Monday, August 18, 2014

Ebola and what it reveals about the state of African development!

This past weekend, specifically on 08/16/2014, Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper (part of the elite media houses of Nigeria) came out with this screaming news headline: “Hope Dashed as U.S. Declares Drug Pesticide.” The report went on to say as follows: “HOPES of immediate relief for victims of the Ebola Virus Disease [,] following reports that doses of an experimental drug, nano-silver, had been delivered [,] were dimmed yesterday. The United States Food and Drug Administration said the drug is a pesticide and warned those claiming that it could prevent or treat Ebola to desist from doing so” ( I was shocked beyond measure at this hint of how deep Nigerian society in general, including the news media, has become so mentally and psychologically dependent upon external powers and influences. So, Nigeria, as a sovereign nation, does not have an independent capacity, in this 21st century, for assessing the efficacy or lack thereof of any medical invention? So, Nigeria does not possess its own scientific capacity for assessing risks (all medical inventions and procedures tend to have side effects) and benefits inherent in a medical device or cure? Oh boy, if the answers to these rhetorical questions are in the negative, then Nigeria, which by its immense size (a population of 166.6 million), represents a barometer for measuring the pulse of the affairs of other African nations, has evolved—after a half a century of “independence” from British colonialism—to become a worrisome example of a “free” but hopelessly dependent nation. Dependency theory of development holds that due to their legacy of colonial indoctrination through educational and religious institutions, as well as partnerships between a compromised middle class in the former colony and the Metropole and its exploitative global economic order, post-colonial nations are experiencing dependent development, and not a desirable advancement away from dependency upon the institutions, directions and worldview of the Metropole and its associated exploitative international system.  Historian Basil Davidson termed this phenomenon “dependent capitalism.”

Dependent Thinking
Dependent development has a variety of symptoms. Among them are a lack of belief in self and a constant outward search for validation from external institutions in various spheres of life. All the drama that has unfolded since the outbreak in West Africa of an infectious decease described as “Ebola,” points to an African continent that, generally-speaking (with exceptions here and there), is steeped in dependent thinking. During the U.S.-African Summit that was held in Washington (August 4-6, 2014), African leaders collectively betrayed a streak of this dependency syndrome:  “The United States, in partnership with the African Union, will support efforts to establish an African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will build on longstanding U.S. support for an increasingly capable health and science sector in Africa”  ( I was aghast when I read about it. I asked myself what type of nation or group of nations surrenders its healthcare to another nation, whose primary responsibility is to its own people, its own population. I asked myself why the African leaders did not exhibit African agency—that is, why didn’t they first initiate and build an African Center for Research on Disease Control designed to help find scientific solutions to African medical problems. Isn’t the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) meant to serve as a mechanism for actualizing African visions for development? NEPAD’s name itself betrays a lingering and troubling sense of a continental leadership which does not manifest a belief that the people of Africa can self-determine their own destiny without external spoon-feeding. Yes, African leadership can seek external collaboration and external assistance, but the primary impetus for African development, in all sectors of life, should come from within Africa! The well being of the people that inhabit Africa depends primarily on Africa and its ruling elites. The external world should help, but the primary initiative should come from Africa. Never, for once, think that the external world considers you and your problems a priority. Within that world are nations who are saddled, and rightly so, with their own domestic socioeconomic and political challenges.

Where are our African Universities?
One other disappointing signal of institutional incapacity that the Ebola outbreak has brought to light is an almost total absence and silence of African universities on a disease that is wreaking havoc within their terrain. When adequately funded and creatively managed, universities are not only meant to impart knowledge and skills in their students, they are supposed, most importantly, to serve as conduits for generating social and scientific answers to problems that afflict their communities. Universities perform this important role in their communities through research. Given that prior to its current outbreak in parts of West Africa, Ebola (whether a natural phenomenon or man-made)(go to to see Dr. Jason Kissner’s speculation about where the latest strain of Ebola came from)) had also stricken parts of Central Africa, should I believe that no virologist in any African university had initiated funded research on this threat to the lives of Africans? Should I believe that no African government, prior to the current outbreak, deemed it necessary—as a responsible guardian of its territorial environment who ought to be planning head—to commission  a research project on Ebola? If the answers to these questions are in the negative, then the masses of Africa must worry about their leaders. Do these leaders possess a sense of history? Are they aware of how the rest of the world perceives Africa—a perennial problem. 

Can’t we avoid begging all the time?
A few days ago, it was reported in the news media that Nigeria—a naturally well-endowed nation full of some of the hardest–working and smartest people on the face of this planet, but who are being perennially mis-managed by a succession of decadent governments—stretched out its begging hands to President Barack Obama for doses of an experimental cure for Ebola. Although it’s reported that the U.S. government has not yet responded positively to that request (Obama himself had said at the U.S.-Africa Summit that the experimental drug was yet to be certified as a proven cure), it’s my view that, for the sake of the innocent victims of this Ebola monster, the U.S. and other well-positioned governments of the world should not hesitate to provide all medicines, technical and material help that can kill Ebola for good. On the other hand, I can understand an apparent reluctance to spoon feed a well-endowed nation like Nigeria, which, like the United States, should have been planning ahead for the future of her people. Given the geographical locations of Nigeria and the United States, which nation had a reason to worry more about Ebola? Given that Ebola manifested itself most recently within Africa, a logical expectation is that African intelligentsia and governments, particularly the ones that are geographically most proximate to the sites of the earlier occurrences of Ebola (go to "An Introduction to Ebola: The Virus and the Disease"), should have had it on their plate as a priority for medical research. Yes, developing countries cannot afford to devote as much of their budgetary resources to research and development as developed countries tend to do, the former must, however, remain alert to the fact that no social development can occur without a healthy population. So, the place of research and development in their budget priorities must be elevated!

Nigeria’s elite and their love of foreign medical facilities
Instead of working tirelessly to strengthen Nigeria’s internal medical capacity, Nigeria’s ruling elite—at both the federal level and 36 constituent states of the federation—has had an enduring practice of flying abroad or being flown abroad for medical treatment and implicitly leaving the rest of the masses to find cure from internal medical institutions in which the former has little or no faith. For this outward-looking ruling elite, the favorite foreign destinations for medical care include the United States, Britain (which their nationalist forebears fought hard to drive away as a caretaking colonial master), India and South Africa. A climax of this dependency of Nigeria’s ruling elite on foreign medical care is India’s recent announcement ( that it planned to build hospitals in Nigeria in order to help it cope with the volume of Nigerian medical help seekers. Did that announcement send any signal to the rulers of Nigeria? Did it hurt their national pride?

Make hare while the sun shines
In closing, we must always remember that those who fail to build and maintain their own homes/institutions, will, for as long,  remain vulnerable and dependent tenants on other people's properties! And landlords will always endeavor to act rationally, that is, pluck as much profit as possible from the temporary occupants of their homes. Similarly, those who fail to read the weather correctly and buy their own umbrellas, will inevitably be caught unprepared and thus drenched when rain begins to fall.