The African Union's 30th Ordinary Session themed "Winning the Fight against Corruption: a Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation" has concluded with a number of momentous decisions having been made. Heads of state discussed ending hunger, liberalising the African skies and realising free movement of people and goods across borders. There was though little attention given to the many that flee their countries either in search of a better life or in fear of persecution or political unrests.
Fear, neglect and lack of a better future are just a few the everyday realities for anyone born in Africa. These situations are as ample in the continent as the air we breathe. Even though these are just facts, we never stop expecting something better from the heads of state who gather around the fancy headquarters of the African Union.
Though among the group of people who still try to understand the relevance of the organisation’s existence, I have never stopped from hoping a relevant conversation will be had, such as human capital flight, by air or by sea. When the going gets tough, it takes just a caring mind or heart to address problems.
It is not too unclear why heads of state do not show any care or remorse for neglecting the continent’s people. Even during the modern age, authoritarianism is familiar. Democracy, fair and free election, human and political rights or a tolerable living standard remain a luxury in Africa.
Heads of state do not seem to recognise that the continent’s educated and illiterate are fleeing for the sake of a better future elsewhere. Leaders are quiet about it because it touches a nerve, precisely the lack of deft leadership that failed to bring the equitable distribution of wealth. This is the sad reality of the continent. No one wants to live in it with full heart except the comfortable few who have it all at the expense of the many.
Do leaders even wonder why their people take on dangerous journeys through deserts and across seas?
The developed world has been voicing the migration crisis, but the concern hardly makes it to the discussion tables of the African heads of states. It is a pressing, staggering dilemma continuously ignored by the sources of the problem.
Perhaps discussing it will mean admitting the existence of the deeply rooted problem but ignoring it has both economic and political costs even to those who disregard the issue. Both the sources and destinations of migrants are losers. The former will lose vital labour force while the latter will have its resources burdened.
There have been an estimated 40 million migrants in just the past two years, according to a 2018 United Nations report, with Africa being one of the primary sources. The developed countries have likewise been fencing their territories and investing billions to keep migrants in their country of origin. In 2016, Germany spent around 20 billion euros on refugees while Italy spent almost a fifth of that amount.
What is going on in the continent is challenging for any observer. African leaders are not able to create a continent of hope and dream. They do not teach compassion and convey the best legal way to a better life. They do not inform their citizens that bad days can be converted to good days if everyone is motivated and puts the necessary effort.
No one teaches poverty can be prevented with hard work and sacrifice from all ladders of leadership and society. One expects everything from the other without the willingness to work for common good. The tragic results of this are leaders who embezzle and their frantic citizens who flee to developed countries that do not welcome them.
The latter are victims in many aspects, with the trials and misfortunes they face even after they have left the continent. In fact, those traumatic voyages are causing them to be in a much worse condition than they have been. Both women and men go through life-changing ordeals taking on the deadliest journey to a better future their countries are not able to provide or promise. Women’s situations are harsher, where they risk sexual assault on their journey.
But why can these people not somehow focus on fighting the good fight – making it in their country? Why can they not feel grateful for being surrounded by their family and friends rather than taking on fatal journeys, find the humour in times of crisis?
Suggesting this would be disregarding the fundamental principle of human need. The shift from problem to solution does not come by failing to address the matter, but by taking an honest and productive path to change frustrating realities. Africa will be better off accepting that the developed world cannot solve its deep rooted leadership and poverty problems.
Solutions start by being considerate to the public’s outcry, which is to afford basic services. African countries are creating diaspora-oriented economies proving to their people that the hope is somewhere outside the continent or it is earned by being or knowing someone with unrestricted access to resources.
Why leaders lose care and interest to share resources with the people who were indispensable to the existence of their power is difficult to comprehend. These leaders have likewise failed to bring any progress in the lives of the continent’s over a billion citizens.
Henry Adams, a historian, once defined political power as a “tumour that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” Similarly, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Dacher Keltner, after two decades of study, concluded that those in power appear to suffer from brain trauma, resulting in becoming impetuous and dare-devilish, and, crucially, being less adept at seeing things from other people’s perspective.
Could this be the sensible explanation to the continent’s never-ending problem?
Maybe this is why limited terms and years of office are for. Undoubtedly, crucial considerations need to be taken. Those in power are sitting too high to perceive the public’s needs. It is no wonder that leaders stop putting themselves in the public’s shoes. Unlike what is observed in Africa, though, the developed world has shown us that this does not have to be the case.
After all, the difference between those who succeed and those who do not is acknowledging the existence of problems and working to solve them. Taking strong practical action that is selfless will be the key to the continent’s success.
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