Washington (National Times) – Anti-imperialism is vogue in Africa now. We criticize the west for everything. They are regarded as the source of all problems in Africa: insecurity in Mali and Cameroon, poverty and deprivation in Nigeria, or maybe across Africa, lack of steel plants in Douala, Accra and Lagos, and even the mass protest in Benin.
Trump has become the new face of imperialism and racism, the two isms that have held Africa and Africans hostage, or so the anti-imperialist want us to believe. He told four coloured women to go back to their countries with corrupt leaders and poor infrastructure. He is a racist. A white supremacists.
Yet Trump is not to blame for everything. Neither is imperialism. And he’s not always wrong, for instance when he criticizes African leaders as corrupt and unable to provide basic infrastructure—granted we all know about his personal corruption and ineptitude. But we won’t solve any problems in Africa – whether corruption or insecurity – through Trump-bashing and finger-pointing at imperialism. We must broaden our view and consider what is at stake in Africa.
What we’re currently observing has far less to do with Imperialism than we would like to believe and far more with the ubiquitous absence of critical infrastructure across sub-Saharan Africa. SSA is one of the regions with the poorest infrastructure network in Africa. You may like to think that that is because of the imperialist, but no that is because we have failed to design a state that focuses on developing modern and sophisticated infrastructure in time.
Nigeria’s electricity grid is lower that that of Madrid. In fact, the whole of Africa produces less amount of energy in a year than South Korea. No African infrastructure company operates outside of the continent. Countries like Nigeria and Cameroon do not even have national construction companies, famous, for innovative and quality infrastructure designs and implementation.
Contrast that to small countries like Italy and Luxembourg with famous Iron and steel companies, highly innovative construction companies, and very sophisticated electricity and financial firms. I don’t think if Buhari was to create $10 billion construction company today, that is less than what they spend on their Senators and Members of Congress in a five years, Nigeria will not have a sophisticated construction company.
Let me be clear, the internal orientation that leads to development are significant domestic development and control of critical infrastructure – transportation, energy (dams and coal stations), chemical industries, critical manufacturing (Primary Metals Manufacturing and Electrical Equipment manufacturing), health care, ICT, and water and waste water management. This is what makes a country.
No country developed these industries without seeing their existence as existential threat. The idea of the absence of these industries should disturb us and be of grave concern. Yet when we talk about imperialism and corruption, we fail to be clear and point to the masters on the throne that this is what they have to be doing. Building schools and universities is not enough. Our leaders must provide sophisticated and visionary strategies to invest in these industries.
We should even go as far as passing laws that mandate that ministers or presidents build this infrastructure within a time limit or resign. We have passed laws against existential threats like terrorism and corruption. Let us pass positive laws that do ask people do build public goods or go to jail.
Why? It must be clearly stated that first we have failed to design and develop infrastructure rich countries in Africa because, the political structure sees infrastructure as what a powerful country does, rather than what makes a country to exist in the first place. It is not a necessity to them. But take away the infrastructure in Europe- the roads, railways, Museums, hospitals, and Notre Dams, and the chemical plants in Germany and there will be no Europe, no history, nothing.
Investing in critical infrastructure is no easy tasks. Billions of states resources will have to be diverted from other less important, but highly prioritized tasks in Africa, like clothing government officials and buying expensive cars—it is close to changing the primal intention of the state and the interest of the elites. But it is what most African states have to state clearly and pursue if they are to continue as states. It is the solution to our problem, not Trump bashing or talking against imperialism.
There is no other way to go. It is easy to take on the incremental path of focusing on a welfare state and other things, rather than putting all the states eggs in one basket – investing in critical infrastructure.
We can continue to blame the west and Trump for Africa’s entire problem. But they are not the problem, our disorientation from investing massively in infrastructure is a big problem. Until we make that blind or conscious leap, companies will continue to invest in other countries with infrastructure, leaving us poor and grumpy. Fights of secession and groups will the Indigenous People of Biafra will continue to spring up.