask you help [to] us to study so we can be like you, in Africa.”
The sea in Lampedusa has swallowed lives and dreams of many Africans. The desert in Libya has nipped in the bud dreams of many Africans. Human traffickers have capitalised on the desperation of Africans to make money, in the process inflicting untold and inhumane misery on Africans. The stories of the dream-seeking Africans dying in pursuit of dreams are narrated in silence.
As Africa is focusing on the 2063 agenda, the agenda should no longer be a mere song. In Africa, we are good at singing and dancing songs of development that we never achieve. We give ourselves targets that elude us: Millennium Development Goals, Vision 2020 and what have you. Probably it is time that Africa moves away from documents that are not framed by the very people that suffer in Africa. Let Africans write their own dreams, strategise on the way forward and set themselves on the path to success.
It is a paradox that the continent that possesses the most sought after mineral resources remains the poorest in the world. It is a mere insult to humanity, and big shame to Africans in particular, that the continent that possesses over 60 percent of arable land in the world is always a perennial recipient of food aid. It is disheartening that we lose our respectable human resources to foreign lands. It is sheer madness that a continent that does not manufacture guns and weapons of war becomes the battleground for geo-political proxy wars that keep on ransacking dreams of its people.
Time is ripe that we become patriotic and work better for our countries of birth and thus eventually developing mother Africa.
First things first, we have to be at the pinnacle of import substitution. Let us add value to the products we have for export markets. Africa can no longer remain a perennial importer of food. Let Africa import technologies that will add value to its products so that we wean ourselves from the primitive trade of exporting primary products to exporting value added products. We have the brains, we have the capacity, we have the people, we have children that are craving for further studies to develop their motherland. The voice of the Guinean children that died for an education dream must always be ricocheting in the brains of all education policy-makers in Africa.
Africa must move away from its appetite of consuming that which it does not produce and its mastery of producing that which it does not consume. Nigeria must be refining its oil in the Niger Delta; Zambia must be producing copper products and goods in Copperbelt instead of sending truckloads of raw copper through Livingstone all the way to China.
Rare earths should no longer be flying out of Democratic Republic of Congo in raw format but used in DRC to manufacture mobile phones. Let companies be in Africa so that we become exporters of finished goods. Our resources have run out of our continent for too long.
PLO Lumumba was right that, for too long, we, Africans, have been hewers of wood and drawers of water for advanced economies. Time has dawned that Africa be for Africans, with policies built in Africa to uplift its people, universities established in Africa to spur its socio-economic growth. As long as Africans do not champion the development of the Africa they want, Africans shall remain copycats of western and eastern policies that do not resonate well with their socio-cultural and economic paradigm.