Politics

Thinking about an African Caring State

Africa’s problems emanate from our inability to convert or change the large labour reserves, also called ‘states’, to become a true extension of our political wishes.
The ultimate goal was to create very productive colonies to perpetually support capitals in Europe by looting resources and oppressing people.
All the financial and economic gains or progress were, and still are, exclusively for the benefit of the invading countries and settlers.

The pain of colonialism including ruthless demarcations and brutal conquest meant any form of political organisation in Africa was destroyed, together with kingdoms, tribes, villages, and of course the people.

Nobody, except for denialists like Helen Zille, would ever argue in favour of colonialism and its equally notorious siblings of apartheid and slave trade.
When colonialism finally ‘ended’ in Africa from the late 1950s, all the hell broke loose. People were suddenly expected to embrace these new states with ‘better’ masters in charge.
Serious political engineering was necessary to tame the angry local after ‘independence’.
Even the early leaders noted this gap between the ‘old oppressed slave’ and the urgent need to foster some political unity. They sugar-coated the deep scars and also the visible cracks that characterised the supposed end of colonial rule in Africa.
Instead of deepening efforts to heal societies they opted for an easy, convenient resolution of retaining the colonial borders and artificial social hierarchies created by Europeans.

Therefore, one can safely argue that a psychological barrier between the African state and local populace exists to this day. The end of colonialism has not brought any material benefit to local people.

Master slaves (those anointed to rule the independent states) emulated their former oppressors by oppressing lower castes.

Post-colonial states became fiefdoms and the personal property of heartless rulers, called presidents for life, whose brute forcefulness extinguished the African dream.
Today African resources that should be spent on improving lives of the people are safely stored in Swiss banks and other tax heavens across the world.

The problems do not stop there, the continent loses trillions of US dollars in illicit financial flows, sometimes with the full knowledge of those who are supposed to safeguard interests of the people.

Governments remain inaccessible to citizens and only accessed by pseudo-elites who unashamedly gobble the resources for their sole gratification.
It is perhaps only in Africa where faceless ‘things’ like ‘markets’ and ‘investment community’ have a stronger voice than the citizens.

One is compelled to conclude that the design of an African state, in its present form, manufactures poverty and chaos. And also benefits others except Africans themselves.
Unless Africans create their own systems of governance there can be no peace.
Africa needs a re-think.
Marta Szebehely and Mia Vabø refer to the Nordic welfare states as ‘social service states’ or ‘Caring States’ because they ‘offer a wide variety of services, including care services for children and elderly, to citizens of all socioeconomic groups’.
The notion of a Caring State, in my view, goes beyond the nominal or traditional role of the state, which is provision of goods and or services. Of course, the Nordic universalist welfare policy is exemplary in terms of what a state should do.
The philosophy underlying these welfare policies can certainly help us to create Caring States in Africa. But the African state needs to go beyond thinking that only providing welfare as the main goal, more needs to be done.
So, I see a notion of a Caring State to be a way of thinking as reflected in policies, institutions, social interactions and structures that constitute a state.
A Caring State does not see itself as provider or bully, but a guardian of those who live within and without it. Its internal and foreign policies put people ahead of all other interests, whether political or economic.
A Caring State also eliminates violence, abuse, classism and identities, as well as attempts to reconfigure our understanding of what constitutes physical borders in its operations.
To the contrary, the solution doesn’t lie in neo-liberal sponsored movements of goods and humans, as many people think. There is a need to strengthen individual units and to ensure that there is respect for life in states before we can even think about all else. Passports don’t feed people.
Africa needs to follow its own trajectory in terms of political governance systems. Colonial structures and ideas do not help us; Africa needs caring states that prioritise lives of ordinary people.
Time to rely on donors and ‘good’ Samaritans as well as recklessness is quickly running out.

By Siyabonga Hadebe https://shadebe.wordpress.com

Photo by Ban Yidoon Unsplash

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