Top 10 Blogs of 2013: 10. George Ayittey: "Africa needs Cheetahs not Hippos"

by Developed Africa 19. December 2013 09:00

As 2013 draws to a close, Developed Africa looks back over our 10 most popular posts of the year.

Economist George Ayittey, President of the Free Africa Foundation, and author of Africa Unchained, has recently been interviewed on the BBC setting out the reason why he believes Africa is impoverished, and it isn't the usual answer.

Counter to the argument that is typically used to explain Africa's poverty, the argument that blames colonialism for leaving the continent in this state, Ayittey believes in a different cause. He posits that the reason for Africa's current situation is due to dictators and corrupt elites having controlled it's countries' governments since independence. 

He contends that whilst it may look as though African countries are doing well, even though their economic growth is improving, those that benefit from this growth are the ruling elites who control economic activities. And that this is due not to the systems in place under colonial rule, but to the toxic one party state political systems and economic state systems that were put in place following independence. 

The economist finds the problem to be rooted in state dominated economic systems that create a phenomenon which Ayittey refers to as "Swiss Bank Socialism" - leading to $30 billion being donated to Africa in aid per year, whilst at the same time $148 billion is lost through corruption. 

The main crux of his argument is not all doom and gloom, but he depicts the struggle that needs to come between the 'Hippos' and the 'Cheetahs' in African countries. The hippos of course are representative of the ruling elites: the fat cats who take aid and income for themselves. Whereas the cheetahs are the new generation, the young, agile, entrepreneurs who are educated and motivated to make a difference to not only their own lives, but to the continent's.

So despite appearing to be fairly negative about Africa and its governments, he does believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that it comes in the form of young entrepreneurs. But not only this, the systems in place need to change in order for Africa to move forward. Political systems need to change, need to avoid corruption, need to become well-oiled machines that work effectively to improve their country and the lives of the people in it. 


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