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Speeches

M.N. Masheke: Critical Issues Facing Africa

Presentation to the World Summit on Peace
New York, USA, January 30, 2009


Poverty is a scourge or a curse that has engulfed the entire continent of Africa. The majority of our people wallow in abject poverty and are craving for help. Chaos and confusion reign supreme on the African continent. The levels poverty has assumed have reached alarming proportions and dimensions.

Among the critical issues facing Africa, I have chosen to speak on poverty, even though all these topics — namely (1) poverty, (2) family breakdown, and (3) corruption, interfaith and intertribal conflict as well as the role of the African Union — are closely related topics such that one cannot speak about one of them without touching on the others.

Until recently, Africa was referred to as the “dark continent.” The reference to Africa as the dark continent spoke volumes of how backward the continent was.

Africa was colonized by many countries — mainly European countries — during the famous “scramble for Africa.” Although as I speak, the whole continent is now free and independent, the consequential devastation thereof left scars and problems which the continent is still struggling to recover from.

At the time the colonizers were leaving — and all of them without exception had to be forced out — there were no appreciable programs of development left in place for the new leaders to start from.

Up until now, there is no country with sufficient infrastructure, such as roads, schools, hospitals, etc. The new leadership still has to do that, except perhaps South Africa, whose colonial time was brief.

It is important when we talk about the poverty devastating the continent of Africa to give some kind of background. The education system left by the colonial masters was not designed to prepare the recipients of independence and freedom with sufficient and efficient management and technical skills or the controls required for the tasks ahead. The leaders had to learn on the job.

Marketing and pricing of resources

At the time of independence, the marketing and pricing centers of the minerals and resources such as tobacco, cotton, coffee, sugar, and other commodities, were located and controlled by the masters in their capitals.

To sell its minerals and other resources, not only does Africa send these resources to the established markets but they have no say in how much their goods and resources would sell for on the London Metal Exchange and other marketing centers.

Meanwhile, the scourge of poverty has become like a curse engulfing the whole continent in alarming proportions and dimensions, causing chaos and confusion to reign supreme.

Despite what I have said above, we should find out what our leaders are doing about this. Before that, we should ask and try to answer these questions:

1.    Why has poverty risen to such alarming levels?
2.    Do we have poor leadership?
3.    Are the people of Africa not resourceful?

Many more questions can be asked. Our answers to these questions are yes and no.

Regarding leadership, whereas we acknowledge the fact that our leaders have been unprepared for leadership, the time has come for us to look at their performance and ask them to account for some of their failures. We must demand a better deal from the leadership if we are to attend to the poverty levels of our people.

Some of our leaders have shown the following failures:

  • Some of our leaders have allowed manipulation, corruption, tribalism, and nepotism to accompany their leadership.
  • Some of them have even stolen public funds to place in overseas banks and/or build mansions overseas at the expense of the people they lead.
  • Some leaders are still exploiting tribal or regional politics. Some political parties are formed on tribal or regional lines as opposed to ideological lines. Leadership is being built around individuals.

A new leadership must emerge to protect Africa from further devastation of our people’s resources.