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Africa Must Find Its Way Out Of Poverty

June 1st, 2010

Namibia’s Bishop Zephania Kameeta recently said "the poor and unemployed, who make up half of the Namibian population, still cannot believe that President Pohamba said we cannot dish out money for free to people who do nothing." The bishop was commenting on Namibia’s President's comments on the Basic Income Grant (see allAfrica.com: Namibia: A Way Forward for Big Initiative).

The President’s comments just highlights how the upper echelons of the African politics have accepted the rhetoric of a number of Western countries in assuming that helping the poorest in society will lead to a dependence, “a handout or entitlement mentality”. Is that necessarily true in Africa or in Europe for that matter? Africans have, despite their poverty and the failings of government after government, shown great ingenuity and resourcefulness in surviving. How much more can a small regular amount make? Zambia’s experiment (see allAfrica.com: Zambia: Cash Transfers Transforming Lives of the Poor) is proving that it makes a huge difference.

What the leaders must remember is that the Western Europeans have already lifted a large percentage of their population (some might argue all) out of abject poverty and now find that in the face of their continued commitment to capitalism and their mighty financial systems, they want to wean their less well off on the evidence of a small percentage of these citizens having the entitlement mentality. That road can only lead to trouble down the line. Many people, despite the rhetoric, do not choose to be unemployed and poor.

In April, a renowned academic from Egypt, Professor Samir Amin, argued in a paper titled ‘Exiting the Crisis of Capitalism or Capitalism in Crisis’; that capitalism was responsible for the economic downturn. He felt that Africa’s future could be secured through embracing socialism ( allAfrica.com: Africa: Capitalism Or Socialism - Which Way?). The other scholars at that meeting in Dar es Salaam failed to agree on which economic model is suitable for the continent in the aftermath of global economic meltdown. This should be no surprise.

Africa must ignore the labels of capitalism or socialism and search for the right mix of policies that will change the fortunes of the continent. The Leaders must recognise that poverty is like the chain that holds back, indeed drags back, all the development efforts. The continent must recognise that chaining the enormous talent and ingenuity of a large percentage of their population and wasting the young minds of their children is a recipe for the continuation of the broken promises of the past. It would appear that Brazil, in spite of the new European and American aversion to social assistance, continues to expand it ‘Bolsa Família’ scheme as their economy continues to grow. Maybe that’s where Africa needs to look for inspiration?

[First published on my NotTheNews blog on specified date]