Ceteris paribus or post hoc ergo propter hoc are really haunting terms for anyone starting out with Economics but for me I found this subject fascinating as it relates directly to the reason why man toil all days of his life on earth. This is a subject built on the premise of “scarcity”, that everything is not enough to allow every one of us to have all we want. One time I was pondering how my love for Economics can have a link with my faith in Christ Jesus. The two seem to be on opposite ends of in terms of proposition & might seem to never reconcile. As I peered into it, I decided Economics as we know it, has flaws that need addressing. A new economic theory perhaps that matches what the basis of our faith is. Most belief systems agree that the Supreme Being is capable of meeting anything that we as mortals desire, Animists for example believe ancestors can provide e.g. in Shona culture there is a belief that ancestors could provide food for a person in need and in the wilderness. Legend says one would go to a Hissing Tree (Muchakata) and clap in acknowledgement and right before them food will appear, same with Islam Allah is the provider. I am sure the other religions it is the same scenario. So here is my Christian perspective regarding Economics.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Reading news about Africa at this juncture takes a lot of effort if you add emotions to it. You have to dig deep to find news about The Girls who were never brought back despite the much publicized #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media, closer to home I see screaming headlines of an economic decline that is about to reach the ground like an asteroid fallen out of space. Before I could put that together I come across one of my friends planning to import salt into Nigeria, as I look closer I find it’s about Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Apparently salt cures the virus if one uses it to bath, the propaganda machinery is at full throttle with potential to encourage further spread of the disease. Another queries why Ebola is aptly named “Ebola sounds like a West African name” he quips. He is clearly oblivious of the origins of this ghastly disease which has caused panic elsewhere before the recent record breaking outbreak in West Africa. There is always a new crisis on this continent to put the past in the shadow, the Girls of Chibok have been forgotten, and Ebola is the new talk.
I will not elaborate on the problems Africans face; they are all in our faces. What Africa needs are radical solutions. Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over whilst expecting different results each time. I believe the following will guide this populous continent in the right direction.
Redefine Qualification for Political Office
According to GeoHive, Africa’s population is concentrated in the age groups 0 – 44 years with 45.2% of the population between age 15 & 44. However a look at the heads of state one will find that the average age of African presidents is hovering over the age of 65. It is worthy of note that the people in this age group make up just 3.6% of the population. The picture would become dire when we add the Ministers and heads of public corporations to the equation. Maybe the problem can be traced to African tradition where the elderly always assumed leadership but the world is bigger than a clan or village. They are no longer presiding over cases of farmland boundaries but world matters. In this regard we need radical transformation. Africans must stand up and enact laws to prevent those over the age of 55 years assuming political office. This might sound harsh but it ensures that the leadership is concentrated in the age group which is dominant and still fit to govern. The age of 55 is also the early retirement age for most countries for a reason. Africans must no longer entrust their future in these old men, think of Robert Mugabe’s constant travel to Singapore for medical care or his Commissioner of Police fainting at a parade, how about Michael Sata whose whereabouts are unknown for some time reportedly unable to work then there is Bingu Wa Mutharika who died while in office. Time is up for the old men of Africa, there is need for young blood who is representative of the population.
Stamp Out Endemic Corruption
Africa is the bedrock of wheeling and dealing under the table. Those who have a penchant for shady business find their way to Africa where the laws are lax in terms of getting offenders to justice. A search for African corruption will bring a flurry of cases where those in political office were found with hands in the cookie jar. These are rarely brought to book, often the scandals get swept under the carpet & life goes on. There is no deterrent to this corruption and it is high time Africa sets up strong justice system collectively and encourages a culture of accountability. As it is money that goes into government coffers via tax does not find its way to the masses, it’s a case of the poor being robbed to finance the opulence of the office bearers. Corruption has grown roots so much that it permeates the justice systems of most if not all the nations. Change is desperately needed, the people must also shun being part of the gravy train, few can stand and decline a bribe but the truth is those who benefit immensely are those at the top, those at the lower level fight for crumbs enough to feed oneself for a day and tomorrow they starve.
|As The Sun Rises, So Must Africa Awaken|
Remove Exploitative Terms of Trade
Africa for a long time has been its own enemy, we seek friendships in business. Most African leaders grew up during the cold war era, countries huddled themselves into blocs between capitalism, communism and socialism. This gave the leaders the idea that you can have other nations who care about you hence can do business on friendly terms. Any business person who does business that way knows the end is poverty, the same obtains for nations. China especially is beneficiary of this blind loyalty and in return they get resources for a pittance. They smile, shake hands and chant a few lines of solidarity but behind the scenes they are laughing at our ignorance while they squeeze our motherland of precious resources to sustain their huge appetite. We are left with nothing except for the few top leaders who help themselves to the meager payments. The worst part is China plays a good friend; they approach nations like Zimbabwe who might be banned from procuring weapons of war in the western world. We all know that in desperation, China offers arms in exchange for resources and our fearful leaders with dictatorial tendencies will give anything to save their lives. China is exploiting Africa and its time we look at how trade with them is giving us a return or else we must revise the terms.
Make Begging a Crime
African leaders are known for begging at meetings of world leaders. Recently they met the US president who promised some money for Africa, the West African leaders also took time to beg for the serum believed to cure Ebola. I am not sure if Goodluck Jonathan remembered to ask for more help in finding the girls taken by Boko Haram or he has also forgotten about them. I love the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” which can be translated to mean difficult situations force solutions out of us. In Africa we replaced these situations with a begging bowl effectively killing the little chance of innovating. When US, UK or Germany are confronted with a problem, who do they run to for help? Obviously they don’t go to anyone but look within themselves for solutions. Once we get rid of the begging bowl we will have to be on our toes, we will have to think how best with can combine what we have into something meaningful. We have to finance our own hunger with our own meals; if begging is deplorable for the people we meet in streets, why should we endorse it at the highest level?
Invest in Ourselves Wisely
Africans are looked down upon in many places; Africans even look down upon themselves. Some people believe that Africans are lesser humans. We are not responsible for what other races think of us but we are responsible for confirming those thoughts as holding true by our actions. Take the Ebola case as an example, the disease first surfaced in 1976 almost 4 decades ago. But in Africa none has done any research on the virus or possible vaccine. I pointed this out to a friend who looked at me in disbelief & said, “Do you know how much it costs to setup something like the Centers for Disease Control in America?” I responded and said yes, it’s quite cheap evoking further disbelief. The CDC was formed to study and combat malaria and soon grew. Currently it has a budget of $11 billion which looks quite substantial. But divide this by the number of nations in Africa you get $200 million but since CDC deals with every disease. Africa can set a budget for Ebola at $50 million per nation and set up a state of the art centre in a place like South Africa or Mauritius, then continue pouring money into it before 2030 Africa will be able to look to themselves for solutions. We desperately need something like that because there will come mutations of virus diseases like the drug resistant TB already cropping up. Of course people will grumble that there is no money but truth is the money is there but it is being invested stupidly. Think on this, South Africa spent $4.8 billion on buying arms of war when there is no visible threat. Zimbabwe spent $15 million on luxury vehicles for members of parliament only; Bingu Wa Mutharika spent $12 million on private jet. How much more is being spent carelessly that can go towards a worthy cause? We cannot use the financial poverty excuse, no; we are just poor in our thought faculties.
I can go on but if we are to embark on the above, we can turn around this continent. A rising and prosperous Africa is not a dream some million years into the future. One friend of mine said we need 1000 years to improve, but I told him those are excuses we make to defeat ourselves. When I was a child Japanese & Chinese product were considered cheap quality but in less than 2 decades of innovation they are the leading products, gone are the Philips, Volvo & Technics replaced by Samsung, Kia and other brands. When I was doing Cambridge A Level I remember checking the statistics of students passing, Singapore was having students getting 100% in subjects like Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting and Economics. I cannot say the rise of Singapore was out of the blue, we saw it coming in the brilliance of their students. We have what it takes to change this continent from a dark continent to a lush green place. It’s time to pack our excuses and limitations we have erected on our own and think differently because all things are possible.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
For a few months tensions have been brewing in the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s major opposition party. Soon after the lost elections, Roy Bennett hummed some discontent before vanishing from social networks, ostensibly to get into private business as his family needed to “eat”. I took this with a pinch of salt but accepted it as a possibility, living in exile for a seemingly lost cause can cause one to give up. However a few months if not days after the said walk away, his name began to be fingered among a clique who wanted Morgan Tsvangirai to go, soon Elton Mangoma was writing letters for Tsvangirai to go until he got suspended then fired. This culminated in the Mandel Training Centre meeting which is where we are. So what is happening here? Wither the Movement of the People? I will try to unpack the mystery as I see and from the perspective of a bystander.
Splits – A History of Our Politics?
Zimbabwe politics is fraught with splits even from the days of the liberation struggle, what began as ZAPU ended up as ZANU, ZANUPF and ZAPU et al. Those in the know will tell you the reason for the forming of ZANU was because Nkomo was too weak and did not make decisions timeously or impose the same firmly. More interesting was the notion that ZANU formation was a result of infiltration by Rhodesian people to influence direction or put the struggle in jeopardy. Looking at history, we can almost see a repeat of what happened then, MDC was formed, it split into several parts, most failing to gain support and going under. It is also worthy of note Joshua Nkomo was a trade unionist the same with Morgan Tsvangirai, both are accused of not being able to make decisions quickly or as being weak figures. There were strong & decisive communist/socialists among ZANU though notably Josiah Tongogara & it is no accident he had to die, with hindsight, borrowing the wisdom shared by Strive Masiyiwa, Nkomo’s lack of rash decisions led to formation of one of Zimbabwe’s leading indigenous companies Econet Wireless. I am sure those who lived to see events of the 1960s are having a Deja-Vu kind of feeling looking at what is happening in Zimbabwe. From hereon I will explain the issues and forces I see at play in Zimbabwe politics:
The Capitalist Hand/Donor
The chorus is that the donors no longer want Morgan Tsvangirai at the helm of the party, this culminated in Mangoma putting together an exit package for Morgan, prior to that it was mooted that Morgan would step down and become like a Mandela for the party. The exit package and the Mandela proposal didn’t work to much chagrin from those pushing it. So other means had to be devised, the announcement that Morgan has been suspended could be a last effort at enforcing the way of the donor community. With a cursory look, it is evident the donor and the capitalist is the same hand. Ian Smith declared UDI in 1965 meaning Rhodesia was no longer a part of British territories, a feat only managed by United States prior. Now think on this, if Rhodesia was at war with ZAPU/ZANU, why was there a need to have a Lancaster Agreement? Was there a need for Britain to be involved in the affairs of a now sovereign state? What was in it for them? It is clear that Britain was no longer on the side of Ian Smith but was now firmly behind the liberation movement. We all know that after independence the relationship between Zimbabwe and Britain was a good one or else Prince Charles would not have visited and Mugabe knighted. So the donor’s hand was at work, forget the “one man, one vote” mantra, war was fought for resources but resources is not what our black brothers came from Lancaster preaching, it was a new tune. Remember, “Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune”.
|The Struggle Is All About The People, They Own It|
Tendai Biti Walking in Mugabe’s Footsteps?
If donor sentiment is to be considered, Tendai Biti was the rightful candidate to succeed Morgan Tsvangirai just as Mugabe was anointed to take over at independence. Then it was Edgar Tekere making manoeuvres, today we see Elton Mangoma doing the same. Just as Mugabe was hesitant to take over fearing a backlash from the guerrillas, we also saw Tendai Biti sitting on the fence for a long time, his hesitancy was palpable. But Mangoma did not have the wit of Edgar “Two Boy” Tekere and unlike back then where the masses had no say, this time the Zimbabwe populace has a voice. What we are seeing unfold is not entirely surprising, this by all accounts seem to be a well worked out plan with option A, B, C or D. I remember Lindiwe Zulu tried so much to push MDCT negotiators Biti and Mangoma to put ZANUPF on the ropes, she was frustrated to the point of almost becoming a negotiator on behalf of MDCT which raised the ire of Robert Mugabe.
When Tendai Biti opened a facebook page many of us welcomed the initiative, but as posts began to get confused. I particularly took exception to the way Biti wrote, it was as if he was speaking to someone else, not the multitude of fans who were following. The language used was not for the layman unless one had to read with a dictionary on hand. One thing that stood out from my perspective was Biti’s eagerness to rope in World Bank, IMF and others such into the scheme of things, I took it up with him that he was overly trying to please the Bretton Woods institutions overlooking home grown investment solutions for our economic problems, he did not take this constant enquiry too well, I was blocked. Now I ask myself, was his facebook page a project to endear himself to the West that I can represent your interests above anyone else or better than the Trade Unionist. My supposition is buttressed by Biti’s penchant for policing the page, any negative comment or criticism was quickly being removed, on his last page post dated 10 March 2014 he must have deleted in excess of 400 comments from irate supporters. While Mugabe’s ascendancy was smooth, that of Biti is looking murky even himself was not sure. But those who seek their way seem to be pushing him all the way. Those who say Biti seems to have lost weight are right; these are probably the most gruelling times of his political career.
The ZANUPF Connection
We all know it takes a pride of lions to bring down a giraffe, but the hunter does not get to enjoy the spoils alone. Vultures, hyenas, jackals and all manner of scavengers join the party. So the donor’s party has been gate crushed, ZANUPF with spooks on its side could have trailed the hunt waiting. When the Mangoma fiasco was unfolding, I looked for a few people whom I had bet would fall on the MDC Team’s side. These are the vultures that eat, sleep and live opposition slogans and in the dead of night sell all the information. Most people think ZANUPF being fingered in abuse of state security is a stretch of imagination but these are the type of people who can work for you as a gardener earning top dollar just to eavesdrop on you. They are as much a part of this and I imagine the courts are waiting to play ping pong on MDCT like they did with Welshman Ncube as a pawn. Biti is also the legal representative of Gideon Gono making cheap money from the donors and also from the regime. Could he and Gono be lining up to take over as a super faction of ZANUPF? This would not amaze me, Mai Mujuru and Emerson Mngangagwa can be left in the cold after all the years of fighting to get in.
Way Forward, The People Way
At this juncture, MDCT needs to make a smart decision. Already Biti has approached parliament and chances are he is hoping to take it into a long drawn legal battle right up to 2018. MDCT does not need this, when a man has sold out, he cares little about the people. Now is the time for Morgan to start rebuilding and spend less energy on trying to get into a spat with Biti. He has a chance to bring freedom with no strings attached, no donor terms & conditions like Mugabe was handed at Lancaster House. Zimbabwe has its human capital to look to; Morgan and those close to him must now think creatively on how to have the movement funded by the people and make this all about the people, no more balancing act of trying to please donors. Like the way it began, MDCT can regroup and make it about the people. If Zimbabweans want freedom badly then they must be willing to fight for it with their sweat and their meagre income but among Zimbabweans there is sufficient sources to buoy the struggle. They must let Biti and the donors walk. Freebies come at a heavy price later on. The examples of Uganda and Malawi getting Balance of Payment support withdrawn shows how much donors can enslave a nation, even ZANUPF is failing to pull the nation forward, they have begged left, right and centre mortgaging the resources for a pittance. Now is the time for Zimbabwe to chart its own destiny and build from ground up, if we must be prepared to walk alone and leave the African mentality of bending over to please donors behind.