What Went Wrong in Independent Africa?

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After winning independence, African leaders then had to show concrete results towards progress. Various problems affected development including, one-party systems, personality cults, governmental overthrows, civil wars, refugees, centralized economies, crippling debt, political corruption, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Once the transfer of power from colonial to African government was complete, African leaders had to build unified nations out of the numerous ethnic groups which fell within their nation-state borders. They hashed out new constitutions with colonial powers, then failed to include their citizens in the nation-building process following independence.

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New political leaders made many assumptions after taking power: Political leaders knew everything and did not need to confer with their people about decisions that affected them Their citizens had the same social and political because they had all suffered under colonial rule Leaders also believed that their citizens needed a strong central government to create national unity, so they created single-party systems, with strict limits on political freedoms, stifling democracy from the get-go and making certain their power was never challenged. Personality cults were formed around political leaders. Personality cults attempt to fabricate the image of an all-knowing and all-powerful leader. Self-conferred titles such as “Redeemer”, and “Doctor of Revolutionary Sciences” were meant to convey that the bearers of the names were above the law and to be obeyed without question. Personality cult or not, these leaders often lacked vision, and leaders without vision have no idea how to unify their citizens, much less plan for the future of their countries. Africa has experienced more government overthrows by military than any other continent.

More than half of its countries have had at least one military regime since independence, and many have seen or continue to suffer from civil war. In Nigeria, there was a military coup in 1966 when the Ibo army killed a prime minister from the north, which led to the slaughter of Ibo people. The Ibo people decided to secede from Nigeria to create their own state the Republic of Biafra in 1967 setting off a civil war that lasted until 1970. During the war, somewhere near 2 million Ibo lives were lost. In Sudan, ethnic tensions and civil war between the Muslim dominated north, and Christian majority south continues to be a problem with estimates of the dead around half a million, and 300,000 rendered homeless. In Mozambique and Angola, more Africans have lost their lives in civil war since independence than they did in their struggles for independence.

Civil war takes a heavy toll on economies, and war-torn countries which used to be food secure, are reduced to waiting for handouts from the international community to feed their people. In Zaire, dictator General Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled and proceeded by Laurent-Desire Kabila who then gave the country a new name, Democratic Republic of Congo. Wars from neighboring countries spilled across the borders of DR of Congo, with governments in Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, and Zimbabwe picking sides and escalating the civil war in the Congo.

Wars across national boundaries have happened in several countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Chad. Millions of lives have been lost in the various African civil wars, resulting in further fragmentation, economic devastation and millions of refugees fleeing their home countries. Refugee populations worldwide are ? African and up to ½ African if refugees who haven’t fled their countries are counted as well. Under centralized governments, many leaders created parastatal agencies, government corporations, to handle production and marketing of cash crops. Parastatal agencies outwardly appeared to have been created to enhance the national treasury on behalf of its people, but such agencies were rife with corruption and inefficiencies.

Government corporations severely weakened national economies and multiplied the effect of other economic issues such as civil war, unfavorable commodity prices, and increased cost of imports. African countries relied heavily on foreign aid and loans to try and stay afloat, sending their national debts soaring to as much as 87% of their GNP. Corruption is widespread in Africa, and is heavily linked to poverty as those who live in poverty are much more likely to break the rules to survive. With no balance between meritocracy and family/ethnic loyalty in government, corruption continues to be a cyclical problem in which new generations of leaders repeat what their predecessors did.

A strong leader with a plan can facilitate discussions between adversarial ethnic groups and create rules which prevent corruption and promote meritocracy. Sub-Saharan Africans account for approximately 67% of the people worldwide living with HIV. Globally, 90% of the children living with HIV are African children. There are numerous causes which have contributed to the African AIDS epidemic including, poverty, lack of education, poor planning, abstinence-only education (conditions attached to US aid), and certain cultural practices.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has severely limited the social and economic development of the sub-Saharan region. Despite all the ills that followed independence, many African nations have seen impressive gains. Economic centralization and government by force have given way to democracy and free markets. Communication, transport, health and education infrastructure has seen tremendous growth. And despite the increasing number of those affected by famine and poverty, more and more Africans are seeing improvements in their material lives.

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What Went Wrong in Independent Africa?. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from
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