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Poverty has Never been a Curse - It is a State of Mind
Published by in Education · 3 June 2019
Tags: PovertyDevelopmentAfrica
In Africa, how often do we hear people say that this continent is blessed by the gods (or God)? Indeed, it is hard not to see that there are abundant natural resources in Africa, even if the majority of Africans are not the beneficiaries of these resources. Oil, gold, diamonds, uranium, tantalum, bauxite, manganese, etc. are only a few of these natural resources found, extracted and taken out of the African continent. The soil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for instance, was estimated to have untapped deposits of raw materials worth about 24 trillion dollars (or 24,000 billion dollars). This is just an estimation. It may be less or much more. This is why the DRC is considered a geological scandal for which there are historical, political, geopolitical and geostrategic explanations.

If these raw materials were available in Norway, do we think that Norway would be as poor as the DRC? Probably not. Let us hurt Africa’s pride, if necessary. The reason why South-Africa, which is endowed with natural resources, too, is more developed than the rest of Sub-Saharan African countries, is because the ancestors of those who conquered that part of Africa came in with a vision. As a result, their children and grand-children, over the years, although through inhumane maltreatment of the autochthons, exploited the available wealth that enabled them to build a strong nation. There is still apartheid today in Africa. Yet, if we want to be lucid it is not necessarily what we think or imagine it is (or was)! It is no longer only white people ostracizing black people, but predominantly black people ostracizing black people in the majority of African countries.

If we go back to the Norwegian case, how many people actually know that Norway is a rich oil-producing country? However, contrary to Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Chad, which are also prominent oil-producing countries in Africa, Norway is much more advanced infrastructure-wise compared to the aforementioned African countries. An African reading these lines may disagree with the author. Fine! What is then inaccurate in the simplest of observations here? Maybe this reader does not appreciate the fact that Norway is a European country taken as an example for comparison because Western countries are known to possess “science and technology” [not Africans!].

What if we take another example: the tiny Qatar or the United Arab Emirates (UAE)? When Qatar became a major gas-producer, the Qataris decided to develop their country by building state of the art infrastructures: roads, schools, hospitals, electricity grid, etc. And they do not look like the ones found in the vast majority of African oil-producing countries. Why is it also glamourous to go to Dubai, today, which almost looked like a village about 60 years ago? The oil found in Abu Dhabi was used to improve the quality of life in the UAE, and it is quite manifest if one travels to the UAE (with Dubai as a Window). Now, if this African reader still disagrees with these lines, then why is it that Norway, Qatar or the UAE provide financial aid or assistance to African countries, and not the other way around? Maybe he has the right answer to that question! However, it is not because this reader does not want to admit the facts that they do not exist. In others words, it is as if someone would deny the existence of the wind just because he can't see it, although he can feel it!
Norway, Qatar or the UAE do have natural resources. The political systems in Norway versus Qatar and the UAE, however, are not the same. Nonetheless, the management of the resources is not comparable with what we can observe in most African countries. This is because there are leaders who do understand that natural resources are a blessing, and not a curse. And they cannot be a curse because “you are a product of your actions and choices”. If the Arabs and Europeans are managing their resources better than African rulers, then the problem in Africa is not with the natural resources. This is why underdevelopment or poverty is first and foremost a state of mind.
Somebody else can argue the following: there are African countries with nice infrastructures (roads, hospitals, schools, etc.). Fine! But how many? And then, why is it that the inhabitants of these countries are also willing to emigrate, for several reasons, even at the cost of their life in the Mediterranean Sea, for instance? We do not recall the Portuguese or the French coming to Africa at the cost of their life in the twenty first century! And when their ancestors came to Africa at the cost of their life, it was to conquer Africa and to control her wealth (and they succeeded brilliantly). But is the objective the same today with African immigrants in Europe or the United States?
Let us not forget that a capital city in an African country is a window which is not necessarily representative of the realities endured by the populations of this country outside of the main cities; unless development is not an inclusive process in the mind of those who do not want to admit this reality. Even in our modern cities there are several areas (quarters) where access to safe and clean water is a luxury, electricity another scarce resource and public schools are far from matching the populations’ expectations. So if a continent is rich, with abundant natural resources, but that benefit industrialized nations and not African countries or peoples, this is not a curse. This is lack of vision and patriotism, coupled with poor management, due to the fact that the right person is not at the right place. And if we continue in this manner, in Africa, we will always find excuses such as “natural resources are a curse” while Africa is actually blessed with talents who can manage these resources properly. Unfortunately they are most often ignored or discarded.

Therefore, let us not forget that “you are a product of your actions and choices”. And because a good action is conceived in the mind before it is materialized, the same is true for bad actions. Thus, poverty or underdevelopment is a state of mind. Africans are free to keep on having a negative state of mind (because only such a state of mind can justify poverty where there are abundant natural resources) or actually shift towards positivity (and change the course of history forever)! And no other peoples will make this choice for them.

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Lenda Rudy Massamba
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