Government & corruption in Africa – Lessons for Ghana after oil discovery

10 February 2013, Accra – We are all familiar with the cases of the Nigerias, Equitorial Guineas, Angolas, Democratic Republic of Congos, Cameroons, Gabons and Zimbabwes, to name but a few, where in spite of the presence of vast amounts of natural-resource wealth, the masses of the people wallow in poverty. In fact, nature could not have been more generous to Africa for endowing the continent with vast natural-resource wealth ranging from minerals to oil and gas.

Ironically, however, the continent remains the poorest, as the wealth tends to benefit a few while the masses live in abject poverty–a kind of rich-poor paradox situation. Poverty abounds on the continent, with over half of the population subsisting on less than US$1 a day.

In addition to income poverty, Africa has some of the poorest of other social indicators, including life expectancy, endemic diseases, malnutrition, sanitation and illiteracy. Ribadu Nuhu[1] poignantly describes the plight of the African people in these words:

“As we go back to our comfortable beds tonight, we should think about the voiceless millions who may not even have beds at all, who go to sleep hungry, sick and uncertain about their future. For many, it’s literally a matter of life and death.”

The scale of Africa’s natural resource wealth may be inferred from Africa Development Indicators, 2006, where the World Bank notes that between 2000 and 2010, $200 billion in oil revenue was expected to accrue to African governments.

It adds, however, that ironically, African countries tend to have higher poverty rates, greater income inequality, less spending on health care, higher prevalence of child malnutrition, and lower literacy and school enrollments than other countries at the same level of income.

The question is: why does the wealth of Africa fail to trickle down to the masses who suffer abject poverty in the midst of plenty? The rich-poor paradox in Africa is the result of two non-mutually exclusive factors: big government and corruption.

The Problems Of BIG Government And Corruption
A major factor responsible for the impoverishment of the African people is big government. A penchant for creating jobs for party members, relations, and friends leads to over-bloated “governments” across Africa. In the event, large numbers of people are employed and paid with state resources to do little work or to duplicate the work of others. In Africa, loyalty–to relations and cronies–is strong.
*Dr. J. K. Kwakye, The Chronicle

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