[By Gregory Kaputula]
Theories of development may be regarded as sets of supposedly logical propositions, which aim to explain how development has occurred in the past or how it should occur in future.
These propositions explain certain phenomenon. They explain how something is structured and the way that something operates. One of these theories is the dependency theory. Dependency theory can be defined as an explanation of the economic development of a given state as a result of external influences on the politics, economy, cultural, education, and national development policies in general.
Economic dependency is the lack of capacity and ability to control the economic system or productive processes by a government and its society. Governments and societies that fail to manage, control and regulate their own economic systems and productive processes end up depending on foreign developed economies for technology, health, leadership, innovation, education, control and regulations, peace and security, food security, social welfare, and ultimately development.
Societies that depend on others for the aforementioned activities are mostly the poor countries also referred to as third world countries. Africa depends on the western world for its economic decisions, policies and policy implementation. It is not debatable to state that Africa depends on the western world for almost everything.
Dependency theorists have since been arguing in opposition to free market economists, stating that third world countries needed to reduce their connectedness with the western world and its markets so that they pursue a path focused on their own unique needs which are not dictated by western pressure or any other external influence. It is a central contention of dependency theorists that third world countries are impoverished while the western rich ones get further enriched by the way third world countries are integrated into the world economic systems and processes.
To some extent, we agree with the position of the dependency theory that Africa must set its own development agenda. However, considering the age of Africa, it will be careless to continue agreeing with proponents of the dependency theory. The dependency theory notion that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former must no longer be entertained. Africa must no longer be comforting itself with such theories for its current state. This notion should be dropped by all independent African countries.
It does not make sense anymore for Africa to still be referring to such theories as the cause of the current state of the continent or to justify its failures. Such arguments and excuses were cogent pre independence and after a few years of independence. After more than fifty years of independence, it is unacceptable for African countries to still blame the western world for the continent’s continued role of only supplying raw materials, cheap labour, and ready markets for expensive manufactured goods from the industrialised western countries. Does this still make sense? The answer should be a big NO!
Look here, Africa has a bad attitude towards everything. African attitude towards everything must change and change for the better because the world has no time to wait for Africa. In short, Africa must grow up and behave like an adult.
In the past few days, I have taken interest in following two social media commentators who speak their minds about Africa; Tracy Zille and Maponga Joshua (III) ‘Farmers of Thought.’ As far as Africa is concerned, the two social media commentators have been calling a spade a spade and not a big spoon. They are honest voices on what Africa must do to address its failures.
Tracy Zille has been busy tweeting; “This COVID-19 vaccine should be a lesson to all Africans. You must produce what you eat and your own medication. Now you are left with no choice but to take vaccine from the west. It’s either you die or buy vaccine from the west. Where are your rich prophets and pastors?”
This is a painful reality for Africans, it is a reality check. Clearly, when the west was busy working day and night to come up with the vaccines for COVID-19, Africans were watching and waiting for the announcement that a vaccine has been discovered. And now that vaccines have been found, Africans again are ready and waiting for distribution.
This is the case on many other things, when the west is busy discovering, innovating and funding research and development, Africa is busy doing the opposite. The ability of any society to acquire knowledge, skills and technology that would make it build the capacity to meet its social and economic needs is vital for its development. Over the years, the science and technology gap between Africa and the west has grown. While the west is constantly upgrading their technologies, Africa is failing to keep up. Of course, this widening gap is partly responsible for the continent’s underdevelopment. And this is an African problem caused by Africans themselves.
At a January 2007 summit of the continent’s political body, the African Union, heads of state “strongly urged” all AU countries to allocate at least one per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to research and development by 2020. They also pledged to revitalise African universities, many of which have declined due to dwindling support over the last few decades and also to promote the study of science and technology by young people. African leaders pledged to devote more resources to the development of science and technology, an area deemed vital for economic development, yet long neglected and poorly funded in many countries.
And while it may appear obvious that countries that neglect higher education cannot do well in science and technology, African countries have been doing just that. Some African countries adopted structural adjustment programmes that emphasised cuts in public spending. Under these programmes, they reduced education budgets, and eliminated subsidies for students. The quality of science and engineering education is also declining, in part due to a lack of money and of infrastructure such as state-of-the-art laboratories and technology centres.
In Africa, insufficient attention has been paid to Science and Technology and its role in national development process. The consequence of this neglect, over the years, has been the deterioration of the socio-economic development of the countries. There has been a perpetuation of heavy dependency on external technological support and importation of finished goods and services while exporting raw materials with little value added, thereby weakening Africa’s commercial and industrial base.
In a statement issued on January 13, 2021, President Edgar Lungu encouraged citizens to use home-based care solutions, including ‘ukufutikila’ steam – inhaling as a proven remedy for COVID-19. “Home – based care solutions such as steaming using eucalyptus leaves, ginger, garlic, honey and cinnamon concoctions are some of the tested remedies that health experts are recommending.’’
After this statement by the Zambian Head of State, we wondered how much investment and funding in scientific and technical education has been made by his government to strengthen Zambia’s universities and research institutions in the fields of science and technology, so as to encourage and push these institutions to contribute to national development.
Zille goes on to state that the current price of COVID-19 vaccine is not sustainable. It will leave African countries owing billions to European countries. This COVID-19 is going to leave Africa colonised again. African countries must put money together and develop their own vaccine in Africa. Africans allowed their leaders to abuse billions of COVID-19 funds with their families and friends. Use your brains, the vaccine is not meant to kill you but to make you poorer. Your leaders are going to borrow money from Europe to buy vaccines from Europe and enslave you forever.
The west think they have inherent powers to tell Africans what to do, when to do it and how to do it. They think they know what is right for Africans. They see Africans as incompetent beings. African leaders accept this and continue to take instructions. Africans need to wake up. If what happened in America on 6th June, 2021 was in Africa, the USA and UN soldiers would have landed for a “PEACE KEEPING MISSION”. But for how long are Africans going to allow this treatment?
The other commentator, Maponga Joshua (III) is urging Africans to stop selling religion and hope but to give people practical solutions. “How do you buy a factory and convert it into a church and people come inside and start praying for employment? The churches in Africa own more land than what business houses own. Christianity has become a partner of colonialism”
On the controversial Covid-19 vaccines, Joshua III suggests that the first Africans to be administered with the vaccines should be politicians led by African presidents, ministers, MPs, Army chiefs and police chiefs. He wonders why Africa has not developed its own science. “What stops us from developing our own science based on traditional medicines and change the trajectory?”
Social science theories have explained the causes of African backwardness and suggested appropriate remedies. The question is; have these remedies worked for Africa? The answer again is a categorical no! In his policy speech to the U S Congress in 1899, president William McKinley succinctly expressed; “The Philippines are not ours to exploit, but to develop, to civilise, to educate, and to train in the science of self-government.”
To borrow the words of president McKinley, Africa is not for the west to exploit, but to genuinely help develop, to genuinely help civilise, to genuinely help educate, and to genuinely help train in the science of self-government. To Africa, please be reminded once more that the western world does not owe you a living, you owe yourself a living. The line between exploitation and development assistance is porous. Also, gifts of science and technology facilitate economic and imperial penetration. Wake up Africa and love yourself more. You have lots of work to do but first, your attitude towards everything must change. Change your attitude.
As Africans, let us fight COVID-19 together. They say where there is unity, there is always victory. Let us mask up, mask up, mask up, and mask up!
The Author is a development activist and a social commentator. Views expressed in this article are purely personal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org