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Humankind's greed the root cause of corruption

By unknown | Dec 07, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

It's a very courageous European who can say in this day and age that colonialism was good for Africa.

Yet there are people like that. They believe that European colonialism brought great prosperity to Africa, even if at a high cost in bloodshed.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is not one of them. On a recent visit to a former French colony, now an independent republic in North Africa, he denounced colonialism as a terrible time for the continent.

His advisers may have warned him that his speech could trigger an avalanche of demands for reparations.

History tells us that the French were not too keen to leave Africa, whose colonialism they lustily embraced in The Scramble for Africa.

There are Europeans who argue that Europe brought Christianity and enlightenment to the "dark continent". Incredibly, some of them believe Africa ought to be grateful to Europe.

All this petty moralising ignores the original motivation for the European adventurer to exploit Africa's vast resources to enrich the mother country.

A delegation of religious representatives visited Africa, including Zimbabwe, a few months ago, to apologise for what their ancestors did to the continent. Almost inevitably, there were fresh demands for reparations.

For some Africans, particularly born at the height of colonialism who witnessed the struggle and are now living through "the fruits" of independence, the matter is not as clear-cut as Europe paying for the destruction and pillage.

The big imponderable is, will all the compensation be put to good use? Is there one African country with a record of probity sufficiently robust to be trusted to act honestly with such a sudden windfall?

Not even South Africa, the "jewel in the crown", could be trusted to act honourably with this "loot".

There have been dishonesty scandals here too. Jacob Zuma's case shows that South Africa is as vulnerable to this scourge as the DRC, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The number of South African legislators caught abusing their privileges was also disgraceful.

Most non-South Africans were shocked that the new legislators, probably the highest paid on the continent, could engage in such dishonesty so soon after achieving full nationhood.

It galled many Africans that this could happen after the notorious case of prominent ANC luminary Tony Yengeni.

In a typical retort to criticism of this corruption, some hardline pan-Africanists have accused the former colonial masters of "teaching our people to steal from themselves".

Others say this is poppycock. The sight of all that money has intoxicated many previously honest Africans into profligacy.

Yet the greatest danger for Africa is the widening of the chasm between rich and poor, which in countries such as South Africa and Nigeria has become so huge it is almost unbridgeable in the foreseeable future.

Africa's poverty alleviation programmes have achieved only minimal rewards in bridging this gap.

If political leaders don't take responsibility for this disaster, it is predictable.

In Zimbabwe, the so-called Western sanctions are held responsible.

In other countries, the imbalance in trade between rich countries and Africa is blamed. There are not many leaders willing to accept that the root cause is not peculiarly African, but humankind's propensity to self-enrichment.

Africa has terrible memories of colonialism. But that preoccupation cannot end the continent's curse of poverty.


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