Editor's Comment

Africa needs economic freedom today

AS THE continent commemorates Africa Freedom Day today, its citizens should take time to reflect on whether they are deriving intended benefits from this achievement.When the continent’s founding fathers set out to liberate this continent from the shackles of colonialism, they had a vision of what kind of Africa they wanted.
Having experienced exploitation and dehumanisation at the hands of their colonial masters, they knew Africa could not amount to anything under such inhibiting conditions and rule.
History is well documented on the ill-treatment Africans experienced from colonialists.
Under colonial bondage, Africans were denied freedom of expression, association and movement.
During that time, they were not allowed to move at will or associate with whosoever they wished.
The freedom to choose jobs, schools, health facilities, residential locations and even the shops they could buy from was all curtailed.
The masters determined which schools, hospitals, shops and locations blacks could access.
The colonialists also made sure the top and elite jobs were a preserve of the white community.
As such, all the decisions made favoured them at the expense of the indigenous black or Arab communities.
Africans were therefore excluded from engaging in any productive economic activities for their benefit and that of the continent.
Despite the continent being endowed with vast natural resources, these were being externalised for the benefit of colonialists.
It is for these reasons that our forefathers saw it fit to sacrifice their lives to claim back Africa’s birthright of political, social and economic freedom.
As a result of our founding fathers’ sacrifice, today, May 25, the continent is celebrating Africa Freedom Day.
Africa Freedom Day was founded in 1958 during the first Conference of Independent African States in Ghana and was commemorated on May 15.
During the formation of the African Union (then Organisation of African Union) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963, the 31 independent countries that met changed Africa Freedom Day to Africa Liberation Day (Which was later changed to Africa Day and adopted May 25 as the commemoration day.
After five decades of commemorating Africa Freedom Day, it is time for Africa to pause and check itself if it is prudently and productively harnessing the benefits of freedom.
A British social reformer and novelist, Charles Kingsley, said, “There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.”
In the same vein the freedom that Africa’s forefathers secured was not for the current generation to do anything it likes, but rather to do what ought to be done for the benefit of the continent.
It is saddening that , while some countries have made tremendous progress in making the most of the hard-earned freedoms, many others are still in the doldrums of adverse restrictions.
While countries like Zambia can genuinely pride themselves as barometers for peace and stability, others are still wallowing in insecurity and fear which inhibit the quest for economic freedom.
By now the continent should have been concentrating on building its collective economy and challenging the world’s economic giants such as the United States and China.
Instead of taking advantage of the political freedom to engage in productive activities that boost socio-economic development, many Africans are embroiled in destructive vices such as alcohol abuse, crime, and even unnecessary political confrontation.
Instead of uniting for economic emancipation of the continent, some Africans are busy tearing each other apart while their resources are being carted away by dubious investors.
Africa can surely do better than what it is widely portrayed as – a continent that is constantly in need of support and guidance on how to govern itself and manage its resources.
Fortunately, it is not all gloom and doom for Africa. There is a lot of hope that the continent can and will get out of its challenges. The democracy that is taking a firm foothold in some countries such as Zambia is helping redirect the continent’s energies to economic stability and growth.
Groupings such as COMESA and SADC are key to actualising this quest for economic liberation. Regional integration is opening up the continent to its own markets and if it keeps on this trajectory, there is no reason why Africa cannot become an economic powerhouse sooner rather than later.
There is need for collective mindset change for citizens to realise that they are the best determiners of their destinations.
And so as another Africa Freedom Day unfolds, citizens of the continent should not take their political independence as the ultimate, but rather as the stepping stone to a better life through economic emancipation.

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