By Denis Jjuuko
Africa is rising. This is Africa’s decade. This is Africa’s century. Africa is the only continent with the most growth potential. Africa is the next frontier. You have heard all this before. Some of these statements may sound lofty while others may actually have an element of truth on them.
Africa has the fastest-growing population and it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more young people on the continent than in China and India combined. Currently, Africa is home to about 1.4 billion people. Same size population as China.
Most of these young people need an economy that works. Providing decent jobs that are sustainable is key. The majority of these jobs won’t come from civil service. They will come from the private sector.
Apart from war mercenaries and arms dealers, the majority of private sector players need an enabling environment to invest. For most people to invest their money in a country or region, they need some political stability so that they can recoup their investment.
Africa, sadly is rising once again — this time like it was before in political instability. A coup in Sudan, another in Guinea and two in Mali. In Niger there was an unsuccessful coup (chances it will succeed again like we saw in Sudan) and in Chad, an arbitrary power transfer.
Leaders like in Ivory Coast who came in through elections and claimed to be democratic have made 360 degree turns to reverse any democracy that you may think of. In South Africa, once Africa’s biggest economy, it is predictable when another riot will take place where even investment company chief executives are caught on camera looting electronics as cheap as an LED TV set.
Somalia, endowed with pristine pure sand beaches and an endless seafront with favourable weather year on year, for now decades relies on the goodwill of foreigners in knee-high boots, bulletproof jackets and helmets for any semblance of peace! Libya, a few minutes from Europe with natural resources has never known peace since the 1960s.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, the richest country in the world, relies on its poorer eastern neighbor to construct a bitumen standard road to facilitate trade. In South Sudan, another rich country in terms of natural resources, power-grabbing is the end of the day and those who can’t fight for a seat in the State House resort to shooting truckers delivering essential supplies the population can’t do without. Each military general’s success is defined by how many of their kids study in poorly built Kampala schools or how many shapeless storied houses they own in a slummy suburb in Kampala or Nairobi.
At home, Uganda and Rwanda, once bosom friends don’t talk anymore. At one time, they created a war theatre in Kisangani where they shelled each other’s troops.
Assassins sometimes rule the streets in Kampala and when they are not criminal gangs attack anyone in broad daylight on the major street in the city. Bombs now go off and while bombers have the audacity to place them at the city’s main police station.
Ethiopia, a few years ago, was hailed as the fastest-growing country on the continent. I used to frequent Addis a few years ago and I saw how the sprawling slum that is Addis was turning into a real city with wide roads and a public transport system that worked.
Ethiopians seemed to be a patriotic lot. They claimed to be the best and biggest in everything whether they were talking about the Ethiopian Airlines, the sheer beauty of their women (even though every country has beautiful ones), cattle population or the size of the market (only to visit and realize it is not even a quarter of Owino). Arguing otherwise was considered an insult to the hosts.
The news out of Ethiopia now is the most depressing. Young people are happy to put their bodies to the sword fighting a war that will simply put a stop on the little progress they had made. The real beneficiaries of these wars are somewhere in a mansion, sleeping in king-size beds, sipping exotic wines with high-speed internet connecting to the rest of the world. Once enough blood is shed, they will gladly drive on the streets atop military jeeps with raised fists in self-praise promising a world those who fought for them will never experience.
Africa can’t rise when AK47 are being pointed at each other. War can’t provide sustainable decent jobs. We can’t be rebuilding all the time. We are still suffering from the effects of Covid-19 and wars should be the least thing on our minds. If Africa is to rise, leaders must not resort to wars. There is no issue that can’t be resolved through peaceful means.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org