Africa’s billion citizens should help her develop

One of the major highlights of 2011 was Africa’s population growth. Despite many challenges that the continent faces, it seems as though it did not affect population growth because Africa recorded its billionth citizen this year.
This means population-wise, the 54-member continent is now number three, after China and India, respectively.
China, which is at the top has 1,3 billion inhabitants; while India has 1,2 billion people. The 27-member European Union’s population stands at 500 million; the United States of America has 312 million inhabitants, while Brazil has 192 million citizens.
While China, India and Brazil are experiencing rapid economic growth, the same cannot be said about Africa. A number of African states continue to rely on developmental aid, most of which is given with strings attached.
Thus, Africa has to reflect on what it means to have a billion inhabitants against a backdrop of stereotypes like poverty, disease, civil strife and undemocratic institutions. It also needs to relate to the billion citizens in practical terms.
The billion people are a human resource base that requires proper education and professional training. They are a billion people that need to be adequately fed by their respective governments. They also need state of the art sanitary conditions like clean drinking water; health care facilities; housing; good roads and efficient transportation systems.
Africa’s billion people need jobs and opportunities to steer the continent’s development initiatives. They also need peace and security, and should be confident that their governments can offer them that sense of security.
Just like citizens in other heavily populated states, Africa’s billion citizens should immensely benefit from the rich natural resources that the continent has, instead of allowing outsiders to benefit. Can Africa therefore use this critical mass of numbers to reverse the continent’s misfortunes?
Can it play the numbers game to leverage itself in this highly competitive global environment? Can the billion people attract massive trading opportunities in Africa’s favour? Do they have the buying power, and can they also offer goods and services that will be beneficial to the continent’s growth?
The billionth citizen was welcomed with a lot of hype, but is facing uncertainty in a world where Africa remains at the bottom. Africa has once again become the battleground for powerful nations that will use excuses such lack of democratic values and rule of law to pillage and plunder the continent’s natural resources.
The attempts at recolonising the continent’s billion people are increasingly becoming a reality. Africa has seen how developed nations can use divide and rule tactics in order to cause mayhem so that they can have access to the continent’s rich resources.
Libya was a case in point, where Western nations used Africans against themselves, and when they had achieved their agendas, they disregarded the role and authority of the African Union with impunity. They are now calling for the investigations into the killing of Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, when they were the ones who acted against the letter and spirit of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 of March 2011.
All these double standards by powerful nations should be a cause for concern. Africa should also be wary that these nations would want to dictate to them about who should rule them and how they should utilise their resources, thereby eroding their sovereignty.
It is time Africa took its rightful place using numbers and resources as their stamp of authority. When the African Union Summit is held in January 2012, Africa’s one billion citizens hope that it is their interests that will be the main focus and not the interests of other nations.
Resolutions on climate change should include a strong voice from Africa’s one billion citizens who have been adversely affected. We also hope that there is a rethink on economic and developmental models that Africa has borrowed from the West in particular. If they are not working for them, why should Africa continue to use them?

The Herald – Zimbabwe

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