Africa: A rich continent of poor people (2)

 (By Thompson Taiwo)

Lack of employment in the country has raised a new generation of youths clutching to desperation to survive: The implication of which is the growing insecurity that swathes the entire nation and breeds the terrifying realities of current times: the putrefying carcasses of men, dismembered remnants of women and the decaying and malodorous wounds of children whose innocence was crushed right in their presence. Bloodletting campaigns and windstorm of kidnapping have divorced husbands from their wives as well as school girls from their homes.

Continued from yesterday (Wednesday, 11-6-2014)

ACCORDING to “the Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010” released in February 2014 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), about 112.519 million Nigerians, representing 69 per cent of the country’s total population, live in abject poverty.   This is in spite of the 7.7 per cent yearly growth rate of the country’s GDP. The report also noted that the figure might increase to 71.5 per cent when the 2011 figure is finally computed if there is no radical approach to combat poverty and unemployment. The people know they are rich yet they are poor. Also, as at December 2013, Nigeria’s debt profile hit N10.1trillion, in line with the revelation of the country’s Debt Management Office (DMO).

   Many Nigeria’s highways are concave with potholes, dripping with the blood of travellers, whose ill-fated journey ended abruptly on a fatal collision with a strayed vehicle, trying to negotiate the holes. A visit to the nation’s knowledge base, primary or secondary schools, including tertiary institutions will explain the heartbreak of education: the tattered roofs, caved-in ceilings, broken louvers and awkwardly hanging doors with libraries suffering from book malnutrition.

  Lack of employment in the country has raised a new generation of youths clutching to desperation to survive: The implication of which is the growing insecurity that swathes the entire nation and breeds the terrifying realities of current times: the putrefying carcasses of men, dismembered remnants of women and the decaying and malodorous wounds of children whose innocence was crushed right in their presence. Bloodletting campaigns and windstorm of kidnapping have divorced husbands from their wives as well as school girls from their homes.

   Despite an economy that rivals the world’s strongest economies, South Africa’s poverty rate leaves much to be desired. In a recent report of Statistics South Africa (SSA) on the “Poverty Profile of South Africa” between 2008 and 2009, about 26.3 per cent of population lived below the food poverty line of R305 monthly on individual basis. About 39 per cent living below the lower-bound poverty line of R416 and 52 per cent below the upper-bound poverty line of R577 monthly on individual basis. Recent report indicated that about one third of the population live on welfare. In all these, the black population is the worst hit with 61.9 per cent living below the upper-bound poverty line. South Africa’s external debt stood $137095 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 from $136621 million in the third quarter of the same year, as reported by the South African Reserve Bank: a situation the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the country about. Corruption, poverty and youth unemployment are the greatest cankerworms bedeviling the country.

  The situations in Angola and Equatorial Guinea are somewhat grimier than what obtains in Nigeria and South Africa. The living conditions of an average Angolan and Equatoguinean are quite disquieting. Having risen out of the ashes of the 27-year civil war which devastated the country, Angola now boasts of a booming economy, which has attracted the attention of foreign investors, flocking to the country from different parts of the globe. Looking at the viability of its economy, Angola is a success story of how a dying nation can rise again. But the not-too-palatable news about the Jose Eduardo dos Santos-led nation is the pitiable standard of living of the majority of the people. Up to the half of the country still live on less than $2 a day, notwithstanding the report which places the pace of its economic growth above that of China. Moreover, the vast oil revenues accruing to Equatorial Guinea only circulate among few top public officials while the largest part of the population have resigned to extreme poverty. The nation’s human capital index is also nothing to write home about.

   In tackling the scourges adduced in the foregoing as responsible for staggering poverty level and massive underdevelopment on the continent, some analysts believe that if Africa is serious about squaring up with leading continents on the global arena, it should start voting an adequate amount of resources towards building the capacity of its people locally and internationally in all spheres of human endeavours so that they can take over key sectors of its economy from expatriates who have no stake in the prosperity of the continent. Moreover, diversification of the Africa’s economy is non-negotiable. Leaders on the continent should shift away from its mono-product economy which revolves around oil, gas, diamonds, copper, gold, among others, by investing in agriculture and other human-capacity driven fields to ease out the albatross of unemployment that rests fixedly on the fat-thin neck of the continent.

   Additionally, the earlier African leaders recognise that the opposite of development is corruption, the better for the continent. It is common knowledge that Africa has a series of law that criminalizes official corruption but these laws lack the biting force. The social institutions saddled with the responsibility of applying the law against agents of crimes and criminalities have lost their steam to monetary inducement and high-profile threats. How many vastly corrupt leaders on the continent have gone to jail or stripped of their smutty wealth like the Bo Xilais, Wayne Bryants and James Traficants of this world? If those regular courts have failed to deliver justice in economic and financial crimes cases, there is an urgent need for a special court on corruption that will not lapse into a toothless bulldog. Without strong institutions, Africa’s hope of development is like telling a dog not to bark.

Concluded.

Taiwo is a social commentator based in Lagos.

thompsontaiwo54@yahoo.com

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