Your Voices is an opportunity for readers of the Principal Voices site to explain their views on one of the key subjects at greater length.
The latest of these is by 32-year-old Kofi Dakwa, an investment banker in Accra, the capital of Ghana, who is married with two children.
Dakwa explains how he believes Africa should take more responsibility for its own problems:
"Over the last decade this continent, Africa, has received a lot of aid, yet we have not been able to develop.
The agencies that we have been dealing with - the World Bank, IMF, IFC, G8 etc -- have been pouring billions of dollars into this continent. Sadly what we have witnessed is a continent bent on self-destruction.
The aid that has come in has instead become a means for our despotic leaders to steal and corrupt themselves, while citizens have allowed themselves to be coerced into acquiescence.
We can always blame the fact that these despots used force and torture, but later events in other countries has come to show that we can't hide behind that.
Another complaint is that the West has not being fair to us, yet still we have not been fair to ourselves. Africa has existed within the same geo-political and social-economic environment that all the rest of the world has, yet we complaining about unfair economic trading systems of the West.
Ghana, like for example Malaysia, had similar circumstances in 1980; poor infrastructure, highly illiterate population, and a heavy reliance on poor-priced primary commodities.
What we have seen happen to Malaysia over the past 20 years is a testament of how a country willing to take the hard decisions and work towards a goal achieves success even in the face of unfair trade practices.
My point is simple: we Africans have no business complaining about the times that we live in. We've dug a hole for ourselves -- others have tried to help us out, yet we seem to be comfortable in this hole. Until and unless we make an effort to get out and do some thing for ourselves instead of wallowing in self-pity, we will continue to be where we are; poor and marginalized.
I make these statements unaware of the hurdles that we will need to overcome. We will come up against many people stereotyping us.
We, however, have one thing that makes it easier for us: the Internet. The advent of this technology gives us the opportunity to address this problem with relative ease, as we can directly communicate with individual citizens in different countries at a very low cost.
There are no short cuts. We will have to take these steps if we are to get out of this cycle of poverty, war and disease."
What do you think?
If Africans learn to invest more in the continent, the economy will be boosted to a large extent. That way Africans will have to rely less on aid. Even the bible says charity begins at home.
You have a point, but it will take us more than raising our voices to solve these problems. Thanks to CNN for facilitating this exchange forum. But are we ready to tackle the issues as we have articulated for their solutions? We need to revolutionize those systems that have not worked for us.
As an enlightened young African, are you planning to do something to help your suffering poor neighbour? As a banker, you can help in designing community based financial services, initiate organizational development processes for livelihood improvement.
We should achieve development as a society not as an individual. Perhaps offer your skills in community policing rather that confining yourself in employment. Let's take radical positive moves in what we believe will liberate our dear continent.
Africa's stunted development is basically a problem of the mis-governance and mismanagement of our natural resources.
Honestly speaking, we are responsible for our problems. If the leaders with whom the nations entrusted their fate were transparent and discharged their duties passionately, there would be development.
I feel that Africa has been there for a long time and it should handle its own problems like we have done. If you can get these people to work then build businesses for them to run and fields where food can be grown. I do not think the us should help in any way.
Young Kofi Dakwa is a typical few lucky African; he's unable to see African problem as a delibrate will of the rest of the world, that pays lip service to the continent's woes.
As an African in the diaspora, I've seen generations of young African being excluded, humiliated for the fun of it. Our present world has got to a stage that even African Muslims deem it fit to wipe out Christian ones in Darfur. Even the most miserable westernized guys look down on our talents.
I agree with you totally. What we need is the development of systems and people. Systems that emanate from technology which will aid our development drive.
People who will stand up to be counted because they went to good schools around the world, work in world-renowned institutions who are willing to transfer proprietary techniques learnt on the job to aid our development. So far in Ghana, the educated have let us down big time.
Secondly, we should stop copying and copying blindly everything western. It is amazing how we copy the immoral aspect of western culture that shy away from good working practices that make western countries great. We need to believe in ourselves as a people. I think Ghanaians as a whole have lost confidence in ourselves. We need a rude awakening.
According to Mr Kofi Dakwa, the IMF and the World Bank are doing a wonderful job to foster the development of Africa, but the resources are not properly used.
I partially share your view, but I would like also to look at this issue from a different angle. Some of the policies tailored by IMF and the World Bank and imposed on African countries are detrimental to the economy and social life. In terms of implementation, there is also a huge problem with these policies.
During the 1980s, the IMF and the World Bank introduced structural adjustment lending which implies that in order to receive loans, certain economic, but also political conditions need to be met.
The main features of these programs are budgetary and monetary measures of austerity combined with economic deregulation. The aim is to encourage economic growth.
However, the experience with these programs in Africa is that, they have negative impact on human rights and have impeded sustainable development and the social cost is often so detrimental that it tends to be counter protective and productive to what adjustment attempts to solve.
Those who value democratic processes see conditionality -- the conditions that international lenders impose in return for their assistance -- as undermining national sovereignty and the basic principle of public participation in governance.
Africa's integration into the global economy in the period of capital-led integration fostered by the processes of globalization has been to some extent a disadvantage on socio-economic rights in Africa.
The SAPs authored and introduced by the Bretton Woods Institutions and IMF under the auspices of globalization have triggered human rights violations. In Africa, local decision-making and democratic participation is undermined when multinational companies, the World Bank, and the IMF set national economic and social policies without seeking opinion from the nationals or decision-making bodies.
Unrestricted market forces threaten economic, social, and cultural rights such as the right to health, especially when structural adjustment policies reduce public expenditures for health.
SAPs in some instances do not look at things from a holistic approach. Take agriculture for instance, African governments faced with exacerbating hunger and poverty in their countries have modernized agriculture as part of SAPs.
This modernization of agriculture has taken land and capital (crucial factors of production) out of food production into cash crops production of commodities whose prices African countries cannot influence in the world market. This has led to food shortage in some parts of the continent, leading to a violation of the right to food.
I do agree with his views. But recently I've read Jeff Sach's "End of Poverty" and have other thoughts also on this matter.
Dakwa says that "Africa has existed within the same geo-political and social-economic environment that all the rest of the world has". But according to Sach's book, it's actually a lot worse in Africa.
Take a look at disease, for example. Most of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes there in Africa, unfortunately, are the type that like to bite humans, unlike the type that goes more for animals. Those mosquitoes make malaria spread much faster than most places. Malaria, in turn kills at least one out of every nine people in Africa. That contributes to a smaller workforce and in turn makes the economy worse.
I think the point is that you can't just view Africa as a hopeless case that just brings destruction upon itself, you have to realize that Africa's circumstances are indeed a special case.
I went to Ghana two weeks ago. In Ghana, there are a lot of rich people, also a lot of poor people.
I feel Ghana's people cannot get a better life because every person who works for the government does not serve their own people. They only try to get more and more money from the people.
Even policemen are not really helping. Police officers can just stop you without any reason. They just try to ask for money. Even if you get in a car accident, the police do not try to help you, they just try to get more and more money from you.
When you leave the country, customs give you trouble if you do not give them some money or something they like on your body. Anyway, there were a lot bad things that happened in Ghana. If they do not change, no one will want to do business with them.
The points Dakwa made raise more questions than they answer.
Why did at some point Ghana and Malaysia have similar circumstances, which Malaysia overcame? Why can't we find even one such shining example in Africa? Why do all the African leaders so willingly and easily "coerce" their people into a life of deprivation and ignorance?
Why would the leaders side-track aid meant for the people to themselves and their foreign cronies, even if this happens with the donors connivance? Why would this state of affair appear incurable even with the ever-changing leaderships all over Africa, at all levels?
Dakwa's worries sure raises very fundamental questions, the details of which none of his respondents have, nor, I fear, ever will be willing to discuss.
Mr Dakwa is right on the point! I'm an American who spent one year living in Nigeria, Africa. I've been all over the country and researched Nigeria's natural resources.
Nigeria has enough oil, bitumen, timber, cassava and manpower to become a great nation. But if you look at some past presidents and look in their bank accounts, you'll see where the problem is -- total corruption and the inability to care for the people.
I do agree with you Mr Dakwa. Here are some suggestions:
Every child of school-going age must be in school.
It is only through collective effort that we can we can get to where we want to be.
I strongly agree with Kofi Dakwa. The fate of this continent is in our hands.
It is all deceit by our treacherous and heartless leaders, who use aides as cover for their nefarious activities. It is not the developed world that will tell our leaders to build infrastructure, pay workers their salaries, improve health care and obey laws.
The continent is ravaged with poverty, war, diseases, epidemics, yet they are more flamboyant and richer than their developed world counterparts. Nigeria, with abundant resources, still lives below poverty levels.
The wealth of the nation is channeled towards projects that are not beneficial to the populace where they can siphon the finance -- that is why political killings and war are prevalent, because of the benefits.
AFRICA HAS ALL IT TAKES TO BE THE TOAST OF THE WORLD IN TERMS OF THE ECONOMY AND TOURISM.
Kofi Dakwa, you have given me hope that a brighter future truly is possible for the countries of Africa. As long as there are men and women in Africa that think as you do, all things are possible. Not just in Africa, but in any country.
I strongly share the views of Mr Dakwa that Africa should take more responsibility in addressing its own problems. But the issue of not strongly condemning the unfair trade laws worries me. When cheap, subsidized products from the developed countries are dumped on African markets, then African producers basically have nowhere to market their own goods which are produced through hard labor.
Above all, I think what Africa needs to come out of it present predicament is a responsible, committed and honest leadership that will stimulate a sense of trust in the Africans to perform and deliver.
One of the world's major problems -- not only Africa's -- is the gross corruption inherent in every society in the world, megalomania and greed being the prevalant source of every major crisis on this planet.
Religion has more than played its part in keeping the plebs of the world suppressed and without a voice. It will take at least two and perhaps three generations to take away the political power of religion.
The poor of the world are indoctrinated from a very early age into "towing the line of God" with the threat of going to hell if they don't do as they are told. Where is the democracy in religion?
The poor have no voice, no narrative of their own and are given limited access to education and have been for centuries. Africans have good reason to complain. British missionaries took the word of God and enfoced it on the African people as a means of retaining a hold on them.
Take a long hard look at any country suffering from mass poverty and you can see that the people are religious. Their only hope to "get to heaven".
Poverty will never be eliminated ever. The simple maths of the capitalist system we live in means that for one person to profit someone must pay.
You didn't dig the hole -- the capitalist Brits did a while back, and then subsequent other white influences. Don't be blind to the facts. Africa is a very rich continent. It should be run by Africans who will ensure that the people of Africa, not English or American interests, reap the profits.
You're correct to the point of Africa's own disenfranchisement of itself. But what about those who are not in any position to change the conditions within Africa, mainly the poor citizens?
What concerns me is how African military leaders continue to get arms for coup d'etats, but the citizens pay the price.
Pressure has to be against the arms dealers first to prevent arms from coming into Africa. We in the West say we are against terrorism, but the arms dealers foster terrorism, yet we do nothing to prevent these dealers from importing arms into Africa.
Mr Dakwa, I believe that you are speaking the truth in many sentences. I believe that your attitude is the right one. Every country must act to solve its own problems.
However, I feel you take it a bit too far. I believe you are a bit hard on Africa and Africans. True, a lot of the problems are domestic due to despotic leaders and wars. However, we live in a globalized world where the global community is still treating Africa as the little brother.
I believe Africa needs to solve its own problems on its own. I believe Africa needs to assume that responsibility and stop complaining. But that is only because complaining is reactive and will not get Africa forward.
The pro-active way to handle the problem is to do and take matters into your own hands.
IF ONLY the donor nations would recruit volunteers in the areas of development from their own countries the way they deploy their soldiers on peace keeping missions.
IF ONLY those technology experts and management personnel were deployed in a few African nations to undertake pilot projects with the real poor farmers.
IF ONLY those development volunteer corps worked outside the public sector in their identification of programs to finance, implement and monitor>
THEN and only THEN will some light be seen in the dark tunnel of underdevelopment in Africa.
Mr Dakwa, I cannot completely share your thoughts and your opinion. Although me as a student, I might no have the same experiences like you, I would like to mention some points to think about.
First of all, yes, Africa has got a lot of aid from several Western institutions like the World Bank etc. It is unfortunately also true, that there are some dictatorial leaders of African countries who steal the money.
Nevertheless, we shouldn't forget that the foisting of Western democracy on the African countries after the colonial era is party responsible for the rise of these depots.
Concerning the aid that we receive, it is necessary to put a focus onto the type and amount of the aid. Yes, Western countries spend over the years billions of dollars for all African countries, but what is it worth in the proportion of a whole continent? Can billions of dollars be enough? Couldn't the West assist more?
Concerning the type of aid, I would also like to criticize institutions like the World Bank, as the help is very much bound to a lot of terms and conditions. Some of these, like the absolute respect of Western-type democracy, are questionable.
The monarchies that existed in many African countries before colonization worked better than anything afterwards. As a consequence, the tight terms and conditions that impose democracy can mean a vicious circle for some countries that will again and again bring forward the criminals and despots until the population and the government find a form of government that fits the mentality of the country, like it had developed before the colonial time.
Besides, the aid from European countries is often a waste of time. If certain basic conditions like political stability are given, the Western countries should ask the people what they need to develop. I'm sure, they know. Is it sensible to decide in Berlin or London or New York what is needed?
Microcredits are a good example for sensible aid, aid that brings forward the abilities and skills of the people that they already possess.
Furthermore, I do not agree when you say that the world economy is fair. Concerning Africa, Western countries profit more and more profit from raw materials.But does Africa profit, too? No, the African countries which own the raw materials sell them at a very low price and the refinement takes place in the Western countries.
To sum it up, Africa is not a hopeless case. I will always believe in it and try to help as best as I can.
My main arguments are for adjusted and increased aid, acceptance of different forms of government, fortification of the domestic market and, very important, endeavors to end conflicts.
All other things like education, infrastructure etc will automatically follow if the economy of a country is growing.
Even as a communication arts student from a country thousands of miles away from Africa, i cannot see myself ignoring an awful truth, the conditions in Africa.
I concur with Mr Dakwa that the dilemma in Africa is part and parcel of the result of a concerted effort of oppression and corruption by vile African tyrants, and the reticence and stoicism of an assaulted majority.
This being the case, we see a suffering people and a suffering continent.
We have billions of dollars of aid being sent to Africa by seemingly concerned parties, but what they do not see is that they have to ensure that the people who are going to hold that money in Africa will put the public interest first, because you cannot solve the plight of Africa by throwing money at them nonchalantly.
It is vital to the progress of Africa that empowerment of the people be a priority. Apathy causes suffering, misery, and national maldevelopment. Addressing this issue can jump-start infrastructure development and hopefully, sustainable peace and growth.
I share Mr. Dakwa's views entirely, only it is so much more important that he holds them because he can say these very true things with the credibility that comes from himself being an African.
The aid from West is some sort of modern secular penitance. It can be plainly seen that the aim has never really been to help, the aim is to admit blame and satisfy some sort of collective bad conscience.
This is seen by the persistent effects of this help. The Live Aid concert in the 80's... what happened, nothing... Helping is extremely hard to do as it is a subtle way of excerting power over someone. It can even be a diabolic form of sadism that in contrast with aggressive actions does not even allow the recipient moral room for retribution.
The West sits on top of millennia of development and it functions the way it does because of the institutions that have accreted during this time. It took immense time to build, a process that can be faster, but only if the task is taken seriously and is seen clearly. Unfortunately, people from the West --- especially those who are the most willing to help -- deny the significance of this chasm.
Saying this openly is considered racist by many... but isn't it racist to think that cultural traits that people in the West incorporate from very early age and don't even notice that they have are part of human nature? And to thereby deny Africans any form of fair chance to build the same institutions in a way that preserves the local traditions in a way not dissimilar to how this has been done in the West. I am from Sweden but live in Venice, Italy at the moment... it is very different, but at the same time it's the same institutions.
Another note -- even if I tried my best to develop a scheme to harm Africa, I don't think I could come up with anything more potent than a Christian dogm banning the use of condoms.
Mr Kofi has done well in airing his opinion. Well done, next time try and leave the blame on yourself instead of all Africans.
Africans have persistently been victims of gruesome and exploitative policies from the so called liberal free market democratcies, especially those from Europe, Japan and the USA.
Do you think that colonial domination and exploitaion is Africa's fault, is the slave trade a consequense of Africa's actions? Are we responsible for the inequalities associatated with the current global economic inbalance? A system that permits goods and capital to move freely while restricting the most important factor of production-labour?
When condition warrants throughout history, people move out from bondage to freedom; Europeans moved out of europe to America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc and now the same ancestors of the incredible rate of world migration are putting barriers up for others. I am sure there are many other areas to look into to see that Africans would have been better off then and now without European incursion.
Dear Kofi Dakwa, to explain all I would like to say right here in this "little" square for comments seems like an impossible task, but I would like to explain a few points:
1. First of all, if we are going to be able to help people anywhere in the world, we cannot let the help/aid go through corrupt leaders.
As long as people are only thinking about their own profit and want to do as little as possible, it seems like an impossible mission, but together and with prayer -- I know all things are possible.
Mr Dakwa and I share the same profession, although I am an ex-banker.
If only Mr Dakwa could reflect back on history, he should share the blame disproportionately between the West and Africa.
Over the last 40-50 years the West should take the blame for underdevelopment in Africa 60% percent of the time.
In today's inter-connected world, the West should be blamed between 20-40% of the time. This is because after more than 50 years of development intervention, the West, with its counterpart donor agencies, has now openly admitted that it should have paid greater attention to institutional capacity building, a very critical precondition for development in Africa.