Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thoughts on Africa Unity Day Weekend

In many ways Africa has greatly advanced since 1963 when the OAU was founded. Except for Western Sahara there are now no more official colonies in Africa. The last European colonial powers left the continent in 1975. Namibia got its independence from South Africa in 1990. Apartheid as practiced by the White minority governments in South Africa and Rhodesia has been eradicated from the continent. Mandela was elected in 1994. So many of the key the issues that dominated the OAU in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s have now been resolved.

Other positive advances have been the development of indigenous democratic states. This has been less successful than the removal of colonialism and apartheid. So while Ghana has established a functioning two party democratic republic dictatorships still rule Togo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and other countries in Africa. There is an active freedom movement in Togo, but it gets very little attention even in neighboring Ghana and France and Germany continue to support the dictatorship in Lome. Certainly, the movements for greater democracy, transparency, and human rights in Africa still have a long way to go. 

Social and economic advancement has been highly uneven in Africa and in individual African states. Illiteracy, poverty, and poor infrastructure are still problems even in successful states like Ghana. In less fortunate states like Congo they are far worse. But, the days when all of Black Africa could be blithely written off by US commentators as a failure are over. Even if the US and Europeans wish to close their eyes to economic developments in Africa the Chinese have not. 

There is no doubt that overall things are better in Africa today than they were for most of the existence of the OAU/AU. Some of the fastest growing economies in the world are now in Africa. Cheap electronics and other consumer goods from Asia are becoming available to more and more people in Africa. I have yet to encounter anybody in Ghana who did not own a mobile phone. I purchased mine here for $20 and while cheap it was not the cheapest option available in the country. So overall life in Africa is better than it has been and will hopefully be even better in the future. 

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