Which African leaders will truly emulate the achievements of John Pombe Magufuli?

Presidents John Pombe Joseph Magufuli of Tanzania, 1959 – 2021.

Since his passing, quite a lot has been said about the life and works of Tanzania’s recently deceased president. And by most fair and sincere accounts, John Magufuli did have a tangible, measurable, commendable and signficant impact on Tanzania, taking the country along an admirable trajectory from a low income country up to the point Tanzania is now firmly considered to be a middle income country.

And most Tanzanians loved him for it.

And yet across Africa, although such success stories inspire millions and should in theory be common – they don’t happen very often, owing to a long list of failures, among them poor and uninspired leadership.

But if John Magufuli – who it must be said didn’t come from some grand or otherwise priviledged background that gave him special advantages – can achieve what he did in as short a space of time as 6 years, why can’t other African leaders do the same?

Power & Status

It is no secret that many leaders in Africa are drawn to political leadership for other reasons. They are not overly concerned about the problems their countries face, or the poverty and hardship. The overriding intention is not so much to provide good and transformative leadership in the way Magufuli did, instead a worrying number of African leaders are more bothered about power and status, leaving a leadership void in those countries, and consequently affecting the scale and pace of development.

These are the people who like to attend heads of state meetings of SADC, UN, AU, ECOWAS, etc. complete with stays in pricey hotels; they like to have smarmy business executives of dodgy companies attend state house to meet them – because it can be spun into an investment story; they love to be seen on the front covers of newspapers, to be interviewed by the likes of Al Jazeera, CNN or France 24 – making all sorts of grandiose promises, which years later, can’t be backed by any tangible achievements; they love to have the doors of their Mercedes Benz limousines opened by well dressed, neatly-shaven and altogether reverent bodyguards – who make them appear more important than they actually are; they like to attend every insignificant function that comes along, where they can be seen to be doing something or to please supporters – even when the impact of such functions on a national level is negligible and a single junior minister could have been dispatched to it. Increasing the salaries of top military officials or the trip to the UN General Assembly means more to such leaders than funding the education and welfare of poor kids in their countries’ ghettos; they like to see a band of protocol-obsessive allowance-seeking hand-clapping minions nod approvingly at everything they say, flanking them at press conferences, worshipping them on social media, inflating the sizes of their convoys, and generally putting out a false and deceptive apperance of competence and authority. For these kind of leaders, a picture taken with Barack Obama at the White House or with Bill Clinton or Richard Branson at some international conference means more than actually getting down to the hard work of resolving the youth unemployment crises in their own countries. They will talk endlessly of courting investors and trying to attract investment at these high level international gatherings, but years on – absolutely nothing comes out of it.

That love of glamour and status is more about pomp (the same english word where pomposity comes from) and let’s be absolutely clear when we say it is not leadership, and is exactly the kind of excess leaders like John Magafuli, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba and even Julius Nyerere would despise.

Centralisation

It doesn’t matter how talented, knowledgeable and practical you think you are, you can’t adequately cater to the needs of millions of people on your own. Even if everyone within your cabinet was churning out tons of raw productivity, even if everyone in the ministries was ontop of their work, even if all government departments were working with superhuman efficiency and at 100% capacity, it’s still not enough to adequately cater for everyone’s needs from good healthcare and housing to employment and skills development, if things remain centralised.

Centralisation is a progress killer in African countries because everyone expects the president, the minister, the technocrats, the guy at the top to sort out everything for everybody. But the guy at the top doesn’t have superhuman powers to do justice to all the needs and requirements of the people he/ she leads or is supposed to represent. And his/ her priorities often are not the same as the priorities of the people in need.

If the impact of our Governments across the African continent is to be revolutionised, if we are to achieve more tangible things in less time, we need to begin to think beyond one man or woman being the person who authorises and pushes through some project or another to completion.

We need to democratise development to the point where we openly and unreservedly bring into the equation those people (or groups) whose lives are affected by governance failings, or under-service that’s not been prioritised, and empower them to be able to make a real difference in their circumstances, be it allowing them to organise themselves, to raise money, buy equipment, or build the infrastructure they need etc. without having to constantly seek authorisation from the central government.

In Malawi it means projects like the Neno road, a new international airport in Mzuzu, the new hospital promised to Michinji, and the Kapiri-Mkanda road among a long list of project promises should be treated as urgent infrastructure projects, and should be escalated, and a stringent implementation schedule set.

District officers and communities involved should be tasked with a new implementation schedule, provided funding that’s closely monitored, and subjected to regular monthly audits to strictly enforce the implementation schedule. They should also be free to solicit their own funding to add to that effort, and any failures, unexplained mishaps or delays should have serious consequences for all involved. That is the kind of thing John Magufuli would be proud of, and we’ve all seen the videos of his similar hard-hitting approach.

The way we fund, monitor and roll out major projects, and the implementation timelines need to be changed fundamentally, for projects to start being executed timely, and for them to be completed on budget.

Party allegiance vs allegiance to the country & the constitution

President Chakwera in Malawis Parliament

One of the qualities which is common in transformative leaders is that they are not afraid of stating the truth and offending powerful people.

In some cases this can be a negative quality and can lead to a leader’s downfall, but in most cases it is a good and necessary quality to have because a great leader needs to have a strong spine. He or she needs to be able to say No, when the situation calls for it. This is important since not everyone who will try and approach or influence an African President (however dignified the title of the influencer is, or however laundered the reputation of their organisation may appear) does so from a good or sincere place. Simply put, not everyone who talks to an African President has noble intentions.

Unfortunately there are so many examples of African leaders capitulating or giving into bad ideas, bad or exploitative deals when pressured, when they should infact have stood their ground firmly and said No.

Now here, I’m not talking about issues like COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines which scientifically have near global consensus on how to manage and deal with, in order to stem the spread of the pandemic.

What I mean is if a leader knows or has been made aware of the toxic influence or otherwise corrupt nature of say one or more of his own ministers or officials; he / she must act, and crack hard to decisively rectify that anomally. Even if individuals in his / her own party thinks the scandal should be ignored.

Similarly, a great leader who wants the best for his people should not allow his country to be heavily indebted to other countries or to international institutions. And if they find the debt when they get into office, they need to aggressively devise as a matter of urgency a workable, practical and stringent plan of managing and paying off the debt.

Old thinking vs 21st Century thinking

Employees at WhatsApp HQ

This fundamentally is about new wine and old wineskins.

The world is not what it was 40 or 50 years ago. While a Nelson Mandela, or a Kamuzu Banda, or a Jomo Kenyatta, or a Robert Mugabe were great and necessary needs for Africa 40 or 50 years ago, our countries at this moment have fundamentally changed and have very different needs and wants to the needs of the 60’s and 70’s; the kind of needs which cannot fully be tackled by using approaches or methods devised by African heavyweights dinosaurs.

That’s not to downplay the achievements of these great men, or to ignore the many rich lessons enshrined in their lives. Not at all. But having said that, many of them weren’t able to deal with everything properly. For example many such great leaders didn’t manage to eradicate poverty in their lifetimes, so even back then their successes had limitations.

A modern thatched house outside Lilongwe, Malawi.

Instead, our countries in Africa need leaders who understand the dynamics of the 21 Century; who ask questions such as:

what 20 practical things can we do to maximize the chances of the next WhatsApp being founded in our country?

The Africa of today needs young and dynamic leaders with vision who will pioneer projects for better connectivity, cheaper and affordable modern housing, attractive & inspired infrastructure, and well connected networks of affordable public transportation (modern trams, trains and road networks). Our countries in Africa need cheaper logistical costs for importation of desirable foreign goods, cheaper logistical costs for ease of export of the country’s processed goods without making them too expensive on international markets, State owned and run multi-billion dollar projects that will not only create thousands of jobs, but will bring forex – several of the kinds of things which we are now beginning to discover Tanzania was working towards. The list is rather long.

You can’t do that kind of thing effectively if you are still thinking of how to maintain a well-equipped secret police, or if your focus is just on winning the next election. You can’t do that if your parastatals and large public companies aren’t run by anyone under the age of 35, or when you don’t have enough women in leadership roles in such companies…

Birmingham City Library

It’s the difference between on one hand promising to build a stadium (whose long term impact on a poor country is debatable), and on the other hand working to build high quality modern libraries in each district and to bring free high speed internet to poor citizens and their children – most of whom can’t afford the often high data costs charged by private companies currently operating in African countries.

Continuing the spirit of Magafuli will require a fundamental shift in the way governance has been done in Africa for a long time. It will require true selflessness beyond party, tribal or national lines. It will mean breaking against party, regional and historic allegiances and doing what is best for everyone, not just the biggest or most powerful side. It will mean negotiating hard for the interests of the people, and not being intimidated by foreign powers or external pressure on matters of national or regional importance.

Magafulism has raised the bar extremely high for African leadership, and was well overdue. For now it remains to be seen just how many current African leaders will truly rise up to the challenge?

This is the main reason Malawi wants to be friends with Somaliland

Somaliland’s Parliament Building

If you were presented with a picture of the rather unassuming building of Somaliland’s Parliament for the very first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the place was in fact the site of Prakash Patel’s Tandoori Curry Bazaar in downtown Limbe.

Yes, looks are not everything, but the building is reminiscent of a glorified third-rate Bengali restaurant in a dusty part of town than the bonafide parliament building that it actually is. It looks more like one of those places where families go to after a sweaty day in Church, for Sunday dinner – complete with Biryanis, Chicken Kormas and Lamb Vindaloos.

So, what on earth is Malawi looking for in Somaliland?

Shouldn’t we instead be cosying up to the Singapores and South Koreas of this world? The glitzy success stories whose ‘breadcrumbs’ can catapult our tiny economy into the 21st century….no?

I mean, if we are serious about implementing a tried and tested formula of economic development which other countries have been using to develop their economies for decades then surely an official trip to New Delhi or Jakarta sounds more like it?

There’s been quite a bit of speculation as to the real reasons why Malawi is interested in Somaliland, and I won’t tire you by rehearsing those reasons here.

The adminstration of Somaliland has put out what to me sounds like regurgitated diplomat-speak.  A cut-and-paste statement that is too generic to be meaningful or taken seriously. The government of Malawi too hasn’t provided a convincing reason for its interest in Somaliland. In any case if the issue was truly about Somaliland seeking support from Malawi for it’s national recognition on the world stage, then surely it should have been officials from Somaliland visiting Malawi, and not the other way round. As the Chichewa proverb goes, phiri siliyendera nyani koma nyani ndi amene amayendera phiri (A mountain doesn’t follow the monkey, it’s the monkey that follows the mountain)

What’s surprised me from the commentary about the visit in Malawian publications is to see almost no one pick out the most probable reason why Eisenhower Mkaka (Malawi’s Foreign Minister) visited Hargeisa – the capital city of Somaliland, which I’m quite sure most Malawians hadn’t previously heard of before Mkaka’s visit.

I think the real reason Lazarus Chakwera’s government is looking to befriend Somaliland is to do with Oil. Yes, it’s all about Petroleum. Why this is the most likely reason is because in recent years, there’s been quite a lot of talk about investment into Somaliland. Only last year, the London headquartered Genel Energy announced it had increased his stake in the SL10B13 block in Somaliland to 100% , after acquiring a 25% state that had been previously held by East African Resources Group. That block alone is said to comprise several interests each containing at least 200 million barrels of crude oil, with some analysts estimating that there’s at least 1 Billion barrels of oil underneath that one block. That means Somaliland as a whole could have significant petroleum reserves, possibly of the size comparable to those found in several of the neighbouring countries.

And that’s a big deal.

Further, when friends are hard to come by as has been the experience of Somaliland (which is still regarded as an autonomous region within Somalia, and hasn’t been officially recognised by any country) any sort of trade can make a significant difference. As other marginalized states (including sanction-laden states such as Venezuela & Iran) will tell you, any takers of your output including oil in circumstances where other countries are afraid of the consequences of trading with you can be a lifesaver.

In addition, Somaliland in 2016 signed a 30 year contract with the United Arab Emirates’s DP World, the third largest port operator in the world, to manage and expand its Berbera Port. Last year, a US$400 million road project connecting Ethiopias border town of Togochale to Berbera was launched, a route which some analysts say will be an alternative transit point for imports and exports out of Ethiopia. There’s been several other significant and notable investments…

But if the oil quantities are as significant as some think, its only a matter of time before a refinery is constructed. Already in the south Ethiopia is looking at building it’s first oil refinery. This follows the shelving of a Blackstone Group LP-backed fuel pipeline project 2 years ago. Thus, given the frosty nature of diplomatic relations between Somalia and Ethiopia, it’s not inconceivable for Petroleum from Somaliland being refined in Ethiopia in the near future, before being sent back to be shipped from Berbera to destinations across the world.

Malawi needs oil at as cheap a price as can be found. Thus if you can sign contracts with ‘friends’ who are relatively new to the oil game to sell you oil at ‘friendly prices’ (as opposed to Market rates) in exchange for support regarding the friend’s sovereignty, then theoretically everyone stands to benefit. Malawi gets its relatively cheap oil at prices it can afford without having to deal with the baggage of the likes of Nigeria, Somaliland gets some Forex, and a measure of the international recognition it very much craves, there’s a boost to intra-African trade. Everyone’s a winner!

Why African Governments should Strongly Condemn the Xenophobic attacks against Africans in China

The last couple of days have brought depressing headlines that show Africans living in China being persecuted, in some instances at the hands of the police, as a new wave of the Coronavirus pandemic hits parts of the country.

This is unfortunate news because China seems to have been trying to build economic partnerships with several African countries based on mutual respect and a win-win cooperation.

There’s also an irony here because not too long ago, Chinese nationals and other Asians were complaining of suffering physical attacks and hate speech amid xenophobic calls by some political pundits in several countries for Asian migrants to be denied access to medical services.

Indeed the hashtag #IAmNotAVirus trended on twitter a few weeks ago.

Thus, at a time when there has been calls against calling the Coronavirus the ‘Wuhan Virus’, or the ‘Chinese virus’ as some have been doing, with people across the world standing in solidarity with Asians who were experiencing this hate speech, it’s disheartening to see Chinese people attacking Africans in this demeaning and insensitive manner:

In the weeks since COVID-19 has been circulating, Asian-Americans and Asians around the world have noted a spike in discrimination and xenophobic attacks. Public transit riders have encountered hostile interactions and people simply walking down the street have experienced microaggressions — which I prefer to call veiled aggressions, because there is nothing “micro” about them for the person on the receiving end.

Dr. Marietta Vazquez, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases & General Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine; Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Over the last few decades China has worked hard to court African countries by presenting itself as their alternative economic partner in a global competition against western countries. Using loans and infrastructural development assistance promises among other measures, bilateral agreements have been signed and investment into various sectors across African countries has followed.

China even hosts a summit for Africa (called Forum on China–Africa Cooperation) every three years.

Indeed such has been the level of Chinese incursion into Africa that in some places even obscure villages have Chinese communities numbering several hundred people.

Generally, Chinese investment into Africa works as follows: China gives African countries cheap loans (and or buyer’s credit), access to relatively cheap equipment and technology, help in infrastructure development such as building roads, railways, factories, hospitals and stadia, but without the IMF-type conditionalities, and without any paternalistic intervention in the recipient country’s domestic politics. In return African countries give China raw materials (of which minerals remain a significant part) and a growing market where Chinese companies can flog their wares, or offer their services. What is often left unsaid (but is perfectly understood) in these transactions is that African leaders should not criticise China in public.

Thus, with such strategic investment and presence on the African continent, a presence which China is keen to emphasize as not interfering in the internal state affairs of African countries, and which is not colonialist, you’d think the Chinese government would be at least careful about how it handles matters regarding African people.

However, looking at some of the videos coming out of China in recent days, it’s disappointing that the authorities, including the Chinese police seem to be partaking in the actual harassment of citizens of African countries.

And unfortunately, it’s not the first time that foreigners in China have been viewed as a threat to public safety. In 2016, local officials in Beijing ran an awareness campaign cautioning Chinese citizens against dating foreigners, who they said could be spies.

While the police in China may struggle to understand that human rights of all people must be protected, given the repressive nature of the Chinese State, and given China’s well-documented intolerance of freedom of speech, but surely they must know that repression of foreigners is out of bounds.

It’s one thing to be fast and loose with your own citizens, quite another to do it to someone else’s people.

This is why African countries must stand together in being firm against China to explain what exactly is going on. It’s not good enough to merely express “extreme concern”, when your country’s nationals are being attacked and harassed in this way. Not in a world where Africans the world over suffer demeaning insults and discrimination on a daily basis for all manner of things.

Thus, Foreign Offices across the African continent who have knowledge that their citizens have been affected should summon Chinese Ambassadors in their countries to explain what is going on, and why the police are not clamping down on the xenophobic attacks?!? They should also request an explanation of what will be done in terms of restitution to those who have been affected, and within what timeline. This should be handled as a matter of urgency.

Usually China is quick (some will say ‘harsh’) at dealing with civil disobedience and clamping down on unrest. Indeed there are many examples throughout China’s history one can pick from. So why are we not seeing Chinese police officers protecting Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou for example?

Further, over the last 40 or so years China has been accused of many things, mainly by politicians and companies in western countries. Among the accusations is the allegation that China is lax on infringement of intellectual property rights by its citizens. But in recent times, the country has been trying hard to clean up this reputation, however unfair the perceptions that remain may be. In particular, there have been promising strides against counterfeiting and strengthening of China’s intellectual property laws, with admirable progress worth shouting about.

But the current xenophobic attacks stand squarely to undermine any such glimmers of hope. China will struggle to win the world’s hearts and minds with such grim headlines. And the criticism is not western media bias as some Chinese officials have been keen to dismiss them as. The stories of residents being kicked out of their apartments are real, and there is video evidence available across social media to prove they occured. They smack of illegality and the trampling of civil liberties in the face of the authorities. Blanket denials will not help China’s cause.

Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic will require a global united front. It will need not only lockdowns, a range of personal hygiene measures, social distancing, respirators, masks, protective personal equipment and a vaccine, among other things. But it will also require firmly and truthfully stamping out the darker impulses of human behaviour when faced with calamity; it will mean clamping down on physical attacks and hate speech against minority communities. And since the overwhelming evidence of the origins of COVID-19 points to Wuhan in China, the Chinese government above everyone else ought to be at the frontline of the effort to protect minorities.

In praise of the resourceful Nigerian

dev1.jpg

Nigerians are go getters…you just have to admire their fighting spirit. While there are many Nigerian conmen out there (who over the decades have tarnished the reputation of Africa, and Africans), there are many more honest and hardworking Nigerians doing some very interesting things – involved in some innovative businesses, so it’s no overstatement to say we can all learn from their ingenuity http://www.nairaland.com/2512295/top-14-nigerian-innovators-watch

Malawian entrepreneurs in contrast appear to be different. While this is a generalisation, some Malawian business people will see the purchase of a private jet or building of a hotel, and think that such is a sign of development or wealth…??

Instead of buying a private jet (in a very poor country) or building a shopping mall, Malawian ‘entrepreneurs’ who have significant capital resources should consider investing their money into something transformative that has a potential to create a massive industry, one that will improve the lives of large numbers of people, especially since Malawi is a country that needs to let go of it’s over-dependence on Tobacco. And this is not about social enterprises as you’ll see below.

To give an example, the Indians invested into call centres after China took over their manufacturing edge, and recently there has been an increase of so many Indian companies getting into industries like the provision of SEO services (they control 6.6% of the global market https://moz.com/industry-survey), building Apps and other businesses which are not only scalable, but have the potential to employ hundreds of thousands of people. That’s even before you mention Automotive (On top of Tata Motors, they also own Jaguar), … But back to Malawi for a moment; we cannot be building shopping Malls, Golf courses or Hotels and claim that such is a sign of development? Building Shopping Malls or Hotels only encourages consumerism, spending… spending… spending… it doesn’t increase the net worth of the majority of people, it doesn’t in itself help improve the lives of those who buy from those malls, and generate incomes for them. A shopping Mall will not increase your earning potential, and only benefits the few families who have the capital to set up shop in them, including those investors who own the Mall.

I would rather Malawians build institutions that provide skills to our people to enable them to be qualified so that they can work in sectors that manufacture goods and compete with the likes of Kenya, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brazil.

All well and good talking about wanting Africa to make stuff, to make motorcycles, cars, aeroplanes, refridgerators and whatever else… but are the people who will make those things sufficiently qualified?

Most people like to give an example of China, South Korea, or Singapore as examples which Africans should emulate, but what they forget to mention is that in these societies, a greater proportion of the workforce is extremely highly qualified (not in terms of just having PhD’s, but they have transferable technical skills: They understand Physics, Electronics and Engineering principles and Manufacturing processes, and can use such skills and knowledge to apply to problems with the hope of finding a solution. If a solution is found, they can come up with a product that embodies that solution). In addition many innovators fromthese countries are trained in business, unlike the situation in our African countries where too many people who run businesses don’t even follow the fundamental concepts essential for a successful business.
What Malawi should be striving for, is to equip it’s young people with skills so that they can become resourceful and attempt to solve the problems within their communities/ global challenges, and in the process increasing their earning potential.
Let me proivide another example. If a Malawian national had invented a device similar to this ocean cleaning bin http://www.boredpanda.com/floating-rubbish-bin-ocean-clean…/ it is possible with visionary leadership, a good strategy and the right kind of funding to create a factory that would employ 3000 – 4000 people in Malawi over 5+ years, making these devices within Malawi, and selling them all over the world. The invention would make huge profits for the owner of that company…. in any case, this is only a simple device, and there’s nothing too complicated about it. In my view it can even be made from dry reeds weaved in the same way as weaved baskets, so no excuse for the unavailability of raw materials:

reed-basket
In case you are asking why such a business would work, it has to be because sea / ocean debris is a real concern all over the world, and there is a huge demand (a market, which is an essential component for a product based business) for a simple device that can be made cheaply and deployed to clean oceans and lakes of all the plastic and other waste that’s thrown into them(waste that endangers marine life).
In contrast, even if a Shopping Mall or Hotel creates jobs for 200 – 300 people, comparatively it’s far less than what a factory making goods that can be exported globally has the potential to employ. Further, the money that shopping mall makes for the owner would be miniscule compared to the profits that would be generated by a product that is a commercial success globally.

Why are some people opposed to black empowerment policies?

AfricanGirl

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” 17And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Mark 2 : 16 – 17

I’ve often been perplexed by the vehement opposition with which some people have against black empowerment policies. It’s quite strange since those policies are infact an attempt to remedy the clearly unacceptable situation where in countries like South Africa, the majority of the wealth is owned and controlled by a tiny white minority, while millions of black South Africans go by with too little.

And it’s not only in South Africa where this problem exists. Instead in most parts of Africa, we have a situation whether a tiny elite of individuals, businesses and corporations owns disproportionately huge amounts of resources, whereas the native population has very little in comparison. In the United States policies that embody what some call ‘positive discrimination’, for example Affirmative action,  have for decades attracted widespread and unfair criticsm. Having spent some time studying the views and opinions of people who are against Black Economic Empowerment (BEE),  I think I now understand their position more clearly, including the deep flaws in their arguments.

Racist

Over the last couple of years I’ve read opinions for and against BEE.  I’ve been both entertained and shocked, but in boths instances marvelled at the passion or lack of nuance in some of the attitudes in this space. Among the most common accusations against BEE is the cheap and totally lazy accusation that BEE policies are racist.

But hang on a moment….when you have millions of people in South Africa, and hundreds of millions of people across the African continent, who as a result of racist ideas such as Colonialism, Slavery (over hundreds of years), discriminatory and in some cases highly questionable if not altogether racist policies of western institutions, live with poverty and struggle to get by each day, failing to improve their lives, how can you be taken seriously when you attack such countries / leaders for trying to reverse the consequences of European racist Ideology?? How dishonest is that? If you agree that colonialism and slavery were wrong, then surely you should by implication also agree that those who have been affected by the long-term effects of these toxic ideologies deserve a helping hand to enable them to be financially independent. It’s only equitable.

But often these critics don’t suggest anything better that will have real tangible effects (provide affordable housing to people on incomes that are so low they cannot afford house prices unaided at the current levels;  create well-paying jobs to people who were previously unemployed, and unable to get a job; enable loans to be extended to people with bad credit histories – who would otherwise be unable to get loans elsewhere, etc), but are very good at ignoring the history that has created the deprivation in the first place.

Further, if after decades the disparities we see in society today continue to linger (and in some cases they have increased), are you saying the situation that is failing to rectify itself, and indeed can’t rectify itself without intervention- should be left just as it is?

If thats what they propose, then in whose interest and benefit will such be? If you ask me certainly not in the interest of black Africans who are the people who need help here.

And so you really have to wonder why these critics are making those accusations  when they have got no workable alternative idea to offer?

Wasteful

Another flimsy but entirely predictable accusation that is often levelled against the state in regards to BEE policies is that they are inefficient; that they suck up too many resources, for very little return. In essence these critics are applying well known business principles of investment and return to a social cause that is not readily measured in numbers. If a family is happy that they now have a new home, which is safe, and does not leak like their old house in the ghetto, how can you translate that into a mathematical or financial equation? It’s not possible, yet that happiness and safety is a legitimate measure of success of the initiative.

The rationale behind the accusation of wastefulness is rather questionable if not outright elitist. Think about it; when colonial governments across Africa acted in the interests of European countries alone, to extract huge amounts of resources from colonised lands for the benefit of Kingdoms and the Aristocracy in Europe, to build their cities and sustain their economies, forsaking even basic investment in healthcare, job creation, infrastructure, education, social services, the general well-being and economic advancement of the indigenous populations across the African or Carribean colonies, is it really that big a transgression for African countries to begin spending money on their people (who historically were maligned for hundreds of years)? What is so bad with aiding people who are unable to afford decent housing get good homes? Or helping low income workers get well-paying jobs- which their forefathers were prohibited from holding?

It will cause them to be lazy is the often the insensitive response you get from critics of BEE policies. But that’s not entirely accurate because by improving their lives you are also helping them be  in a position where they can take advantage of certain opportunities which they couldn’t previously be able to take advantage of. For example, if I now have a safe house to live in, with a refrigerator, I may want to start a business selling cold soft drinks in my neighbourhood – something which I wouldn’t be able to readily do in my old shack in the slums. I have electricity, so my children will be able to stay up late and use the lights at night to read books, and hopefully get better grades in school (books which they borrow from the newly built Library down the road – when previously they had to walk over 3 miles to get to a Library). They will be better protected from the elements – reducing the likelihood of disease, especially since that now I have better sanitation… Overall, there will be a great and immeasurable improvement to our lives.

What all this is, is spending money that the predecessors of these African governments (colonial and apartheid governments) should have spent on the indigenous populations decades ago, but which they didn’t spend for all sorts of reasons….

I mean, is it really such a bad thing for African countries to decide to achieve genuine economic equality? … when you have so much poverty and want across the continent…

OpenSewer-Nairobi
A boy sits near an open sewer in Kibera slum, Nairobi // Source: Wikipedia

The way I see it, if there had been fairness, and if throughout history black populations were treated humanely, and in the same way as white populations, with no systematic bias or ideological repression of one kind or another, there would be no need for BEE policies today, because the income disparities would not exist. The only reason we have BEE policies is because there is an unacceptable problem that was created throughout history, that in many countries still remains, and that urgently needs to be rectified.

Like the first accusation, those who attack BEE policies with the wasteful accusation fail to understand the real benefits these policies have on poor people. They too won’t suggest anything better that would achieve real results.

Here, please allow me to digress: I seem to see this pattern operating in the world today; that any leader of a non western country, who stands up to the global financial oligarchy, and who bravely begins ambitious Social  Policies to improve the lives of the poor people in  his or her country, almost always becomes the victim of vilification and attacks from the western media and the Bretton Woods institutions, who ignore all the good he or she has done. Two years asgo, soon after Hugo Chavez died, I overheard one member of my family saying to someone over the phone that Chavez was a bad man. After the phone conversation ended, I asked her how  she arrived at such a conclusion, and she recited back pretty much all the drivel that was written about him on the pages of newspapers such as the Times and the Guardian. Biased and one-sided tosh. When I explained to her  in detail what Hugo Chavez had actually achieved for the millions of people in his country, from the perspective of some of the people who had benefitted – the stories of which I had read, she could only muster a very feeble I didn’t know that…

Corrupt

This one is the loudest accusation, but like the other two, it also is not entirely accurate. Critics of BEE policies claim that the adminstration of BEE funds often becomes mirred in corruption. That institutions mandated to administer BEE funds become channels through which party officials and other corrupt types siphon state funds, and that there is widespread corruption involved in the process.

The question which those who throw this accusation fail to answer is why is the corruption happening in the first place?  Is it that there are too many Africans who are so deprived that when suddenly exposed to money, many embezzle funds? How much of that corruption is down to foreign companies paying bribes to gain business?

I’m not giving excuses for the corruption, but I think it’s important to ask the question what is at the root of such corruption?

In the UK for example, throughout the years there have been many corruption scandals (most recently the MP’s expenses scandal) which have thus far disappeared into the archives of history – it’s as if they never happened in the first place. It’s the same scenario in the US, Canada, Australia, Israel, Brazil, India…in all these countries with established democracies, politicians and people with close ties to politicians have been prosecuted, fined or even jailed for corrupt conduct of one type or another. Yet we don’t hear of it often partly because in some of these countries corruption (which still happens) was more widespread many  years ago than it is now, and the scandals occur further and further apart. Therefore,  on this basis alone, and considering that many African countries have been independent for little over 60 years, it is not crazy to surmise that the corruption  we see in Africa today, not only that said to be happening within BEE initiatives but across the board, must be understood as glitches in the developmental phases happening on the continent, just like the developed countries of today also had their dark days (when corruption was rife), during the early days of their representative democracy.

Opponents of BEE would thus be better advised to use their energies and precious time not in the vain and pointless exercise of shooting down policies that will help millions of black people, but to find ways of curbing the corruption most decent people are against- so that those policies are strengthened, and achieve better outcomes….

After all, we all want equality, don’t we ….? 🙂

In the next article on this topic, I will attempt to address the accusation of incompetence (whereby some critics claim that black Africans are unable to run or be in control of successful and profitable businesses rendering certain aspects of BEE policies harmful to business). I’ll also conclude by stating what I think to be the real reasons behind these accusations.

Racism and Bigotry is encouraged from the top, but the real enemy is Global Inequality

The other day – about two weeks ago, the British Prime minister referred to the migrants at Calais trying to cross into the UK as ‘swarming..’ It was an insensitive term and many people rightly took offence. On twitter, many condemned such a wording as dehumanizing.

A few days ago, Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary joined Mr Cameron, speaking of ‘marauding migrants‘ threatening the standard of life of British nationals in the UK. Again, Like Cameron, you have to wonder on which planet these people live on. Amnesty International called the language shameful. The Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael had this to say:

“The Tories’ language is becoming increasingly hostile and unsavoury. In reality, they are too scared to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Calais.

“Britain can’t escape the problem just by sounding ‘tough’, it needs to take a lead.

“It’s time we proved our worth on the world stage, signed up to the EU asylum policy and accept our share of vulnerable refugees, rather than expect other countries to do it for us.”

I think it is insensitive to describe other human beings in such animate and dehumanizing terms, and just goes to show how out of touch politicians really are. It also shows that humans from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are not valued in the same way British or European people are.

It’s a fallacy to see British leaders going around the world preaching democracy and peace, when right on their doorsteps, they are treating foreigners like crap. You can’t make that up, and you’d hope the world is watching.

Asylum Aid criticised the Foreign Secretary’s words as

“inaccurate and inflammatory statements”,

I agree, they present a skewed picture that divorces nuance for the situation. I’m waiting for the day a sensible British politician will rise up who will say to the people of the world that the actions of British leaders in the past have caused immense human pain, and damaged other lands far away from British shores. And some of that damage is still being felt today. I may not be alive when that happens, but I hope one day someone will be honest and brave enough call a spade a spade.

Knowing what I know about British History (both what you are taught in school, and what you find out for yourself), and having experienced first hand the institutional racism in the UK, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that in some sections of the UK population non-white people are treated differently to white people. There is extreme hostility against foreigners, which is not entirely surprising since the media fans hatred all the times. But it’s kind of strange seeing migrants contribute so much to the UK (not only via the NHS, but in the taxes they pay).

The government’s attitude towards immigration is so frustrating precisely because it is so wrong-headed. There is endless proof that the long-term benefit of migrants and asylum seekers are manifold – Ugandan refugees, for instance, have created approximately 30,000 jobs in the Leicester since 1972. Last year the Treasury’s independent advisers said that immigration is beneficial to the economy as new arrivals are most likely to be of working age – and even the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, Robert Chote, stated that growing immigration to the UK “does tend to produce a more beneficial picture” for the economy. Read more here

So then why would a leader or a minister speak so negatively about migrants? Cameron and Hammond are hardly Nigel Farage, they can’t possibly be that ignorant not to see the repurcussions of their statements.

Isn’t such talk exactly the kind of talk which sows the seeds of racism, hatred and bigotry in society? Are these the kind of behaviours these leaders want to encourage in Britain? I think not, my guess is there is an agenda – some political capital is to be carved from all this.

To me this is how it looks: they are saying migrants, whose ancestors, Europeans took advantage of, looted their lands of every natural resource, enslaved their peoples, raped their women, made wars against them, divided up their lands along nothing but profit-driven motives, and generally reduced to poverty entire peoples – as they did in India and China; and whose descendants – the migrants – are now trying to find a way of escaping hardship, poverty, discrimination and violence in their own lands,  are not worthy of peace, of security, of assistance – seeing their past troubles, of prosperity. Essentially that they are subhuman, thats what the actions say.

https://soundcloud.com/rttv/calais-ryan

The Greatest Cover-Up in History ? How Imperial Britain’s Racist India, Africa & China Narrative ‎Still Persists

Actions speak louder than words, and what we are seeing here is an entitlement mentality. That it’s okay for historical European abuse of non-European peoples to be swept under the carpet; that the bombing of Libya, Iraq and support for Syrian rebels is irrelevant to the migrant crisis and must be brushed over, that if you plunder resources of other countries, and create economic and political instability…  its okay because if s**t happens, you can always close the borders. It’s the sort of things these people on this poster would say

criminals

During Nazi Germany’s reign, Hitler’s honchos put out propaganda which was later enacted upon to make life difficult for foreigners in Germany, in particular for Jews. What followed was a human atrocity that culminated in the holocaust, but which the Nazi machinery justified with all sorts of abominable stories. But there was a sinister motive behind the hostile rhetoric, and the Nazis made a lot of money out of it.

There’s always a sinister motive behind hostile rhetoric.

Today, the migrants at Calais are not being threatened by gas chambers or execution, but the language directed towards them – by politicians, not least the likes of the Daily Mail – is no better than that which was used by the Nazi machinery. Still, most of these migrants have no access to land or capital in the countries they flee; a polar opposite to Western corporations operating in Eritrea, Ethiopia, the various West African Countries, Syria and Iraq  – who have access to land and capital in those same countries.

The migrants have no security, and indeed may be at the mercy of criminal gangs and trafficking networks – something which expats in the aforementioned countries do not have to fear. The expats can get on with their easy and comfortable lives seamlessly, while the nationals of those countries – and their migrant brothers and sisters drowning in the mediterranean – struggle with day to day living, and can’t afford an existence, never mind a luxurious lifestyle.

Why do we keep on blaming the poor migrants whose poverty the West is partly responsible for? Countries where corruption, tax-evasion, profit-shifting and white-collar crime are responsible for the loss of over US$1tn in illicit financial outflows

ChristianAidDeath & Taxes – the true toll of tax-dodging

That is the real problem driving migrants to Europe – Inequality. Because if you have security, a good job, great educational and financial prospects and a social life – in your own country, why would you want to leave and risk your life for a pie in the sky?

British Red Cross managing director Norman McKinley recently said about the cuts to the money asylum seekers receive in the UK:

“These cruel cuts will plunge families into further poverty, making it agonisingly tough for parents to feed their children, and practically impossible to buy clothes and other essential items.”

What he forgot to mention is that many foreigners support family members back home. I know people who send as little as £20 every other month to a relative in Africa for one thing or another; to help someone pay for school, or for food, or to settle some bill. It’s not much, but it does the job, and helps people at the other end.

So then, if a government introduces policies that have the effect of creating economic hardship for an already deprived community/ section of the population, how will they be able to help their relatives abroad – who are in worse financial circumstances? It doesn’t make sense and if anything it’s counterproductive…

One final thing I should say is this. How many Swiss ‘migrants’ do you bump into everyday? Or how many ‘Norwegians’ or ‘Mauritians’ do you know or do you bump into on a regular basis?

Switzerland, Mauritius and Norway are rich countries, and their nationals live in their own countries because the countries have the capacity to create jobs and distribute wealth fairly amongst their people. When you look at Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and most countries in West Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, the story is rather different.

Further, European and American corporations are not paying bribes (in exchange for lax tax arrangements) in Norway or in Switzerland, or are they? At least you rarely hear of such corruption, unlike in the countries from whence migrants come.

If Western businessmen continue to fleece the countries from whom migrants originate,of valuable resources, how can European leaders realistically expect migrants to stay in their own countries? When the funds the country is losing is exactly the kind of money that would create jobs and an economy that can support that country’s citizens… Let’s be honest here… it’s not going to happen, and some of this rhetoric is a smokescreen to the real problems.

Mr Cameron, and Mr Hammond, if you are really serious about reducing immigration, begin by pushing for real global economic equality, at national level, within the EU, within Commonwealth, at UN level and beyond. That in my view has got a much higher chance of curbing migration to Europe than anything else.

What Young Malawian Entrepreneurs Need

Draft Template/ Working Document/ Collection of thoughts. Introducing the Youth Development Cooperative (YDC).

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Overview

unemployment-africa

Young people across Africa are hungry for success. From the technology clusters currently popping up in Kenya, to those in Ethiopia young Africans want to do well.

As a small landlocked country, Malawi is disadvantaged in many ways. But those geographical challenges also present the country with an opportunity. It means we must work smarter than our neighbours to not only survive, but to thrive. It means we must innovate.

Thus, there is hope in that the government can enact several laws, pass executive orders and generally assist in creating a climate which would improve the business environment for many young people, as long as they have a desire to succeed, and are willing to work hard for it. I hope Peter Mutharika’s government does this because such will in the long-term stimulate growth, employment, and contribute to poverty alleviation across Malawi and neighbouring countries.

The text below is a collection of thoughts, ideas and inspiration from multiple sources, and should be understood to be a working document, or template that can be improved, and not a perfect suggestion. Any critique is welcome.

Firstly a public body [Youth Development Cooperative (YDC)] would need to be created that has:-

  • An executive branch made up of seven salaried senior positions (Director, Company Secretary, a Commercial Director, a Business Development Adviser, a Human Resources Director and two Administrative assistants) each on a 3 year once-renewable contract. They will be appointed on merit based on their qualifications.
  • They will be the face of the organisation, and in charge of management and other functions as outlined below, including employment (each of the centres described below will need a Manager, a Business Adviser and five or six employees to work shifts in running the centres).
  • The YDC will have a Board of Governors made up of nine people (for example 3 from CSOs, 2 from clergy, 2 from the Business Community, and 2 diplomats from foreign embassies) who will serve an unsalaried maximum term of 3 years. While this may seem like a random and unusual collection of people, the thinking behind is to create a board that is resistant to ‘interference’, or as resistant as can possibly be, and that is truly interested in the development of the youth, as opposed to financial gains / allowances. From my experiences, and close observation of boards of parastatals in Malawi, patronage can disable / destroy an organisation which would otherwise thrive.
  • The Board of Governors will have the power to make appointments of the executive of the cooperative (by vetting & voting). They will be responsible for reviewing the individual performances of each of the members of the executive, and decide whether to renew their contracts or not.
  • The seven members of the board of Governors (excluding the diplomats) must be selected by a public vote (on a district majority basis) in which any Malawian aged 16 years and above can participate. No more than one candidate may be selected from each of the 28 districts of Malawi AND no more than 3 people can be selected from each region (South, Central, North).  The 2 posts offered to diplomats will rotate among foreign embassies who elect to take part, and they will be free to send a person they choose.

The importance of such an arrangement is to ensure that the organisation is truly independent, and not be politically aligned. In this case,  it is in the interests of all Malawians for young people from across the country to thrive irrespective of  political party affiliation, thus the board should be representative of the country.

The organisation will be created to tackle five primary areas in which the Malawi government can intervene in stimulating growth, and helping young people thrive.

1. Lower barriers to entry for Malawian Nationals

barriers2entry

The government must ensure that they lower barriers to entry for young people in Malawi:-

  • Information Technology – We live in the information age, and IT is critical to the growth of our country’s economy. So the government must establish Public IT Centres providing free internet (satellite or other reliable service with minimal outages) and hot-desking facilities to support any Malawian under the age of 35 who wants to start a business. It should be a place where young people can receive free advice and teaching on web technologies and other subjects. It should be a place where young people can go and exchange ideas, a place to read national and international newspapers, and get exposure about what is happening across the business world across Africa and internationally. This will help in inspiring young people of promise about where the opportunities are, and how to take advantage of such opportunities locally. It will also be a place where they can learn how to code and write software, including networking with other like-minded folk. Each YDC centre must be equipped with 2 or 3 classrooms, 3 meeting rooms, an IT room with at least 30 desktop computers in it, printing facilities (a paid service), a canteen (to sell drinks and snacks), a common room stocked with everyday newspapers in English from Malawi and from across the world, a news room with 3 or 4 TV sets showing different channels, a storage basement, and toilets.
  • Following a successful pilot run in 3 centres, (Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu), if 7 additional centres can be created across the country (one in each of the following towns/ cities: Chikwawa, Zomba, Mchinji, Salima, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, and Karonga) to begin with, that would be a promising start.
  • Such centres would create direct employment, initially for around 77 people, and could later be expanded to include specialist science and business libraries (to encourage reading and for dissemination of information, and to teach modern technologies).
  • They could be used as bases for visiting foreign health specialists to hold community clinics. Additionally, the classrooms can be let out to Aid Agencies (for a fee) for community work or rented out to others needing space to hold meetings.
  • Software will be installed to block social networks, and ensure the facilities are used for educational / business purposes, and critical bandwidth is not wasted on downloading entertainment videos. Wi-Fi would be provided for free for those with laptops / smart phones, although depending on bandwidth, computer time will be capped to only 6 hours per person each day to give access to moree people.
  • In order for each centre to be functional, it must run on both the energy grid, and eco-friendly energy like solar panels, and have backups in the form of diesel generators, so that services should be up and running even when ESCOM  power supply is down.
  • Business Support – Many young people in Malawi feel powerless and disillusioned. They leave school only to find there are no part-time jobs for them to do, nothing to help them in their quest to get independent and be part of the economy. Most live at home years after graduation, doing nothing. They end up wasting time, in gangs, mixing with the wrong crowds, committing crimes, drinking their lives away, or being an expense and source of shame and worry to their parents and neighbourhoods.

This vicious circle is unsustainable for a country in which ~45% of the population is less than 16 years old.

What is needed is a pipeline where those young people aged between 16 and 35 years, who are interested in entrepreneurship and business, can be tutored, guided, mentored, directed, and empowered. For those still in school or undertaking exams, YDC centres can contract local teachers to provide tuition for students who need more help with their studies, benefitting both teachers and students.

For those who want to start a business, gain additional knowledge to improve their lives, the YDC centres could offer classes and guidance on

  • (i) Venture Capital
  • (ii) Business & Revenue Management including book-keeping and such daily tasks
  • (iii) Advertising
  • (iv) Saving
  • (v) Taxation
  • (vi) Legal compliance
  • (vii) Managing Debt, and
  • (viii) Customer Service.

Using the YDC centres around the country, such type of instruction can be provided to young people to enable them to be entrepreneurial and support them in being productive citizens. This will also create employment, and Public Private Partnerships could be utilised to communicate such knowledge.

Capital23

  • Business Loans / Venture CapitalThis seems to be the biggest challenge/ barrier to entry for young people in Malawi. Most are willing to learn, to venture out and have a shot at a business, but many have no source of capital.

A system should be created where low-interest loans (not more than 10%) as low as $500 to upwards of $5000 are extended to young people with promise, without the stringent collateral of land /property required by banks ( most young people don’t own property or land…). In order to safeguard against abuse, eligibility should be tied to an examined course spread over 3 – 4 months designed to test certain competencies–with classes which every applicant must attend, and an exam which they must pass to be eligible. A criteria should be formulated which ascertains the merits of each business proposal. And once an applicant is successful, the funds must be disbursed in phases, and primarily be used for:-

  • procurement of goods or resources for use or for sale by the new business, including for example buying a service online
  • for logistical support, such as ordering goods abroad.
  • for payment of business costs such as company registration, marketing, or transportation
  • to pay for educational courses, or web design, web hosting and such like.
  • for minor expenses not exceeding $50 each.
  • possibly for start-up wages to employees (strictly from month 1 to month 3 only) depending on the monthly turnover.
  • And to pay for specialist expenses (for example a young man who wants to start a butchery, or a takeaway restaurant will need to rent out a building. Their needs and requirements will be different to those of a person running a removals / commercial cleaning business, which will be different to someone who wants to establish a call-centre/ video game development company.

Funds must not be used to pay salaries beyond month 3, nor be used for food, or paid directly to an applicant’s personal account.

Each Centre Manager and his Business Adviser together with the Secretary and the YDC’s Commercial Director (both of whom would roam across the centres as required) must review each request, and properly consider whether such would be the best use of funds for that business.

  • Finally, any assets, property or land acquired by an entrepreneur using funds from the YDC will remain the property of the YDC until after each loan is repaid in full. At that point 70% of the equity stake in the new business will pass to the entrepreneur, whereas 30% will remain with the YDC. This is important for liquidity, although in the event that a funded business turns out to be a great commercial success, the entrepreneur can buy out the YDC on payment of an agreed fixed sum.

A business will be able to begin its operations as soon as it has procured its requirements, thereby allowing use of the acquired assets to service the loans it owes to the YDC. One of the duties of the centre manager and his business advisor will be to monitor the progress of each business registered to his centre, and give advice as appropriate.

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  • Affordable office SpaceThis is also a challenge. However, with the above centres, the hot-desking facility could create casual shared office space for 40 – 50 people at each location. Collectively that’s giving an opportunity to 500 or so young people the ability do something positive with their lives. And should 0.6% of those people (3 people) create ventures with an annual turnover greater than $500,000, the potential of such centres would begin to look significant.
  • Users of the centre’s hot-desking facility would need to book use of the rooms by text or phone beforehand, however the other aspects like the computer room and news rooms will be on a first come first served basis.
  • Affordable Warehousing Space

warehouse1So, you’ve taught them how to run a business, and provided resources such as a business address for them to receive post from, to enable them to seek opportunities. What you also need to do especially for those businesses who will be importing raw materials, equipment or products from abroad,  is provide a secure warehouse space, whereby a person can hire a locker, space on a shared shelf, or a small room, to store and stock their wares and goods at low prices. This way we are reducing the cost of doing business, and removing another barrier.

2. Lower Logistical costs

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a truck with a trailer

It is also important to lower logistical costs for new businesses because this is one of the barriers stopping our economies from moving forward. On this note, more resources should be invested in better roads, and in particular in ensuring that the Nsanje Zambezi inland Port is cleared by the Mozambican Government, so that it opens for business.

In the interim, the cost of importing goods and equipment must be reduced by:-

  • The YDC hiring a 40 foot container, for imports from Europe, (departing from a port in the UK), another 40 foot container for imports arriving from the US and a third 40 foot container for imports from Dubai and Asia (including China), to operate once every two months. The shipping fees must be preferential to Malawians, and at least 35% cheaper than those charged by other shipping operators. This means a number of things.

(i) Malawians in the diaspora can use such a service as a way of giving back to Malawi to send their goods back home instead of using foreign services that do not benefit Malawi.

(ii) Thus, it means additional Forex for Malawi, money which can be used to expand the scheme or donate to worthy causes such as building new schools or hospitals.

(iii) It also means some aid organisations and charities in Malawi could be persuaded to use the YDC’s shipping service, and not any of the others foreign ones.

(iv) Businesses in Malawi, including those under the YDC will have a cheaper and reliable way of getting goods to Malawi.

(v) The YDC will have a revenue stream which it can rely on to pay its employees and finance the expansion, development and operation of its centres.

  • Similarly the YDC could invest in at least 4 heavy goods Trucks (to get the containers from ports in Tanzania or Angola to Malawi), 2 Buses, 3 minibuses, 10 estate vehicles, and 10 vans, as capital assets, and to assist in the functions of the centres. All these assets will be sources of revenue, and contribute in lowering the cost of doing businesses for businesses operating from within YDC premises. To keep costs low, such capital assets can be purchased second-hand at reasonable prices.

3. Civic Education

Image from UNESCO
Image from UNESCO

An educated population is an empowered population. So Civic and adult Education is very important not least because when parents are educated, they will emphasize the value of education to their children. Thus, it would be in the best interest of the Malawi government for such to be provided to help increase literacy levels and educate the rural populations. Thus the YDC centres can be used as a way of crowdsourcing resources. So for example, a group of farmers could be assisted by the YDC to procure a tractor for their local cooperative. The YDC could act as a middle institution to identify the need, facilitate the procurement and assist in maintenance or upkeep.

This initiative may also be a way of safeguarding against corruption and attracting investment from donors in that funds are provided to a whole bloc of people with a common purpose instead of being given to individuals.

4. Export Advice

Malawi is a small market and for our businesses to truly grow and survive, we need resources from far and wide. This will also mean selling as many of our products abroad, and making a profit in the process. It means that for our entrepreneurs to create sustainable ventures, they will need to be competitive on the global market.

  • Thus, the education our entrepreneurs receive must be comparable to global standards,
  • Businesses must be encouraged to have a cross-border strategy following proven principles.
  • The YDC can help small businesses to export to our immediate neighbours and even internationally.
  • Export Experts would need to be contracted  to run seminars to teach businesses  about exporting, and why exporting for a small economy is crucial.

5. Tax Breaks

Why should young people in Malawi – who have more obstacles – not get tax breaks when foreign corporations are allowed to do so? For the first 18 months of each new business / company that is incubated within a YDC centre, tax breaks must apply so long as its revenues do not exceed $20,000 a month, and so long as it’s not a subsidiary of a larger company. Tax breaks can help create a breathing space for a new business to be established, before the state’s demand of tax becomes a factor to be considered. In any case, employees will still be paying income tax, so the country will not be losing out significantly. Audits will be required to prevent abuse.

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The historical disadvantage of Africa

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The start of the transatlantic slave trade around the year 1519 was the beginning of tragic events that systematically displaced millions of people in Africa.  By the time the last slave ship left Africa around 1867 to Cuba, the continent had been stripped of valuable human capital for nearly 3 centuries. After the abolition of slavery, the scramble for Africa in the late 1800s saw European countries colonising the well resourced African countries for another century. The history of colonialism has  lived on to affect the the contemporary sociopolitical issues in Africa with detrimental effects that have hampered growth and stability for the continent. In this article I argue that Africa lags in development performance in comparison to other continents, due to its history which subjugated free thinking to develop in Africa.

Initially before the slave trade, the Portuguese were the first to establish contacts with sub-Saharan Africa and much to their surprise, they found societies which were engaged in trade, had a similar range of pre-historical industrial crafts and they were also organised into Kingdoms with class divisions. The sub-Saharan Africans were much advanced than the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean or the Brazilian littoral such that they were able to maintain equal relations with the Europeans. For the next centuries to come, Africa fully engaged in the transatlantic slave trade which accounted for an estimated 10 million slaves.

The transatlantic slave trade disturbed any pending advances in African society such that Francis Moore a merchant along the coast of Senegambia in the 1730s observed,

“Since this slave trade has been us’d, all punishments are changed into slavery.”

In 1730 the Dutch Director General of Elmina Castle on the modern coast of Ghana also observed,

“The great quantity of guns and powder which the Europeans have brought have caused terrible wars between the Kings and princes and Caboceers of these lands”.

What is evident from these observations is that the slave trade brought chaos (which in some respects is irreversible) to the continent of Africa. For 2 centuries Africans got accustomed to one mode of trade and that was the capturing and selling  of valuable human capital for the development of other continents. The it can be inferred that the slave trade may well have hindered Africans from having innovative ideas, those which could have helped in the development of trade and the advancement of other aspects of society. The chiefs of Africa in conjunction with the Europeans systematically raided villages of humans, who could have played an important role in the development of Africa.

What started the transatlantic slave trade is hard to pinpoint, but evidence points out that slavery was prevalent in African societies when the Europeans arrived. Whatever the cause, the slave trade changed the African landscape in that it encouraged inter-ethnic wars with the sole purpose of capturing slaves for sale at the north African coasts. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, the most lucrative trade in Africa was the slave trade, which helped Africans to acquire guns which were used for slave wars. The violence and brain drain of Africa carried on for atleast 2 centuries and it is no wonder that by the time missionaries arrived in Africa, they witnessed brutal scenes of savagery.

Africa reeling from the effects of slavery, European countries carved up Africa into nation states which bundled different ethnic groups together. The rush to colonise Africa by the European powers, was influenced by the vast deposits of untapped natural resources which were mostly unknown to the locals of Africa. For nearly 70 years, indigenous Africans were utilised to provide manpower for farms, to fight wars,  in mines and many other income  generating avenues for the benefit of European countries.

To add on from the 2 centuries of slave trade, another century of colonialism was added on to the ills that crippled Africa. It was the politics of colonialism which championed the tactics of ‘divide and conquer’, where some African tribes were pitted against each other to avoid the unification of people. These tactics were triumphant in that modern-day societies of Africa still have tribalism as a hampering obstacle to national unity. Today some countries in Africa are embroiled in bitter tribal wars which seem to have no end in sight, due to long standing feuds which stem from the effects of colonialism.

During colonialism, African natural resources were excavated for the sole purpose of developing the imperialist countries while neglecting Africa. Africa’s palm oil, petroleum, copper, chromium, diamonds, platinum and in particular gold helped Europe’s earlier development, which has lived on to contemporary societies. Robert Beckford who shot a documentary titled ‘The Empire Pays Back’, claims that Britain’s debt to Africans on the continent and in the diaspora is estimated to be in the trillions of pounds. This assessment by Beckford’s experts was considered to be false because the real amount of wealth that was pulled out of Africa is arguably incalculable. It is incalculable because vast deposits of resources were pulled out of Africa, to the point that it is near impossible to document or estimate the actual volume of wealth extricated from the continent.
Which is why it is insulting. deeply offensive and laughable altogether to attack ‘migrants’ as the source of Europe’s economic and social problems, when the same European countries are largely responsible in creating the conditions which have greatly hampered the development and prosperity of African countries today.

President Barack Obama last year addressing 500 young Africans who were attending a leadership course:

“As powerful as history is, and you need to know that history, at some point you have to look to the future and say, ‘OK, we didn’t get a good deal then, but let’s make sure that we’re not making excuses for not going forward,”

This statement by Obama is a double-edged sword because a people’s history defines how modern day society is formed. It is through history that one tends to look for answers to contemporary problems which hamper nation-building activities.  It is indeed true that Africa needs to look to the future rather than the past, but how is that possible when colonial borders are still a source of attrition for the thousands of tribes in Africa? When there is a huge economic divide between black Africans and Whites who live in Africa (many of whom benefitted from the proceeds of colonisation and slavery)
Further, there are young and educated Africans today with no assets who can’t get loans(therefore can’t start impactful businesses), and are barred from participation in their country’s politics because of ageism and a neopatrimonial culture. They are powerless and Obama’s statements can’t address their plight.

Ethnic conflicts in Africa are well documented and one of the clearest examples is that of the Arabs  (and the Tuareg, who are Berbers) and sub-Saharan Africa(black Africans)s. Historically, the Arabs enslaved sub-Saharan Africans for about a 1000 years with about an estimated 18 million people carted off into slavery. In the 1800s when the Scamble for Africa begun, the Arabs and the sub-Saharan Africans were thrown together to form modern countries along the Sahara such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan. This history of nations in Africa has been detrimental for nation-building, because different ethnic groups were lumped together to form nations when they had no sense of belonging to these nations.
In the past decade Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan have experienced rebellions fought over resources, politics, religion and history. In the middle of all these causative agents, ethnicity played a central role, when it came to which side the Arabs or sub-Saharan Africans picked to fight for.

Perhaps one of the most bloodiest ethnic conflicts in memory on the continent of Africa is that of the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. In 1994, Rwanda’s 7 million population was composed of Hutu (85%), Tutsi (14) and the Twa (1%). In the early 1990s Hutu extremists resented the Tutsis with claims that all the social, economic and political problems that Rwanda was going through, was down to them. On 6th April 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down and Hutu extremists under the cover of war, began to systematically exterminate the Tutsi population. Within weeks after 6th April, 800 000 men, women, and children were killed in a brutal manner, with ethnicity being the dividing line.

Years of animosity between tribes who were forced to form nations together, remains one of the biggest challenges for development in Africa. When Obama says that Africa has to look in the future to move on, the past still has a nefarious hold on Africa’s nation-building capabilities. Africa’s history of being under subjugation and slavery has all to do with the current disorganisation of the society of Africa. To look beyond history as Obama asserts, would be quiet difficult because the reconciliation solutions of Africa lie in the past where current problems were created. It is therefore important that the past is revisited to help in establishing the starting points of the many problems that have engulfed Africa.
The same could be said of the problems faced by African Americans, who for years have been persecuted in one form or another.

The other problem that lies with Africa is that through slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism periods, Africans have always lived in the shadow of the West. For centuries Africans have not been self-thinkers, and this has obviously affected innovative ideas on the part  of African free thinking. It was through slavery and colonialism that the African way of life was made to be inferior, and whole cultures and traditions were systematically wiped out only to be replenished by western culture. Today, most sub-Saharan Africa struggles to emulate western cultures because their culture through years of subjugation, was made to look inferior. This in turn has created an identity crisis with modern Africa where society struggles with being an ‘African’,  in a world where western culture is seen to be superior.

Looking at the political picture of Africa, one can see how a western style of democracy is not working in Africa. A lot of African countries that became democratic states, are today still grappling with corruption and bad governance issues because of poor accountability structures. Since the the early 1980s of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), Western ideology has been central to African affairs and time and again this has led to failure.

This historical disadvantage has and is still one of the biggest factors why Africa lags in the social, economic and political arenas. To disregard the linkage of the past and the current problems of Africa, would be a mistake because it is through history that nations are built. Africa’s tumultuous history needs to be understood and addressed, to create the many needed solutions for the continent because on the average, many African countries have only been independent for 50 years. To forge a strong Africa, Africans need to disregard assertions like those of Obama and seriously begin looking into the past to rectify the factors that disadvantaged societies, economically and politically. The options are few (for example it’s hard for countries to reunite into bigger and stronger nations), but it’s not an impossible task.

When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’

image from Mad Monarchist http://madmonarchist.blogspot.co.uk
Image from Mad Monarchist

Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?

Most people haven’t heard of him.

But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, executions, torture, and his private army.

Most of us – I don’t yet know an approximate percentage but I fear its extremely high – aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of the white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into a capitalist curriculum. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in polite society, but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocides in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s soliloquy; a defense of his Congo rule“, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s 49 pages long. Mark Twain is a popular author for American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them (Orwell’s Animal Farm for example serves to re-inforce American anti-Socialist propaganda, but Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind – this is never pointed out). We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but King Leopold’s Soliloquy isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom well. From the point of view of the Education Department, Africans have no history.

When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricaturized Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (which of course now is long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, potentially killing in upwards of 5-7 million people from bombs, sanctions, disease and starvation. Body counts are important. And we don’t count Afghans, Iraqis, or Congolese.

There’s a Wikipedia page called “Genocides in History”. The Congolese Genocide isn’t included. The Congo is mentioned though. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the multinational conflict hunted down Bambenga and ate them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history and talked about for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking whose interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to multi-national incidents where a tiny minority of people were  eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict no less). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to be entered into the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry and killed 10 to 15 million Conglese people in the process doesn’t make the cut.

You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture don’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.

Leopold was just one part of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. Of course I don’t want to pretend that in the Congo he was the source of all evil. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. It was a system. But that doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide are hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.