Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

Africa: a continent to be respected and listened to

In Terris 25.05.2023 Riccardo Cristiano Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

The African continent, more than 30 million square kilometres, reached 1.25 billion inhabitants in 2019 and will double its population in 2050, to an estimated 4.5 billion in 2100. On World Africa Day, established to commemorate the birth on 25 May 1963 of the African Unity Organisation, which later became the African Union in 2002, it is important to start with them, with the Africans of today and also of tomorrow.

The complexity of Africa is rendered perhaps by the number of its languages: someone will have counted them. In Zimbabwe alone there are 16 official ones, while in South Africa there are 11. In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that according to the most accredited statistics, the second most spoken language, after Swahili, is Arabic, which precedes French. This is one of the clearest and most obvious distinctions, geographically and culturally, the so-called North Africa. If, therefore, many speak of Africas, not Africa, it is understandable: the Arabis and predominantly desert north is Africa, then sub-Saharan Africa begins, with the Sahel belt, or 'edge' of the desert, from the Ocean to the Red Sea. Also, well known, are the Great Lakes region and, then further down, Southern Africa. If we were to continue to distinguish and mention the most significant names, we would certainly have to add at least the Horn of Africa.

This is why it is correct to speak of the Africas, as many speak of the Americas. Yet the economy and the riches, especially of the subsoil, seem to unite the Africas, in a great global question. The one that Pope Francis also posed on his recent trip, already on board of the flight taking him to Congo: “There is one thing that we must denounce: that Africa is not to be exploited... Yes. there is a subsoil to exploit it, but we see the exploitation done by other countries that take off African resources. This idea that Africa exists to be exploited is the most unjust thing there is and must be changed”. The plural used by the Pope is interesting, because the new colonialism is no longer only European, or American. We shall see.

The pope returned to this decisive concept as soon as he arrived in the Congo: “Speaking of slowed-down development and a return to the past, it is tragic that these places, and more generally the African continent, still suffer various forms of exploitation. There is that motto coming out of the unconscious of so many cultures and so many people: Africa is to be exploited, that is terrible! After the political one, an equally enslaving economic colonialism has been unleashed. Thus, this country [RDC], widely plundered, cannot benefit sufficiently from its immense resources: it has reached the paradox that the fruits of its land make the country foreign to its inhabitants. The poison of greed has made its diamonds bloody. It is a drama before which the economically more advanced world often closes its eyes, ears and mouth. But this country and this continent deserve to be respected and listened to, they deserve space and attention: hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo, hands off Africa! Stop suffocating Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be plundered. Let Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny! Let the world remember the disasters committed over the centuries to the detriment of the local populations and not forget this country and this continent. Let Africa, the smile and hope of the world, count more: let it be talked about more, let it have more weight and representation among the nations!".

If African wars are little mentioned and explained, often said forgotten but the term removed would be more correct, the Pope's plural quotation, his reference to the countries that exploit Africa, today also concerns the new coloniser, China (although other presences are also worrying). No one can omit a word of honest and due blame for so many local governments, among the most corrupt and fraudulent in the world, where elections are orchestrated even in total inference, at times, with the vote cast. But we cannot but start with the planetary crushing of the economy of the African continent. The issues of debt, of the role of the International Monetary Fund in imposing ideological economic policies, dictated from thousands of kilometres away, are well known. Alongside the Fund, a decisive role has been played by the notorious speculative funds, which impose very high rates on the debt of African countries. But a large part of the African debt is now in the hands of Chinese banks, which operate similarly and very often predict that in the event of default Beijing could make up for it by seizing local assets. The issue is driving many states to default. The ISPI (Institute of International Political Studies) wrote at the time of the Pope's trip to Africa: "On 19th December, Ghana caused a stir by announcing its intention to go into default. It is not the first African country to do so since the start of the pandemic: Zambia and Mali have declared themselves insolvent in 2020 and 2022 respectively; Ethiopia, while continuing to make payments on its debt, has announced its intention to restructure it in 2021, and Chad has also started similar procedures, which ended in 2022. Not least, Angola resorted to bilateral negotiations to restructure part of its external debt in 2020, at the height of the pandemic”. Among the stress factors was, of course, the war in Ukraine and its understandable consequences. Also weighing heavily is the new global monetary policy, with the US raising interest rates. The latest statistics say that the continent's debt has risen to 56% of Africa's GDP, while government spending has increased by 2.5% and tax revenues and economic growth have dropped by 3%. The ISPI report on the aftermath of the conflict in Ukraine states: "Rising food and oil prices have had a strong impact on African countries, where the former make up between a third and a half of the consumer price basket, the latter lead to lower prices at the pump and hence subsidies that increase pressure on public spending”.

To this intercontinental picture we must add the scourge of corruption, which weighs on the future and hopes for democratic growth. Pope Francis said it better than many others in the same Congolese speech he has just delivered: “In society, what often obscures the light of good are the shadows of injustice and corruption. Already centuries ago, Saint Augustine, who was born on this continent, asked: 'If justice is not respected, what are States if not great bands of thieves?' (De civ. Dei, IV,4). God is on the side of those who hunger and thirst for justice. We must not tire of promoting law and equity in every area, opposing impunity and the manipulation of laws and information”.

In his speeches we find a political and cultural compass to give meaning to a trip that will otherwise remain mere rhetoric: "Education is fundamental: it is the way to the future, the road to take to achieve the full freedom of this country and the African continent. There is an urgent need to invest in it, to prepare societies that will be consolidated only if they are well educated, autonomous only if they are fully aware of their potential and capable of developing it with responsibility and perseverance. But so many children do not go to school: how many, instead of receiving a worthy education, are exploited! Too many die, subjected to slave labour in the mines. No effort should be spared to denounce the scourge of child labour and put an end to it. How many girls are marginalised and their dignity violated! Children, girls, young people are the present of hope, they are hope: let us not allow it to be cancelled, but let us cultivate it with passion!".

See, L’Africa: un continente che va rispettato e ascoltato

Photo. James Wiseman on Unsplash

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