Friday, June 22, 2012

Too Many Africans? No, Too Much Wealth

Africa is often said to be overpopulated. But it is quite easy to debunk this myth. The continent is a spacious and rich land-mass that can support its population well into the foreseeable future.

Africa’s population is currently 1 billion covering a vast landmass of 11,668,599 sq miles. Ethiopia’s landmass is 471,775 sq miles, five times the size of Britain’s 94,226 sq miles. Yet Britain’s population of 62 million is three-quarters that of Ethiopia’s at 83 million. As for Somalia, it is 2.6 times the size of Britain but has a population of only 9 million. Sudan and South Sudan provide an even more fascinating comparison. Whilst both countries are 10 times the size of Britain, they support a population of 45 million – about 70 per cent the size of Britain. In fact the Sudans have a landmass equal to that of India which is populated by 1.22 billion people i.e. more than the population of all of Africa! Britain is one-tenth the size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which has a landmass of 905,562 sq miles. In other words, the DRC is about ten times the size of Britain but with a population of 71 million, just nine million more than the population of the latter. Uganda’s landmass at 91,135 sq miles is comparable to Britain’s, yet with a population of only 33 million. Similarly, Ghana’s landmass of 92,099 sq miles makes it approximately equal to the size of Britain. Ghana is however populated by only 25 million people, far less than one-half Britain’s population. Angola and South Africa are about 4-5 times the size of Britain but with one-fifth and four-fifths respectively of the latter’s population.

On the question of resource, its availability or lack of it, and therefore its ability or inability to support the African population - another component of Africa’s ‘over-population’ fallacy -  well over 50 per cent of Uganda’s arable land, some of the richest in Africa, remains uncultivated. Were Uganda to expand its current food production significantly, not only would it be completely self-sufficient, but it would be able to feed all the countries contiguous to its territory without difficulty. Just about a quarter of the potential arable land of Africa is being cultivated presently. Even here, an increasingly high proportion of the cultivated area is assigned to so-called cash-crops (cocoa, coffee, tea, groundnut, sisal, cut flowers, etc.) for export. As for the remaining 75 per cent of Africa’s uncultivated land, this represents 66 per cent of the entire world’s potential. This vast acreage of rich farmlands with capacity to optimally support the food needs of generations of African peoples indefinitely. In addition, the famous fish industry in Senegal, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for instance, Botswana’s rich cattle farms, West Africa’s yam and plantain belts extending from southern Cameroon to the Casamance province of Senegal, the continent’s rich rice production fields, etc. The current economic situation demonstrates that if the  acreage devoted to cultivation is expanded and expressly targeted to address Africa’s own internal consumption needs rather than land use directed to the calamitous waste of cash-crop production for export there need be no food shortages. It is an inexcusable tragedy that any African child, woman, or man could go without food in the light of the staggering endowment of resources in Africa. Africa constitutes a spacious, rich and arable landmass that can support its population, which is still one of the world’s least densely populated and distributed, into the indefinite future.

Despite the ravages of history of foreign conquest and occupation and the virulence of locally-brewed tyranny of genocidal regimes and fellow-travellers, Africa remains one of the world’s most wealthy and potentially one of the world’s wealthiest continents. The world is only too aware of the array of strategic minerals such as cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial diamonds, iron ore, manganese, phosphates, titanium, uranium, and of course petroleum oil found in virtually all regions across the continent.

Africa must utilise its immense resources and must abandon the system of  nation-states. We require no reminders that the primary existence of these states is to destroy or disable as many enterprisingly resourceful and resource-based constituent peoples. The state is an instrument of capital interests is providing cheap and disposable labour, land, and legal privileges to land grabbers. It is abundantly clear that the factors which have contributed to determining the very poor quality of life of Africa’s population presently have to do with the non-use, partial use, or the gross misuse of the continent’s resources year in, year out has been thanks to those nation-states whose strategic resources are mostly used to support foreign capitalists and advance the interests of the groupings of  the local overseers - the national government and its capitalists - that exist solely to police the dire lot of the average African.

Adapted from here

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