The following is a guest submission by Phumlani M. UMajozi
When Martin Luther King Jr. made the famous I have a dream speech in 1963, he spoke of a country where people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Like MLK, I too have a dream. Mine is about the continent Africa.
There is a sense of exasperation amongst many Africans today. They feel that for centuries, their continent has been looked down upon, disrespected by many around the world. I do not only see this exasperation on social networks, but also on my interactions with many people I know.
I have felt the same way too, at times. But instead of spewing vitriol against those who I believe undermine us; I have rather chosen to try and be analytical – ask myself why do they undermine this continent?
The reason we’re in this situation is partly because the post-Cold War Africa never upheld and protected human rights. I refer to the post-Cold War era because before the end of the ideological wrangle, the then global powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were contributors to the political chaos and squabbles that plagued Africa at the time. Countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo D.R.), then Zaire and Angola became the battleground between Moscow and Washington.
In the mission of repressing communism, the West financed and buttressed anti-communism movements and regimes; no matter their records on human rights. The Soviet Union would counter Americans with similar acts – which further destabilized these countries. This was true not only in Africa, also in Asia and Latin America.
What Africa should do now in the post-Cold War era – which is not being done – is to choose individual freedom – liberty. My dream is that most Africans will one day realize that individual liberty leads to lasting prosperity. And that it is that individual liberty that will change people’s perceptions about Africa.
As long as our governments defy the rule of law and tolerate leaders like Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who is suspected of mass murder, as the South African government did recently, this continent will remain tainted. This man abhors individual freedom and liberty and has ruled his destitute country since 1989. Yet he remains tolerated and is welcomed around the continent.
Despots who oversee gross human rights abuses in their countries walk on red carpets on state visits. If we continue with these actions, how is the world going to respect us?
Africa’s guaranty of individual liberty will produce a free market that will bolster economic growth and help reduce the grinding poverty that afflicts us all. It is my dream that Africans will realize that the free-market economic system – that is impossible without individual liberty – is the solution to socioeconomic problems we face today. African countries like Congo D.R., Chad, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, and many others, rank way at the bottom of the 2015 Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom – which measures the degree of economic freedom in the world’s nations. These countries I have mentioned are categorized as “Repressed” in the index.
The Global Finance Magazine lists them among the poorest in the world; Congo D.R. tops the list with the Gross Domestic Product (based on purchasing power parity) of less than $500.00.
The freest countries in the index – Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland are among the richest in the world – with the Gross Domestic Product (based on purchasing power parity) of more than $44 000.00. When human freedom and liberty is largely respected and protected – people prosper. This then means Africa must undertake the necessary reforms in order to reach this level of prosperity.
What we also need to remember, is that it is impossible to uphold individual liberty, preserve the free market economic system, without the effective and efficient rule of law. This is why the mission of the Free Market Foundation – which I am part of – is to “promote and foster an open society, the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic and press freedom as fundamental components of its advocacy of human rights and democracy based on classical liberal principles.”
My dream is that Africans will one day realize the importance of the rule of law.
In many of these African countries that rank at the bottom of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the rule of law and governance is nonexistent – where it does exist, the power-hungry politicians have hijacked it in order to advance their political ambitions.
We need the functioning rule of law to punish those who violate human freedom – for example murderers, rapists and fraudsters.
It is sad to always hear that hundreds of African migrants die in the Mediterranean trying to cross into Europe. They take the risk in desperation – in search of better economic opportunities. They are running away from their continent that is plagued by dictatorship and poverty – where individual freedom doesn’t exist. My dream is that one day; they will not see the need to take this deadly risk. That will only happen in a prosperous Africa.
These are my dreams about Africa – and I must say, they are far from being comprehensive. But at least they do paint a picture of what kind of Africa I want to see in years to come.
I hope that they will come true one day. But, as I have preached many, many times, it’s us Africans who should take the first step in right direction