Background to the Ebola tragedy in Africa: Part Two


PART One focused on three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic, namely, Liberia, Guinea-Conakry and Sierra Leone.
While it is true that health care services in all three countries have collapsed and are unable to cope because all three do not have the required finances, it is also true that all three are resource rich countries.
Liberia continues to host the largest rubber plantations in the whole world, but the plantations are owned by American companies.
Sierra Leone remains one of the top 10 producers of diamonds in the world and has been like that for many decades but those diamonds continue to benefit outsiders and not Sierra Leoneans.
Equally Guinea-Conakry is home to one of the largest high grade iron ore deposits in the world but those deposits are being mined and exported away to the West daily with very little left to benefit locals.
Today all the three countries have become targets and or objects of international charity, as world organisations appeal for volunteers to assist on the Ebola tragedy.
Medical practitioners are required urgently and in large numbers because all three countries have never trained theirs in sufficient numbers.
More hospital beds are required urgently, more so when all three have never been in a position to build adequate hospitals for their people.
More nurses, more protective clothing, more medicines, more transport facilities and more communication equipment are all needed now and urgently to save lives and to stop the epidemic from spreading further.
The key question is: why are these three African countries turning out to be so vulnerable and helpless when in fact they are so richly endowed with minerals and other natural resources one can think of?
The so-called global media such as the BBC, CNN and Sky News are attributing the tragedy that is unfolding in all the three countries to poverty.
And such a description turns out to be a half-truth, somewhat unhelpful and more or less unrevealing as to the real dynamics breeding poverty in the midst of abundant resources.
One has to go beyond the usual explanations normally touted by the West to explain away why African countries are not developing fast.
These are corruption, dictatorships, one party states, authoritarian rule, lack of rule of law, lack of good governance, human rights and transparency etc.
All these are not good enough to explain the economic predicament in which the three countries find themselves.
More tragic is that their economic predicament is just a miniature version of the kind of challenges which most African countries are facing.
The plain truth is that the economic model being followed by all three under the close supervision of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is a vampire-like model which needs to be revisited urgently.
It is an economic model fashioned by cap
italist gods who in their infinite greed and endless demands for more wealth take away too much all the time at the expense of the owners of those resources! This is the real story, the real explanation which describes where Africa stands today.
Or how else can we explain that the American company, Firestone, later joined Bridgestone, has been nursing vast and highly productive rubber plantations 650 square kilometres in size in Liberia for over 70 years and producing tyres on which run half of the world’s vehicles. Those tyres are made from rubber which comes from such huge plantations in Liberia but a Liberia left to be as poor and vulnerable to ebola as it is today?
The same story applies to that behemoth of diamond companies De Beers vi-a-vis Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits discovered since the 1930s.
Both these companies have taken more out of Liberia and Sierra Leone for long and put in next to nothing for the development of the very countries which feed their industries on a daily basis.
It is a raw and crude type of extractive capitalism which needs to be tamed and controlled for the benefit of all citizens of Africa and not just for a few.
Put differently, the poverty thesis which the so-called global media is relying upon to explain the heart-rending scenes of unimaginable levels human vulnerability in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Conakry is not something mysterious and difficult to understand, and or something peculiarly African in character but something that is deliberately designed and sustained by an imperial economic system originating from Europe.
Poverty in Africa is something man-made, a symptom as well as a consequence of a well orchestrated economic system deliberately designed to benefit some while excluding others who happen to be African.
The consequences of latter day capitalism, often euphemistically characterised as globalisation, are not that different from slavery of centuries ago.
The system of ruthless exploitation of labour and resources that we see in Liberia, Guinea- Conakry and Sierra Leone today is akin to slavery but this time with no visible chains and whips, the proverbial tools which made colonial plantations a source of bounty for one race and a breeder of poverty for those blacks who worked on those very plantations for over four centuries.
In many ways the tragedy unfolding in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Conakry typifies the dilemma which most African countries face today.
They are all post-colonial states , but all are still to get rid of the colonial policies embedded in their economies; they are independent nominally but without the kind of economic independence that is required, sovereign somewhat but still under the beck and call of Europe and the USA.
This paradox of a resource-rich continent hosting some of the poorest of the poor defines our limitations as well as our ambitions to be truly independent in both style and substance.
It looks like the struggle to be free from foreign imperial interests is going to be a long and bitter struggle that will require a new set of economic heroes and heroines just like the political struggle did all over Africa. This is the new frontline.
In other words, the new challenge in Africa of the 21st Century is an economic one: it is how to make ourselves real owners of the God given resources which Africa has in great abundance.
It is how to make Africa the workshop of the world, a great power to reckon with and not an object of charity as it is now.


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