Archive | July, 2012

Capitalism Will Eliminate Poverty in Africa

26 Jul

By Marian Tupy, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity in Washington, D.C.

The recent recession has reinvigorated anti-capitalists everywhere, not least in Africa. In the continent’s economic powerhouse, South Africa, the rhetoric has, perhaps surprisingly, been most ardent. Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, said that there were no capitalist ideas that could address the problems that South Africa faces. Jeremy Cronin, the Minister of Transport said that “There is now a well-established scientific consensus that our present global economic trajectory is leading human civilization towards catastrophe.” Not to be outdone, the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe warned that “Capitalist crisis threatens world peace because it may… result in fascism.” Other leaders on the African continent have expressed similar anti-capitalist sentiments.

Yet, the last decade was great for Africa. The real gross domestic product rose at an average annual rate of 4.9 percent between 2000 and 2008 — twice as fast as that in the 1990s. It is true that as a result of the financial crisis, African growth had slowed to 2 percent in 2009. But, it has since returned to an average annual rate of 5 percent. Developed economies, which contracted by 3.5 percent in 2009, have also returned to growth.

What was the impact of that growth on the lives of ordinary Africans? According to the most recent World Bank estimate, “For the first time since 1981, less than half of … [sub-Saharan Africa’s] population (47 percent) lived below $1.25 a day. The rate [of poverty] was 51 percent in 1981. The $1.25-a-day poverty rate in SSA has fallen 10 percentage points since 1999. Nine million fewer people [were] living below $1.25 a day in 2008 than 2005.” That reduction in poverty is especially encouraging considering that the population of SSA more than doubled between 1981 and 2008, rising from 398 million to 813 million.

What is true for Africa is also true for the rest of the world. In 1981, 70 percent of people in the developing world lived on less than $2 a day and 42 percent on less than $1 a day. In 2012, 43 percent lived on less than $2 a day and 14 percent lived on less than $1 a day. According to Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gert of the respected Brookings Institution, “Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history: Never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”

What accounts for Africa’s changing fortunes? According to a well-known report “What’s driving Africa’s growth” that was published by McKinsey in 2010, “resources accounted for only about a third of the newfound growth. The rest resulted from internal structural changes that have spurred the broader domestic economy.” Those structural changes included:

  • Reduction of inflation from an average of 22 percent in the 1990s to 8 percent in 2000s.
  • Reduction of foreign debt by one third.
  • Reduction of budget deficit by two-thirds.
  • Improvement of the business environment.
  • Privatization of (some) parastatals.
  • Reduction of corporate taxes.
  • Reduction of barriers to trade.
  • Improvement of the legal environment.

In a word, Africa has become more economically “liberal.” The Fraser Institute, which measures economic freedom in 141 countries on a scale from zero to 10, found that economic freedom in Africa rose from an average of 4.94 at the end of the Cold War to 5.91 in 2008. Unfortunately, following the outbreak of the financial crisis, economic freedom has mildly declined to 5.90.

While economic reforms in Africa are encouraging, it is important to keep in mind that Africa still has a long way to go. Economic freedom in China, for example, was 6.4 in 2009. It was the same in India. Hong Kong and Singapore, which placed first and second in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World report, had ratings of 9 and 8.7 respectively. To sum up, evidence shows that:

  1. Much of Africa’s growth during the past decade should be attributed to economic liberalization.
  2. Adjusted for the increase in Africa’s population, economic growth has led to substantial poverty reduction in Africa.
  3. Africa remains the least economically free continent in the world.

African countries should use these good times to implement necessary, if occasionally politically painful, reforms and reap the benefits of faster growth. For example, a booming economy is typically associated with capital inflow and job growth, and that provides an opportunity to privatize state-owned enterprises and reduce public sector employment.

To reform, however, the African elites will have to overcome deeply-rooted prejudice against capitalism. Part of that prejudice has historical roots. Many African intellectuals equate imperialism with capitalism, even though many former colonies are rich (e.g.: the United States) and many rich countries never had colonies (e.g.: Switzerland). Part of it is ideological, as many African leaders have been taught to be suspicious of capitalism while being educated or trained in the Soviet bloc. Part of it is self-interested, as many rich and politically-connected Africans enjoy monopoly rents that would be threatened by increased competition.

The recent recession has given new ammunition to both groups. Capitalism, to be sure, is not perfect, but it is by far the best system when it comes to wealth creation and human development. For that reason, it is important to get the story behind the recession right.

Many commentators in the United States agree that no explanation of the 2008 financial crisis can be complete without an appreciation for the destructive, if unintended, role played by different branches of the U.S. government. To wit:

  1. The lax monetary policy that the Federal Reserve Bank pursued following the 2001 recession and 9/11 attacks fueled the housing bubble.
  2. The same goes for the Congressional legislation, which encouraged that banks give mortgages to people whose income and credit rating should have disqualified them from owning a house.
  3. The U.S. government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac distorted the risk associated with mortgage lending by purchasing sub-prime loans from commercial banks.

Similarly, the subsequent recession should not be seen as a crisis of capitalism per se, but as a crisis of Western social democracy. For decades, Western governments have spent more money than they raised in taxes. France, for example, has not had a balanced budget in over 30 years. As a consequence of overspending, Western governments have acquired massive explicit debts as well as monumental implicit debts (i.e.: unfunded promises to pensioners). A massive increase in taxes and regulation suffocated growth — which has declined in Western Europe every decade since the 1950s — and job creation. It was only a question of time before the financial markets lost faith in the Western governments’ ability to honor their financial commitments.

But capitalism is flourishing elsewhere. From Asia to Latin America, economies are growing and lifting tens of millions of people from poverty each year. Africa has rejected capitalism once before. In the 1960s, just as they gained their independence, most African governments opted for some form of socialism. Ordinary Africans continue to pay the price for that fateful decision to this day. It would be a tragedy if the tendentious (mis)understanding of the causes of the recent recession prevented Africa from future liberalization, faster growth and further reduction in poverty.

Capitalism Will Eliminate Poverty in Africa
by Marian L. Tupy

Women in Leadership: The African Union’s first ever ‘Chairwoman’

16 Jul

Addis Ababa 15 July 2012  – Home Affairs Minister Home Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected on Sunday to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, ending a bruising leadership battle that had threatened to divide the organisation. A closely fought vote to become the head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon, AU officials said Sunday.

Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s home affairs minister and an ex-wife of President   Jacob Zuma, defeated incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon, who had been at the helm of the Commission, the AU’s steering body, since 2008.

Dlamini-Zuma, a 63-year-old who has previously served as minister of health and foreign affairs, had to undergo three voting rounds before Ping, 69, was finally eliminated.

A final confidence vote of 37 in favour gave her the 60 % majority she needed to be elected.

“She got 37 (votes), three points more than the (required) majority,” a top AU official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding she had won on the fourth round of voting. South African officials confirmed the result.

Dlamini-Zuma’s win follows her challenge six months ago to unseat Ping, the former commission chairman, which ended in deadlock after neither won the required two-thirds of the vote, which left Ping in the post.

The contest to head the Commission of the 54-member AU had been deadlocked since last year. It pitted French-speaking states, largely backing Ping, against mostly English-speaking countries, especially in southern Africa, which gave their support to Dlamini-Zuma.

The feverish impasse over the candidates had persisted through a summit of AU heads of state held in Addis Ababa at the weekend. It prompted the AU’s rotating chairperson, Benin President Boni Yayi, to warn that failure by the continental body to resolve the leadership deadlock would divide it and undermine its credibility in the world.

Jakkie Cilliers of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies told AFP how Dlamini-Zuma’s score had crept up from one round of voting to the next.

“She got ahead in the first round and after that the momentum kicked in,” said Cilliers. “The heads of state wanted a decision.”

Dlamini-Zuma’s win had brought “clarity as to who’s in charge” at the AU, after six months of deadlock over the leadership issue, he added.

But some analysts say South African has violated an unwritten tradition that continental powerhouses do not run candidates for the post, instead leaving smaller nations to take the job — and that this had sparked bad feeling.

Before the vote however, Dlamini-Zuma played down concerns that the vote could divide the AU.

“I don’t think the continent will be polarised,” she said.

The winner would “make sure they work with everybody, irrespective of where and who they voted for,” she added.

Critics say the AU showed itself hesitant and slow-moving in its response to the conflicts last year in Libya and Ivory Coast, allowing Western governments to take lead roles.

Sources: and

Wondering if beggars can be bankrupt!?

15 Jul

In the picture (left), After a conference, lobby or aid concert, EU food aid comes ready-made and branded. when it’s finished, the enterprising Africans transform the aid parcel into a badly needed pot to cook their alternative sources food.
In the picture (right), Chinese agriculturalists actually come to Africa despite the media buzz about war and diseases in Africa to transfer their knowledge to African farmers as the best way of fighting famine, creating food self-sufficiency and establishing donor and receptor relations.

In its 500+ years history of interaction with Africa, the Western world’s agenda for Africa in summary reads as follows:
– Exporting Good governance, capacity building and combating corruption
– Deculturalization through language, eugenics and paternalism.
– Promoting Gender, Gay and Human rights.
– Talk more but do nothing conferences on Environment, migration, Security and Democratization.
-Monopolize defense, Oil and agricultural resource extraction and marketing to multinational corporations.
-Provide AID only for food and treatment of diseases.
-No to investments in technology transfer for industrial, transport and communication infrastructure that can create wealth and development opportunities that break its hegemony.
– Create and sustain through propaganda in their media an African image of misery, poverty and normalized death for the purpose of making non-African AID organisations, NGOs and Researchers perceive them self as humanitarians and saviors.
-etc. etc

– For now You have what I need most (UN votes, natural resources and markets) and I have what you need most as well (UN veto, technology and no conditions-attached money for whatever you want to spend on). let’s keep our relationship strictly as business, we’ll deal with sharing values and norms at our leisure…always remind me that Taiwan is part of China. Deal or no deal?
In summary, it’s the direct opposite of the Western model.

Affaire à suivre…

Corruption In Cameroon: A State of the Art

15 Jul

On May 28th 1998, one year after the glitzy win by country Cameroon of the now-annual World Most Corrupt Nation competition as organized by the German non-governmental, Transparency International, a Mr. Peter Mafany Musonge, Prime Minister of the winning team came forward to commence an anti corruption drive. The attempt, itself, “as instructed” by Team Captain, Paul Biya, turned out to be just another illustration of how endemic corruption is in Cameroon.

Mr. Musonge caused several local newspapers to publish a public service announcement, which was itself, a vista of corruption.

“Free Public Service is not for Bargaining” the English translation of the text from the Prime Minister’s Office read.   This was not the quintessence of the gross incompetence so rife in Cameroon’s administration. This was corruption in reality. Yet, another corrupt Francophone official had taken his cut…from the budget and then caused this vista of the approximate; this aggravation to be published.

And true to type, the local newspapers (The Herald of May 20th 1998) took their pieces of silver from the Prime Minister’s office and printed this so-called advertorial without comment. Cameroonian newspapers tend to be part of the corruption bandwagon.
Corruption in Cameroon is a living thing, a monstrous slimy hydra: vicious in outreach, cancerous in spread and disgusting in reach. Corruption runs in the system; it is the life wire of Cameroon and Cameroonians. Here is a country where governance can easily be defined as: “by the corrupt, of the corrupt, and for the corrupt.”

Take the examples:
1. In Cameroon parents take the children by the hand and the go forward to bribe headmasters, principals, and other school administrators to get the children admitted;

2. Cameroonian parents are not beyond buying leaked examination (GCE, BAC, FSLC, etc.) questions for their children when they are not offering bribes to teachers, principals, lecturers and professors to make their progenies pass class and public examinations;

3. Teachers, from primary schools to the universities, exchange marks for sex. Female students in secondary, high schools and the universities know it for a fact that their progress might never depend on hard work and merit but in their capacity to engage in darkroom carnal affairs with teachers;

4. Cameroon’s ruling party, the CPDM, is not beyond giving voting cards to primary school children and ferrying them from one polling station to the next to vote several times and thus rig elections;

5. Cameroonian doctors, nurses, and midwives are not beyond demanding and receiving bribes from patients before consultation and treatment. Patients who cannot offer bribes might as well die. In fact, the practice in government hospitals is horrendous. Patients have been known to abscond from hospital beds simply because they do not have the wherewithal to pay nurses to listen to them or because they do not have the wherewithal to bribe the doctors to schedule a major or minor surgery. Such patients have died in the neighbouhoods;

6. Public service examinations are never for the meritorious. The official rate for bribes into professional schools in Cameroon is known:
– CUSS (Medical School) 1.000.000FCFA;
– ESSTIC (ASMAC School of Journalism) 500.000FCFA;
– Ecole Normale Sup (Higher Teachers Training School) – 500.000;
– Ecoles Normales Annexe (Teachers Training Lower Cycle)  – 300.000FCFA;
– Polytech (School of Engineering)  – 1.000.000FCFA;
– EMIA ( Military Academy) – 1.000.000 or some months of scholarship);
– Others – 200.000 – 500.000FCFA depending on the cycle.  These amounts are paid by those who are not from the Chosen Tribe while those from the right tribe sail in like water under the river;

7. Examination leakages are rampant in Cameroon. “L’eau a coulé” is a popular phrase to describe the intensity of examination leakages in the country;

8. A scandal is brewing at the University of Yaounde I, Faculty of Letters, Department of English and Linguistics over marks. Cameroon Tribune No 8120/4405 of 18th June 2004 reports that some Graduate Assistants have been selling pass marks for as little as 2000FCFA. Students of the department complain that 8 of them do group assignments but while the boys get only 10/20, the girls get 14/20. Marks must have been exchanged for sex;

9. A vast chunk of certificates and other documents held by Cameroonians are fake. “Dockey” is a popular speak to describe fraudulent certificate concocted in the neighbourhoods by expert forgers who can even sign Mr. Biya’s signature with great ease. Forgers in Bamenda’s Old Town precinct (just opposite the Public Security Constabulary) and in Kumba are so expert that they can produce any document on earth;

10. Journalists take bribes “gombo” to praise state officials, cover up their crimes, and denounce their enemies. Pro-government journalists take bribes to praise the regime while pro-opposition journalists take bribes to denounce the regime. Tribalism and nepotism are subsidiary motivations in journalism;

11. Fake pastors, without a calling and without an anointing, open churches (businesses) to preach fake sermons and collect tithes;

12. Top clergy members of the Catholic Church have children in the neighbourhoods; when they are not heavily involved in carnal affairs;

13. In the courts, justice is bought and sold, when it is not delayed and thus denied. Cameroon’s Supreme Court cautions electoral fraud. In the lower courts those who can pay their way can get away with murder while every day poor devils and paupers and convicted and jailed. The daily routine in Cameroon’s courts is most pathetic. The courts are full to busting with poor pitiful demons while rich criminals stroll about to commit more atrocities;

14. Service in government offices is never free. Civil servants take bribes and they expect bribes for every service. Users know that they have to give bribes to get any service;

15. Promotion and appointments in the Civil Service and in the private sector are never just like that. The upward mobility of the female servants of the state is often conditioned by their capacity to lie on their backs while the upward mobility of the malefolk is either conditioned by their tribe, their capacity to be a heel-clicking servant of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, Party or by their capacity to ferry goats, chicken, etc. to the bossman;

16. Civil servants are not beyond gaining promotion by producing forged certificates;
17. Bribery and corruption, homosexuality, torture and the persistent harassment of the weak by the strong are the hallmarks of Cameroon’s prisons. Stories emanating from the New Bell Prison, the Nkondengui Prison, the Mfou prison, the Bamenda Central prison and all the police and gendarmerie detention centres, are not only chilly but they reflect a terrifying and horrendous vista of man’s inhumanity to man;

18. Cameroon’s administration is not simply archaic as president Biya would want the world to believe. The Civil Service is fraud, bribery, and corruption impersonated. Administrators sell public land to the highest bidder for a small fee; the Senior Divisional Officers and the Divisional Officers are under the obligation to rig elections with promotion coming to the administrator who producers the highest score for the president and the ruling party (See Governor George Achu Morfaw’s 1992 Resignation Letter);

19. Money owed contractors by Cameroon’s Ministry of Finance for jobs that they did not execute is paid several times over. The smart contractors bribe the operators of the computers at the Ministry of Finance to get paid. Then they turn round and bribe the operators again to say that they have never been paid and the vicious cycle continues ad infinitum ad nauseam;

20. The supply of most basic goods (when contractors bother to supply them at all) to Cameroon’s administration is over-invoiced. Cases about where a bottle of Fanta delivered to an official party is billed at 1000FCFA whereas the bottle only costs 200FCFA at the nearest street corner;

21. Police, gendarmes and various mixed brigades pretend that they are checking car documents and controlling traffic at most street corners and on the expressway whereas they are busy taking bribes;

22.  Recruitment tests into the police, gendarmerie and army are highly tribalised and infested with bribery and corruption;

23. In the army, the “baleines ” (the whales),  generals and colonels with several stomachs in one and several chins winkling in grease, live in insolent opulence by hijacking army supplies and at the expense of the lean and hungry foot soldiers;
24. Investigations by the police and gendarmes of every complaint by the citizenry are avenues to graft and steal; innocent victims could end up in jail if they do not have money to bribe the investigators;

25. Lawyers complain that giving exorbitant bribes to magistrates, court administrators and clerks eat handsomely into their fees; the lawyers are even threatening court and strike actions;

26. In sports, the referees are all corrupt; team presidents, managers, and players are not beyond trading off matches to opponents. Olympic Mvolye, a team created by Biya guru, Omgba Damase, hold the national record for corruption. This team blitzed its way into Division One through fraud. Every end of the First Division season match-fixing is de rigueur;

27. Cameroon’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications hold the record for the sheer number of fake contracts granted in record time. Between February 1, 1999 and March 9, 1999 the then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Mounchipou Seidou, awarded 10.982.148.485 FCFA to some 468 companies – ten billion FCFA of fake contracts in five weeks.   Mr Mounchipou awarded the contracts rapidly to take his cut and get out before the next cabinet shake-up.

28. Cameroon’s Ministry of Territorial Administration holds the record for election fraud. MINATD rigs elections on behalf of the incumbent. MINAT, which decides whose name gets on the voters register, who gets a voting card, who gets to actually vote and where; who counts and tallies the vote and who gets what score. Usually election results are prepared by MINAT two years before elections. Only in Cameroon and only under Mr. Biya would a sitting president get up on the morning of general elections to tell the world that the process cannot go forward. Then, while denouncing those who denounce such gross incompetence as “enemies of the nation,” the president and his acolytes would then proceed to rig the same elections with great releash.

29. Under Mr Biya authority, therefore, expert graft, skilled election fraud, artful pilfering of state resources, abject looting, generalised embezzlement, savage over billing, vast exploitation of the poor by the rich and powerful, endemic tax evasion, clean white collar theft, vicious customs, police and gendarmerie fraud, massive examination leakages, etc., have obtained with terrifying alacrity. For 22 years, corruption has glided along like a sublime symphony with an ask-for-proof conductor- in-chief in full action: looking the other way that is;

30. Members of Mr. Biya’s party demand and receive bribes, they blackmail, they petition, they threaten, they issue veiled threats, they visit the soothsayers, they loot, they embezzled, they ransack, they grab, they exploit, they pilfer, they shake down banks, they bring in muscle and they play mbaglum dance tunes on the cash registers. If truth be told year in and year out the Biya regime does everything by the book to guarantee that Cameroon gets voted the most corrupt in the world;

31. Justice is bought and sold, positions bought and sold, influence bought and sold, sex and cults used as weapons of power and influence. Free masons and other demoniac sects lord it over the commonwealth and kleptocrats, budget raiders and vote siphoners as well as homosexuals abound in high places;

32. Tribalism, nepotism, state-sponsored terrorism (Titus Edzoa), indiscipline and more skewed practices than twenty full editions of this magazine can capture are the hallmark of this regime. The sheer number of Cameroonian children who have fled from this horrendous situation under Mr. Biya and are in “voluntary exile” in the Diaspora is incredible;

33. Government overtly steals from the populace through fake taxes like the Audio-visual tax (paid by taxicabs and other vehicles which cannot watch television); the Credit Foncier tax is another fraud. And now a new 13.200FCFA racket on institutions that have the misfortune of using electricity from AES-SONEL;

34. Police and gendarmes steal from road users in public and in broad daylight, government allows the water and electricity corporation to steal from the populace through fake hikes in billings. AES-SONEL and SNEC meter readers are on the take. And so on and so on. It could be argued with sound evidentials that should Mr. Biya glean another seven years mandate regime couriers might just take a well-deserved rest simply because then there will be little or nothing left to steal.

Corruption In Cameroon: A State of the Art bY Ntemfac Ofege on February 26, 2006 on  The Post Watch Magazine


15 Jul

There are people who can walk away from you.

And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you: let them walk. I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone.

When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

It is said; they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. If they were meant for us, no doubt they would have continued with us.

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay.

Let them go!!

And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person; it just means that their part in the story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over so that you don’t keep trying to raise the dead.. You’ve got to know when it’s dead.

You’ve got to know when it’s over. Let me tell you something.. I’ve got the gift of good-bye. It’s the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in good-bye.. It’s not that I’m hateful, it’s that I’m faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He’ll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat, I don’t need it. Stop begging people to stay.

Let them go!!

If you are holding on to something that doesn’t belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to……


If you are holding on to past hurts and pains …….


If someone can’t treat you right, love you back, and see your worth……


If someone has angered you.


If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge…..


If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction… ..


If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents.


If you have a bad attitude,


If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better…


If you’re stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in Him………


If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship….


If you keep trying to help someone who won’t even try to help themselves.. ….


If you’re feeling depressed and stressed ….


If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying ‘take your hands off of it,’ then you need to……


‘The Battle is God’s to win’

Lord Lugard’s assessment of Africans.

15 Jul

Sir Frederick Lugard between 1901 and 1928, was a British soldier, explorer of Africa and colonial administrator, who was Governor-General of Nigeria (1914–1919).

Lugard’s book, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa was published in 1922. It discusses indirect rule in colonial Africa. In this work, Lugard outlined the reasons and methods that he recommended for the colonisation of Africa by Britain.

The piece below is an excerpt of his impression and perception of Africans –  What do you think and make of it?

Sir Frederick Lugard

”In character and temperament” wrote Lord Lugard, “the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. Lacking in self controldiscipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewelry. His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than the that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the State he has reached. Through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural

He lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realize its responsibility ….he will work hard with a less incentive than most races. He has the courage of the fighting animal -an instinct rather than a moral virtue……In brief, the virtues and defects of this race-type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy…….Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his ability to visualize the future.

Source: Sir. Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, (1922) The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa., Edinburgh, Blackwood & sons. p.70 Lugard’s assessment of the character make-up of Africans. Written by Afe Babalola, Monday, 30 April 2012

Football and the “Burden of Patriotism” in Africa

15 Jul

The African continent, from Cape to Cairo, is awash with Football Fever. All eyes are on Egypt where the African Nations Cup is currently taking place. The competition, with its mixture of unrealistic expectations and unexpected triumphs; of Cinderella stories and might falls; of epic David and Goliath battles; of great illusions and shattered ambitions; and of pure flashes of genius rivaled by pedestrian displays, will end on February 10th.

Togolese fans during the game between Cameroon and Togo

As in previous years, Cameroon is one of the favorites. The Cameroonian national team started the competition on a high note with a 3-1 defeat of World Cup-bound Angola. Cameroon’s three goals were scored by Samuel Eto’o who plies his trade in Barcelona, Spain.

Eto’o, who had initially flirted with the idea of skipping the tournament because of persistent administrative and other problems in the national team, was instantly hailed as a “true patriot” who had risen to the occasion to defend the honor and pride of the nation. As I read these glowing tributes couched in ultra nationalistic terms reminiscent of Communist Russia, I could not help but marvel at how African politicians has succeeded in transforming football into a most potent tool for political mobilization around vague notions of national unity.

As I mulled over this fact, I recalled the observation of an American Peace Corps in Cameroon when Marc Vivien Foe collapsed and died in 2003 while playing for the Cameroon national team: “Anyway, the entire country is mourning here. It’s quite different. People are calling him a patriot and I keep thinking that he’s just a soccer player who left his country to make more money playing in France and England but still plays on his country’s national team when they play.”

I must confess that like any Cameroonian who loves his football, I found this observation a tad sacrilegious, and was initially ticked off by what seemed like a trivialization of Foe’s death. However, I eventually started thinking about the real and imagined significance of football in Cameroon and other African countries, and its appropriation by politicians for political gain.

Why is it that when a Cameroonian soldier dies in Bakassi (fighting in what most Cameroonians considers a “Just War”) he is never given a hero’s burial or lauded as a patriot or a valiant soldier – his death is not even a footnote on the news – but when a Cameroonian footballer excels in his trade like Roger Milla, or “dies in battle” (another military term!) like Foe, he is hailed as a patriot, a true soldier, etc., etc.,? Why label a footballer a soldier and then make the soldier invincible? Why the double standards? Do we have our priorities all wrong?

I shared my thoughts with members of the Cameroon football forum,CAMFOOT, back in December 2004 and all the answers pointed to the fact that “normal” rules do not apply to football because it is simply a different ball game (excuse the pun…). Here is a sample of the responses:

  1. Soccer brings the feel-good factor. In a country like Cameroon with hardly anything going right, only soccer is there to talk about. Treating a soccer player who dies on duty as a hero could bring a lot of political gain to the person in power.
  2. Cameroonians–both politicians and the press — do not generally talk about war, even when it is common knowledge to everyone that some fighting is going on. To treat a dead soldier as a hero is to admit that Cameroon is at war, and to expose the numbers that have been killed. Openness is not tolerated by Etoudi [Residence and Offices of the Cameroon President]. In fact, showing too much interest in the plight of soldiers in Bakassi could land you in trouble.
  3. Football is one of the few things that truly unites Cameroonians. When the players go on the pitch, nobody thinks of where they come from, but only how well they do on the pitch.
  4. The [national team] is the only thing that Cameroonians can be proud of. The [Indomitable Lions are] a source of national identity and pride. Cameroon today is seen as a footballing nation and hence Foe’s death, live on TV and defending the national colours affected us a lot more that those killed in Bakassi. All of this is used by politicians to their own ends.
  5. Someone once said of religion as being the opium of the masses. Football is the opium of the people.
  6. That football has turned into religion for Cameroonians doesn’t bother me. What annoys me most is the never-ending irresponsibility of this government which exploits the fans … and keeps them uneducated about real issues (job creation, social welfare, politics and war).

The Burden of Patriotism
All of these points are true in one way or the other, but they don’t explain why footballers are the only ones required to carry the “burden of patriotism” in Africa.  Is Eto’o less patriotic when he fails to score a goal, as was the case in last year’s crucial encounter against Egypt which resulted in Cameroon’s elimination from the 2006 World Cup tournament? Did Inter Milan’s Pierre Wome commit treason when he missed that vital 95th minute penalty during the game against Egypt which could have taken Cameroon to Germany? Cameroonians and the Cameroonian Government seem to think so. Wome was initially selected by Cameroon’s Portuguese coach Artur Jorge for the ongoing Egyptian campaign (can’t just stay from the marshal language, can we…), but he was later dropped from the squad because Cameroonian authorities considered his presence in Egypt as “problematic” – after all, hadn’t he betrayed the nation in its time of need?

I can’t help but wonder if those punishing Wome for missing a penalty – a very common occurrence in football – have thought of extending this “performance clause” to all sectors of national life. Why not impose the same standards on teachers in failing schools; on managers of underperforming corporations, on incompetent civil servants, on corrupt government officials, etc., ? Wouldn’t that be the beginning of a real revolution in Africa?

Of course, that is just wishful thinking. The prebendal political systems of post-Independent Africa will continue as African Governments thank their gods that the masses still view football as something unique with its own set of rules and expectations.

In Africa, “with its density, variety, vivacity, open wounds, illusions, beliefs and battles,” once wrote Heidi Hamel of African football magazine, “football is the only opium with which one can keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. This painful dependency reflects an unavoidable need. Africans love their football to the point of desperation. To the point of madness.”

African regimes have understood and appropriated this madness so well, which is why football is a potent tool that these unpopular regimes use not only to get a veneer of legitimacy which they would otherwise not have, but also to stifle opposition. I guess it is a two-way street  after all; the people get their “opium” and the politicians get another day to plunder….

Originally posted by Dibussi Tande, January 25, 2006 on his blog at