The Effect of the Lack of Leadership in Africa and Africa’s Consequential Loss of Material Goods

Paul Fischer
January 26, 2006
The Effect of the Lack of Leadership in Africa and Africa’s Consequential Loss of Material Goods
              If over 823,000,000 Africans possess diamonds, gold, trees, oil, rich farmland, and huge potential sources of hydro electric energy, what stops the nearly one billion citizens from utilizing their vast resources?  The answer is that no African nation has the strong leadership necessary to properly unite and utilize these resources because of their tribal warfare and sharp cultural differences. The effects of leadership deficit in Africa create war torn nations like Congo, and broken stagnant economies such as the one in Sierra Leone. By comparison, South Africa who has made intelligent decisions and created a highly developed economy that generates tons of exported goods such as diamonds and other precious metals that we enjoy every day. Because of nations such as Congo and Sierra Leone the Americans spend tens of billions of dollars every year in policing and aid. On the other side of the spectrum, America imports over five billion dollars of South African goods. Both the loss of potential trade in undeveloped nations and the cost of aid and policing cost large amounts of money from foreign nations including the United States. These costs are produced by the bungling of African presidents and dictators who are unfit to rule.
              Why does a nation with some of the richest resources in the world be capable of harbor some of the poorest people in the world? Congo is a prime example of a scenario that is taking place all over Africa. There was a five year civil war that occurred because of leaders’ refusal to recognize the need for long term goals to be met. Mobutu, a military president headed the sole government party in the seventies and lasted, despite dozens of attempted coups, until 1991. He was overthrown following his inability to pay back loans to Belgium in 1989. This caused development programs to be canceled and further increased the deterioration of the Congo economy. Real elections were impossible to hold because of wide-spread feuding and Motubu’s insistence on keeping the reigns of power in his heavy hands. The civil war destroyed Congo and is a direct result of Congo’s faction’s inability to unite and work together without the Belgian companies keeping peace.
              Nations that can unite and work together in Africa also have trouble too, as the small African nation Sierra Leone shows. Sierra Leone gained independence from Belgium in 1958 and has faced severe government problems ever since. Milton Margai was Sierra Leone’s first president in history. He was seen as a president who could bring great change and even the huge social differences that plagued the country and culminated in class wars. Unfortunately he died before he could make any large differences. Thus his brother, Sir Albert Margai became president in 1964. Albert would prove to be considered Sierra’s worst president. His dictatorial policies are mirrored all over Africa by other dictators. In addition to inaction in reference to class wars Albert also privatized all foreign companies in the country and handed them over to his beer buddies. The immediate effect of this action was extreme corruption and discontent throughout the nation. Below the surface however, one can see that though Margai was overthrown, his friends still held the companies of Sierra Leone, most of which were diamond companies. The nation now relies solely on the diamond production to keep its economy afloat. Unfortunately this is an unsustainable source of income and it creates an elite few who live in palaces while thousands of peasants rely completely on international aid tickets every year. This constitutes a complete failure of the government to utilize the diamonds to develop a sustainable economy. Countries with a similar situation cost Americans huge amounts of money every year in aid.
              There is hope for both Congo and Sierra Leone though; South Africa faced the same troubles that they did following their independence. Following the nine year civil war in which blacks restored their rights. Influential leaders in South Africa have negotiated trade deals that resulted in the effective development of important resources and agricultural zones. Nelson Mandela won a US congressional medal in 1998 for his efforts in the country. He brought about fully democratic elections and developed millions of homes and running water for the poor black majority. Without Mandela the civil war might have lasted much longer and South Africa may have shared Congo’s or Sierra Leone’s fate.
              Africa has less material goods because the people cannot even pretend to unite under one ruling party without the ruling party taking harsh actions to quell resistors. The only way to provide a stable and helpful economy for Africans without massive outbreaks of violence is for America to become more active in its aid programs. By directing money, food, and, yes, America should even control the gun market … even if that means allying with the shady figures that started the African dilemma, America can make sure that tyrants stay out of power and intelligent leaders are supported. Building powerful independent unions that sympathize with America out of the quarreling indigenous tribes will be critical. Such action would be decisive in keeping both freedom and the millions of men, women, and children that perish from being in a violent country that is too hungry to help itself safe.

“Africa.”  The New Book of Knowledge. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 (February 7, 2006).
“Mobutu Sese Seko.”  The New Book of Knowledge. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 (February 7, 2006).
“Congo, the Republic of.”  The New Book of Knowledge. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 (February 7, 2006).
Best, Alan C. G. and Doro, Marion E., “South Africa.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing,  2006 (February 7, 2006).

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