Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo says Africa’s leaders are to blame for many of the continent’s economic woes.
Speaking at the launch of the book Making Africa Work, Obasanjo warned that if leaders continued to fail, the continent’s young people would rise against them. He said this would be catastrophic.
“We have heard enough talk. We have had enough of the blame game. Yes, the colonial powers did not do it right – but we have been independent now for almost 60 years. What have we done? The fault lies with our leaders,” he said.
Obasanjo recommended that for solutions to the challenges, young people should read the book that he co-authored with three international economics researchers, Greg Mills, Jeffrey Herbst and Dickie Davies.
ANC MP Makhosi Khoza and former Zimbabwean industry and trade minister Nkosana Moyo agreed.
Although Nigeria is battling with militant Islamist group Boko Haram, and several other militia groups, especially in the Niger Delta, Obasanjo said these were not his worst nightmare.
His greatest fear was increasing unemployment and poverty giving rise to angry and frustrated youth. He said the anger would know no political, regional, ethnic or religious boundaries. It would cause an “explosion nobody would be able to manage”.
“By the year 2050 the population of Africa will be 2 billion. How will we care for their education and health? How are we going to cater for employment and job creation? How are we going to cater for their dignity and fulfilment, their food security and nutrition?
“We need to pacify them (young people), we need to find solutions. For me, the solutions are in this,” said Obasanjo.
Moyo said his frustration was that whenever he travelled around the world he came across Africans behaving as if everything was fine. “The world is leaving us behind.”
During his research he had observed that one of the reasons for Africa’s “failure”was that its people were “mimicking” foreign cultures.’
“There is nothing original about us – we mimic. When you go to China, Japan and other parts of Asia and Europe they send their kids all over the world to study, but what is different between them and us is that the foundation on which they stand is themselves.”
Khoza put Africa’s problems down to failing economic policies. These, she said, were taking the continent’s economy backwards. She declared herself a supporter of capital- ism as the solution to the challenges. “We need to speak the language our people understand – and that’s prosperity.”