just1WORLD seeks to discover why the nations of sub-Saharan Africa trail so far behind most of the rest of the world in terms of development before going on to offer suggestions about how to encourage lasting and constructive change there.
For most western politicians, international financial institutions, international NGOs, church leaders, poverty campaigners and even pop stars the world is divided up into DEVELOPED and DEVELOPING nations. However, as far as sub-Saharan African countries are concerned this is purely wishful thinking as both these terms imply progress. Even with economies there growing on average at 3%-7% per annum, with few new jobs being created, an ever widening gap between the rich and poor and increasing numbers of mouths to feed, the best that can be said for the majority of sub-Saharan African countries is that they are STAGNATING nations (STAGNATIONS). And incredibly even this new term fails to capture all countries there for some, like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, are UNDEVELOPING having left their best days far behind as their plundered and paralysed economies have dragged their people back to subsistence survival.
This dismal sub-continental under performance, which keeps hundreds of millions of Africans locked in perpetual poverty, is blamed on a combination of factors - climate change, bad geography, perennial famines, water shortages, pervasive illiteracy, chronic diseases, smouldering conflicts, weak institutions, tribalism, strangling bureaucracy, lack of property rights, dilapidated infrastructure, insufficient overseas aid, unpayable debts, restrictive trade barriers or transfer pricing/tax evasion by multinational corporations.
Most of the factors listed above are undoubtedly challenges but in other parts of the developing world many countries are successfully tackling them and getting on with the job of laying the foundations for improving living standards. What, then, prevents countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which have been independent now for more than 50 years, from doing the same? The answer, in a phrase, is 'CORRUPT AND FECKLESS GOVERNANCE'.
According to President Obama 'development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential.' Similarly, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated this point recently when he stated that 'Africa suffers from a leadership deficit.' Again, in the same vein, Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born cellphone magnate, who sponsors the annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance, in delivering a recent report said that 'the main problem impeding our (African) development is governance - or rather the lack of it. All good things start from good governance; all bad things start from bad governance.'
There may have been mitigating circumstances at independence some 50-60 years ago when many of these emerging nations started life with many ex-guerrilla leaders who were ill-prepared and lacked the necessary skills, organisation and discipline needed to run a successful economy. However, that should now all have been consigned to the past for as former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said, when it comes to governance, 'there is ample evidence from around the world as to what works and what does not: the hard part for today's leaders is not knowing what to do, but doing it.'
The poor standard of governance found in sub-Saharan Africa today is an issue which African leaders and the international community have shamefully failed to confront for far too long. The African Union, basically a club comprising the current African leaders, is ambivalent - outwardly critical in words to appease the West but inwardly failing to censure its members and to foster positive change for fear of rocking the boat; western governments, afraid of losing influence or being branded neo-colonialist or racist, and with the need to justify the continuance of overseas aid to their electorates, prefer to sweep the glaring problems of corruption and mismanagement on the continent under the carpet, opting to believe, instead, that governance must be improving as economies grow; international Non-Government Organisations (NGO's) like Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid and ONE all do amazing work in Africa but for reasons known only to themselves are disingenuous when it comes to telling their supporters the truth about the main cause of poverty on the continent preferring, instead, to blame a shortfall in overseas aid, tax evasion by multinationals, etc.
Inept and rapacious governance then is the (African) elephant in the room when it comes to tackling poverty on the continent: deep down western governments and campaigners know the problem exists but as the issue is politically sensitive few are willing to confront it. And so Africa's elites are allowed to carry on acting with impunity gorging themselves on the proceeds of mining rights, the sale of public land, bribes and even sometimes ODA whilst most of their people are left on 'life support' starved of food, clean water, education, healthcare, decent infrastructure etc. And it could be said that this failure to confront the poverty of leadership in sub-Saharan Africa lays western governments, international NGOs, churches and poverty campaigners open to the accusation of being complicit in keeping the majority of Africans poor.
This weak and cowardly behaviour by the West really needs to change for the African people deserve better. And there are ways of tackling the problem of governance without being confrontational.
On this website, under STATE OF THE WORLD, we lay out what life is like for most Africans in comparison with that in the developed world. Then, under the various issues - FOOD, WATER, HEALTH, EDUCATION, TRADE etc., we examine more closely each category as it relates to Africa today. And in GOOD GOVERNMENT we lay out a template of what leaders should be aiming for in order to induce rapid and equitable development. Finally, in RECOMMENDATIONS, our comprehensive league table, 'Table of Truth', highlights the vast range of performance by governments in sub-Saharan Africa today in their individual efforts to lay the foundations for economic growth and social justice. And, based on this league table, we go on to suggest how this information could be used by the outside world as a catalyst for improving governance and, with the practical input of rich countries, changing the face of development. This constructive partnership between rich and poor countries could then rapidly lead to a situation where all Africans ought to be able to start to access the basics of life which has been denied to so many for far too long.
Finally to compare governance across the world we have taken the 'Table of Truth' and expanded it, with slight adjustments, to include all the nations on the planet. Positions in this table are not dependent on wealth, size, location or experience but in putting in place policies for people to make the most of their lives. This can be found under NEWS/COMMENTS - 'in a league of their own - how all the world's governments compare.'