Natural and human resources are important aspect of a nation’s power and wealth. However having abundant resource may not solve poverty and underdevelopment in any resource-rich country for, among others, national power and well-being are directly correlated with the wise use of the so called power and wealth. The case of the continent of Africa suits to this thought.
Based on studies, the highly demanded natural resources such as iron and coal, which are the basis for industrialization, are in plenty in many African countries. Many others are also conferred with interesting materials that are highly needed in the fields of space exploration, medicine, and the manufacturing of weapons such as uranium for energy, titanium for jet engines, and geranium for transistors. Again, African countries are rich in human resources; there are millions of expertise and professionals within and outside of countries.
Hence, having the above noted rich natural resource base, Africa’s energy resources are supposed to be a potential source of economy and development that could contribute not only to its population but also to the global energy markets. Its natural and human resources can be a major force in world affairs.
Most of African leaders, however, appear to be unaware of the power they could exercise on the international stage if they better managed their individual country’s natural resources. Unfortunately, the truth probably is that they are aware of such power, but they have opted to pursue their corrupt agendas instead of their nation’s interests, which they are sworn to uphold. For that reason, it is said that African leaders are to blame for the continent’s economic recession; extreme poverty and misery. But then again, African leaders pinpoint their fingers at colonialism for the constant ills of Africa.
Studies, however, have proved that much of the failure goes to African leaders. Hence, apart from western colonialism, the current Africa’s weak institutions, poor system of management, misadministration, and some of the world’s highest levels of corruption consistently undermine efforts to put its resources to work for the good of its people. The failure of economic development in Africa is due to a large part to the scramble for wealth by the elites who have dominated African politics since independence.
As Tunde Obadina, the director of Africa Business Information Services, has noted that many African leaders see the state as a source of personal wealth accumulation, and the underlying cause of many of the manifestations of mismanagement, bad governance, including political repression, corruption is the endeavor by the ruling classes to be and remain part of the global elite despite their nation’s poverty. In this case it is difficult to see good governance when the orientation of the elite is to stay in the running and be part of the fifth of the world’s population that forms the international consumer class.
Hence, there is high premium on the control of the state, which is the biggest and most easily accessible source of wealth accumulation. For that to happen the people in power and those who seek power use all means to attain their goal. This includes fostering ethnic sectarianism and political repression. Again, competition for control of the state whether between the military and civilian classes or between civilian political parties, is invariably vicious and generates instability. Recent and continuing civil wars in Africa, for instance, have intensified because of the natural resources in these countries, such as Gold diamond.
As a result, the corrupt African leaders and the so-called opposition fighters have benefited by selling these natural resources to the same colonial “masters” that were driven out during these countries’ struggles for independence. During the pre-independence years, these raw materials were taken away without any trouble. The colonizers looted, exploited the continent’s natural resource. After independence, these colonial powers have resorted to corrupting the leaders to ensure that their supplies are not hindered.
In connection with aide and the establishment of financial institutions, scholars would put it this way: there has not been any successful mechanism for a successful development due to lack of experience by the African leaders who continue to depend on the advise of the so-called western experts that dominate the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC). Several financial institutions have provided ideas, studies and whatever they can recommend to African governments on the right modes of development. These institutions include the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa, (ECOWAS), and Southern African Development Community (SADCC) and so on. These ideas, however, have not worked because they adopt a western approach instead of one that is rooted in the African concept of development.
On the issue of human resource mismanagement, African nations have been suffering from poor administrative, inadequate judicial infrastructure, and insufficient numbers of expertise. This, however, does not mean that Africa does not have expertise; there are millions of African professionals and experts sitting ideal. Millions of others are draining to the western countries for fear of political instability and conflict. Many more have headed their way to the West in an attempt to get a good salary.
In this case, it is a shame for those African leaders to look for assistance from outside to educate their people instead of managing African expertise wisely. On the other hand, the mere fact that those African leaders and their cronies continue to send their children outside of their countries to be educated abroad mostly from ill-gotten gains exposes their insincerity in addressing the problem of education.
Hence, it is because of mismanagement, bad governance and corruption, many African countries hardly managed to take advantage of their wealth of mineral and human resources to promote the well being of their citizens. The continent as whole is suffering from the problems of economic recession and the population has hardly benefited from the resources of the continent. Most of African population is starving; living under extreme misery and poverty.
Moreover, on the condition that and African leaders persist in relying upon foreign countries to solve the continent’s problems, there would be no sustainable development and growth in the continent. Therefore, before any real success can be achieved in Africa, one must first address the need for good governance, healthy democracy, good management and peace in Africa. And what many scholars believe is that the continent is doomed for these three reasons: corruption, bad governance, and human and material mismanagement.
After all, Africa’s tragedy is not that its nations are poor; it is a continent endowed with enormous natural and human wealth. The problem is partly a condition that is a product of history. Yet again, it lacks ruling classes that are committed to overcoming the state of poverty. States in Africa are debilitated as instruments of development because the ruling classes, including people in and outside government, are motivated by objectives that have little to do with the common good. As long as politics is dominated by selfish elites; as long as their natural and human resource problems are not cured, it is difficult to see a meaningful economic development sustaining in the continent.