Poverty is why African lives do not matter: The roots of the African Lives Matter discussion go to the fact that Africa is poor--and it is poor because of Western policies.

AuthorAnkomah, Baffour

A few weeks after Laurent-Desire Kabila and his Western supported rebels swept into power in Kinshasa on 17 May 1997, after overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko, the long-time American-backed Zairean President, Chester Crocker, who had been the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under President Ronald Reagan, made a telling comment that went to the heart of the African Lives Matter (ALM) debate--or more precisely, the external factors that make African lives not to matter.

"We and our friends," Crocker said pointedly, "control the keys to the clubs and treasuries that Kabila will need to tap if he is going to rebuild the country."

Over the next several pages, my colleagues have tackled the domestic factors that make African lives not to matter. I applaud them for their efforts. I, however, have chosen a different route to bring more depth to the discussions. So here I am, dealing with some of the external factors that have made African lives not to matter. This is a huge subject that a 2-page column cannot deal sufficiently with. So I am going to continue the discussion in the next issue.

Now let's cut to the chase. Though domestic factors have played a huge role in the ALM phenomenon, I submit that if African countries had prospered economically like their counterparts in Asia, the effects of ALM would not have been felt so heavily by Africans as they are now.

Most of our troubles in Africa are economic. Our lives have been difficult chiefly because our countries have failed to grow our economies, confirming President Kwame Nkrumah's fear that political independence would be meaningless without economic independence.

Yes, there is corruption everywhere in the world, but prosperous countries and their people do not feel the heat of corruption as we do in Africa because of their level of economic wellbeing. This is an empirical fact.

So why haven't we been able to grow our economies to make our lives matter? Many factors are involved, but, for the purposes of this piece, I will concentrate on the external factors only. Chester Crocker said it well in 1997: "We and our friends [meaning the Western world] control the keys to the clubs and treasuries that Kabila will need to tap if he is going to rebuild the country."

Since the end of World War II, external factors (or rather American, and later European, largesse) have been instrumental in the economic development of lesser-endowed countries who have been fortunate to receive such...

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