• April 18, 2024
  • Last Update April 18, 2024 6:55 PM
  • Nairobi

Colonial mindset to blame for coronavirus spread in Africa

Colonial mindset to blame for coronavirus spread in Africa

While many countries have experienced colonialism and gone on to attain independence, the post-colonial state of Africa appears to be the most unstable in the world. Factors responsible for this instability include kleptocracy, authoritarianism, marginalisation in global affairs, and brain drain.

Some scholars have argued that a reconstructed post-colonial state must be based on African traditions as a way of overcoming global marginalisation, political instability, and pandemic or endemic diseases. I would however put a caveat on this suggestion because most African traditions were not without shortcomings. But even more important is Africa’s consideration for the needs of the moment.

In an article I wrote for the Mail & Guardian in October 2000, I identified some of the problematic areas of the post-colonial state in Africa as imposed, exploitative and oppressive, contending that Africa had to get rid of the current governing structures and systems as a solution to its myriad governance challenges.

Clearly, imposed leadership was groomed by the departing colonial authorities or handpicked by the collapsing colonial state, or even descended from the pre-colonial political authorities such as collaborative chiefs and kings. Few if any leaders emerged as a result of proven intellect or the call to be servants of the people. No wonder they perpetuated socio-economic inequalities, which they inherited from their colonial masters. Consequently, these inequalities exist to this day.

African leaders and politicians have so far succeeded in manipulating the citizens of their countries using ethnicity, religion and even grand conspiracy theories. These factors have been presented as either a problem or reason for the lack of social cohesion in the post-colonial era. Ethnic manipulation as the basis for political mobilisation takes precedence over reason and logic to the extent that every conflict in Africa is conveniently explained as being ethnic in nature.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed African leaders for their role in neglecting or under-investing in health, education and infrastructure.

The most common phenomenon in the post-colonial African state is the extent to which African leaders view the West as their big brother to whom they are accountable for their actions, rather than the people on whose behalf they derive their leadership mandate. With few exceptions, African leaders interact more with their counterparts in western countries. In fact, some leaders from Francophone Africa even have homes in Belgium, France and Switzerland. No wonder the second and third waves of democratisation in Africa achieved limited gains, as democracy was articulated in terms set by the West through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed African leaders for their role in neglecting or under-investing in health, education and infrastructure. Since the decade of independence in the 1960s, African governments have not paid attention to these three areas, hence few countries on the continent have the capacity to deal with the pandemic and have had to rely on state security agencies to suppress the voices of people demanding solutions to the pandemic.

Rampant corruption has permeated every aspect of governance to the point of despair and the pandemic has only confirmed what African scholars have always said – that the colonial state is still in our bellies. No wonder a number of African leaders have dismissed the pandemic on similar terms as American President Donald Trump or even on religious grounds.

The soil for restructuring the post-colonial state is fertile – provided it is done with the people instead of on their behalf.

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