BY BRIAN CHITEMBA
AFRICA is a vast continent with immense natural and human resources. The continent is home to over 1,3 billion — almost the same population size as India and China.
The motherland celebrated Africa Day on May 25, following the establishment of the Organisation of the African Union (OAU) on that same date in 1963. The organisation was rebranded in July 2002 to become the African Union (AU) with the aim to promote political, socio-economic integration. The 55-member bloc also aims to promote peace and security.
But has the continent made significant strides towards economic and security stability? Some countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria seem to enjoy some form of economic stability. However, they still face security concerns, with Islamic fundamentalists such as Boko Haraam and Al Shabaab causing havoc in West and East Africa. The extremists’ problem has recently surfaced in southern Africa, particularly Mozambique’s Cabo Delgabo, where Islamic fundamentalists are kidnapping, raping and murdering innocent people.
Elsewhere, clashes are commonplace in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Central African Republic. In North Africa, Libya has not known peace for many years. The security instability headache is not just political, as it is strongly linked to economic factors. Islamic fundamentalists cite marginalisation and extreme poverty in their respective areas such as northern Nigeria and Mozambique, where vast natural resources such as oil and gas are benefiting a few elites. Some may argue that the fights are religious conflicts, but the underlying problem is certainly poverty.
The DRC’s instability is also traced to diamonds and coltan which is used to manufacture phones, computers, cameras and automotive electronics. Rebel groups make millions of dollars out of coltan mining to finance their fight. The lack of peace in the natural-resource rich continent can be traced back to the slave trade days between the 16th and 18th centuries, where over 13 million people were shipped to Europe and the Americas over 400 years.
Slave trade was succeeded by colonialism where European states — Britain, Portugal, Germany and France partitioned Africa to plunder resources. Slave trade and colonialism have been blamed for the economic problems on the continent.
But in Zimbabwe, where diamonds, gold, platinum, chrome and wildlife are in abundance, the economic problems can be pointed to mismanagement and corruption.
Like Zimbabwe, many other African nations battle corruption. The rich live lavishly while the poor languish. It also seems Africa is home to old presidents. It’s time the geriatrics retired and made room for younger leaders with fresh ideas to improve the economy.
Africa’s gross domestic product is around US$7 trillion, the same as the size of five big-tech companies — Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. This is a disgrace really for a continent so endowed with resources.