February 10, 2006

Prof: African Woes Result of Bad Policy

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At the Institute for African Development’s weekly seminar yesterday afternoon, Prof. Assis Malaquias, government, St. Lawrence University, argued that Africa’s present state of underdevelopment is a result of inequitable post-colonial leadership. He said he believed that Africa’s situation was further aggravated by “external and internal weaknesses that independence was supposed to correct.”

The seminar, “Africa’s Self-Inflicted Underdevelopment,” took place in Uris Hall and addressed the history of political, social and economic situations in post-colonial Africa, as well as the present status of African nations and the reasons for the failure of formerly implemented policies.

The external and internal weaknesses Malaquias referred to included global and domestic problems. Globally, Africa could not achieve total independence from the world’s superpowers, especially during the Cold War era. Africa was unable to leverage this dependence to their advantage and failed to garner financial support that could have helped it towards prosperity. Internally, the political, economic and social conditions during the post-colonial period prevented the possibility of advancement.

A native of Angola, Malaquias addressed the early political difficulties of the nations. It “became a prize to be seized by political or military officers” who used their power “for their own aggrandized needs,” he said.

Malaquias remained optimistic about Africa’s future economic development despite crippling political, social and economic statistics. For example, 29 of the 36 lowest-ranking nations in the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) were in Africa; approximately 300 million Africans live on less than one dollar a day; and from 1970 to 1995, the continent’s debt grew more than thirtyfold, from $11 billion to $340 billion.

Malaquias argued that African independence, once considered an auspicious beginning, has instead contributed to the continent’s present state of distress. More than two-thirds of sub-Saharan nations, he noted, sank into poverty with the end of colonialism.

Because previous foreign approaches to African development have failed, Malaquias advocated new models. He related adopting previous development models for African development to a novice pilot in training. One should be wary of getting in a plane with a new pilot, he said, the same way one should be wary of implementing other, ‘learned’ models in a new country.

He said that Africa has been “intellectually and theoretically lazy” by not adopting new frameworks, and that novel development theories applicable to Africa’s situation would need to be developed for Africa’s economy to grow.

Mainza Mugoya grad appreciated Malaquias’s insight into the world’s perceived lack of interest in Africa’s development, agreeing that people are misinformed in thinking that “there is a conspiracy against Africa.”

Amos Kungu, an Ithaca resident, spoke highly of the emphasis Malaquias placed on an “open ended solution” to development and the “advancing position Africa must take responsibility for” solving its development problems.

Jared Vary ’07 was impressed by the seminar and commented on the importance for undergrads like him to learn beyond the classroom: “It’s good to come out and truly appreciate a college education.”

Archived article by Sanika Kulkarni
Sun Staff Writer