What’s the matter with Africa?

Let us, as Americans, take a moment to save Africa.

Let us point the collective finger at immoral and illicit dictatorship. Let us raise a brow at sexual rampancy and shed a tear for hunger and disease. Let us assemble concerts, sell T-shirts and cater to egocentric celebrities. Let us – from a comfortable distance – pray for a world united as one. Let us do all of these things, and let the nation sleep peacefully.

As Americans sleep, Africa dies. The societies of the developed world have built a cradle of moral sensitivity within which their collective social consciousness rests, and from which many of their respective governments are robbing the continent in the pursuit of self-interest.

Africa has been cursed with a substantial amount of oil and natural gas reserves, most of the world’s gold supply and six of every 10 diamonds pulled from the Earth. Nevertheless, the African people gain little from these resources, and that “gain” is usually strife, sickness and starvation.

The problem lies in a grim realization: For profiteering nations, war in Africa makes perfect capitalistic sense. War causes a growth in the demand for arms, which causes a rapid liquidation of resources, and – in a morbid display of irony – warring factions purchase weapons from the countries that bought their resources.

The process is ridiculously lucrative for the puppeteers. So much so, in fact, that they actually become involved on a military level. Many of the guns used during the Darfur massacres had Chinese receipts. Man-portable air defense units (MANPADs) from Russia are responsible for hundreds of deaths due to commercial jet targeting in African conflict zones. U.S.-trained “anti-terrorist” forces in Sao Tome are mobilized at the behest of intelligence agencies.

This results in the constant fragmentation of African states, and more mini-states means more bidders willing to buy more guns at higher prices, as well as sell their resources for less. Essentially, human beings in Africa have become Kevlar vests protecting cash registers they don’t even own, and as a result, Africa is the only continent demonstrating an increase of civil war over the last half century.

The environment is also suffering. The Niger River Delta is a major site of gas flaring, a secondary process of oil production in which byproduct gases are burned off. The result is 70 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emission. Ghana mines 63 million tons of gold per year, leading the entire continent. Additionally, there is the concern of forest depletion, flooding and landslides due to human ecological interference.

Where, then, does the solution lie?

Africa is in enormous debt. Countries drastically lose capital when non-representative rulers borrow money for their conflicts and designate their governments as co-signers. Many are willing to accommodate these disposable dictators, aware that they will be compensated with resources when the dictatorships change and the country is left to foot the bill, leaving little investment potential for future generations. Such loan-sharking must cease if African nations are to regain control of their own property. Ideally, a debt cancellation program could lead the way for the establishment of more educational and public health facilities, as has been demonstrated on smaller scales.

Also, nations such as the United Kingdom are offering conditional cooperation to African countries requiring support, willing to provide “aid” in return for more favorable resource allocation. These wealthy nations are dealing in living, breathing, bleeding currency to up their place in the geo-political pecking order, and are mentionable in the same breath as extortionists.

Logically, the answer to the problems plaguing Africa lies in financial independence. Any “realists” who condescendingly explain why such a feat is improbable fail to view Africans as capable individuals, simply because they don’t ride Segways and watch HBO.

War, hunger and disease are tragic, but they are not the problem. Poverty is the problem, the architect of all three, and everyone is partly to blame for it.

Mohammed Ibrahim is a senior majoring in pre-med biology.

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