Within the past few days, there have been both overt and covert expressions of racism in the news made by Western leaders in countries that ironically seemed to have amassed their wealth through colonialism. English Conservative Member of Parliament, Anne Marie Morris, made a remark at a Brexit event about “n****rs in a woodpile,” an expression which ought to have become outdated over the years, regardless of its meaning. This comes after her agent and partner at hustings about 6 weeks ago declared that Britain’s education problem was as a result of non-british immigrants and their “high birth-rates.” Then English Football club Manchester United’s newest recruit, Congolese-Belgian Romelu Lukaku was “confused” for Ghanaian-British grime and Hip-hop rapper Micheal Omari a.k.a. Stormzy in an Irish tabloid, evoking conversations, again, that not all black people look alike or are inherently the same.
Perhaps, the story which generated the most controversy was France’s President Macron’s answer to a question asked by Ivorian journalist Philippe Kouhoun at the G20 summit held in Hamburg, Germany few days ago. When asked by the journalist “How much are the G-20 countries ready to put in the envelope to save Africa?” Macron responded by saying Africa had “civilizational” problems. He then pointed to the matter of high birth rates on the continent, saying where there are 7 or 8 children born to each woman, spending money is useless.
His comments have since been viewed as racist, (which they really are, basically) and create a perception of Africans as a blight on the world, not for the first time either, especially as it concerns the migration problem in Europe. While there is a high birth rate problem in Africa, having large families is restricted to few countries on the continent particularly West Africa, and in fact, some other African countries are having the highest declines in fertility rates compared to other countries around the world.
Hence, Macron’s statement while seeming to make a point by saying Africa’s problems are unique, defeated that same purpose by highlighting the same racist views his French predecessors and other leaders of the free world have regarding the continent. It also showed once again, that while Macron is probably what Europe needs, he is not what Africa needs at this time; he offers nothing new for the continent.
Taking African leaders to task
Macron’s racist and arrogant statement sparked controversy and generated much furor in the news. Op-eds and Think pieces from journalists on the continent and in diaspora immediately became the voice of reason, all calling him out on his views. However, what is still missing is some kind of response from the leaders on the continent, especially the A.U. (African Union) leaders present at the G-20summit; South Africa’s Zuma, Guinea’s Conde and Senegal’s Macky Sall. They had no reply to Macron’s words, and by extension their silence implying their consent to his statements. It is probably a case of a deep seated inferiority complex, since some of them are leaders of former French colonies relying on France for aid, or just plain ineptness; either way African leaders seem really bereft of ideas.
It cannot be denied that overpopulation is a problem in some African countries, but what is missing is some kind of grand plan for tackling the problem. Much grandstanding by these leaders have glossed over the key issues in some of these countries and the general outcry when people like Macron make ill-informed statements only seem to emphasize the modus operandi of Africa’s septuagenarian leaders and its media; being reactionary rather than being proactive.
Two of the causes of the over population problem are child marriages and inadequate family planning. Child marriages are more or less ‘legalized’ in Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The leaders of these countries have failed to tackle this ticking time bomb head-on. It is no coincidence that these countries also have some of the highest birth rates on the continent. Girls who should be in school are mothers before they are 14. Nigeria is projected to be the 3rd most populous country in the world by 2050, overtaking even the USA. However population is not the issue, economic growth is. Presently, Nigeria’s GDP per capita of 2457.80 USD means that an unchecked increase in population will create an economic burden on the country if the nation continues to rely solely on oil. In other words, Boko Haram could be the least of its problems.
The decision of the United States Government to withdraw funding for organizations such as the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) early this year also puts many African countries into a conundrum. Many African countries are barely surviving on their health budgets and largely depend on contraceptives, sex education and services donated by organizations like the UNFPA to halt their fast growing population and high birth-rates, while encouraging family planning. Total removal could dampen all efforts geared towards population control and reduction of maternal mortality.
African leaders are yet to talk about this, and probably never will. The AU summit is more of a high school re-union for the continent’s old leaders, than an avenue to discuss issues. It is time for the African media to consider them a problem and own the conversation regarding policies aimed at the populace, starting with high birth-rates. We can’t keep on writing rejoinders to the racist views of western leaders towards Africa, we should start directing what should be discussed by talking about it first.