Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Africa Needs Change

Five thousand kilometres away from the Angolan capital of Luanda, Malta is the registered address of a company whose ultimate owner is Sodiam, a subsidiary of Angola’s state-owned diamond company, Endiama. It is a common set up for many foreign companies, which set up subsidiaries in Malta to also make use of the attractive tax rebate on foreign revenue, giving 85% of taxable income back to shareholders. But behind the set-up of Sodiam’s Maltese subsidiary, Victoria Holding, is its other owner, Melbourne Investment BV, a company owned by Sindika Dokolo, the husband of Africa’s richest woman and first female billionaire – Isabel dos Santos, valued at $3 billion by Forbes, African ‘princess’ Dos Santos is reckoned as a major force in many industries: such as diamonds, banking and telecommunications, usually with stakes in her own country's state corporations. The eldest daughter of autocrat President José Eduardo dos Santos, Africa’s second longest-serving leader at 35 years in office, she stands like him accused of enriching the Dos Santos dynasty at the expense of the nation. In compiling their rich list, Forbes say that every major Angola investment she has “stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the President’s pen that cut her into the action.” 

How much aid will solve Africa's problems? If people are drinking water from polluted rivers, and barely scraping a single meal, giving aid must be a commendable act but will never solve the deep-rooted issues. It's offensive seeing all this begging for aid, knowing that Africa has the resources to tackle all its challenges and problems. The portrayal in foreign media is sickening to say the least: emaciated bodies and distended stomachs. The lack of access to basic amenities on the continent can never be justified. There is absolutely no reason for adverts to be shown on foreign TVs, pleading for charity and soliciting donations to drill wells to get clean drinking water. It is simply unacceptable — not for those intending to help, but those who have failed to end such disgraceful conditions.

Most of Africa has elected governments. However, ask yourself, why do we vote for these leaders who continue to disappoint, not to mention betray, us? Election after election, we only end up with the bad apples. Don’t we learn? Shouldn’t it be a case of once bitten, twice shy? What happens at the ballot box in African elections is a farce. In most countries, it is virtually certain, if not a huge probability that at every election, it is either one party or the other that will come to power. And when both of these parties are corrupt, voting for other parties appears to be a waste of one's vote. Thus, some of the electorate have settled upon the choice not to vote at all. After all, every election comes with promises that never get fulfilled. It is has become a cycle of sorts where we vote for the lesser evil and always get the greater evil.

Shall we refrain from voting because we see no significant change in leadership? Shall we plead with our leaders to mend their ways? Or just once will we vote for a political party independent of business interests that speaks for the working people and provide it with a mandate to change the way our world is run. 

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