Day 58: Cheetahs versus Hippos

George Ayittey told a TED crowd in Arusha, Tanzania in 2007 that it would rank as the most important conference in the beginning of the 21st century. He also pays tribute to the TED fellows for their organisation of it, saying African governments wouldn’t put together something similar without asking for foreign aid.
Ayittey unleashes a further torrent of controlled anger against African rule. The old ruling parties he describes as the ‘hippo generation’; those people who won’t introduce economic or other reforms as they benefit from the status quo.
There are lots of Africans who share his views. Africa is a continent rich in natural resources. Yet more than 40% of the profits from such resources leave the continent. Capital flight out of Africa amounts to about 80 million dollars yearly. Corruption costs 148 billion dollars. Ayittey describes the modern African leadership as consisting of Swiss bank socialists, pack revolutionaries and vampire states. Since 1960 there have been 204 heads of state on the continent. Most people would struggle to name 20 who worked for the good of their people.
It wasn’t always like this. Ancient African business operated in what Ayittey calls, ‘The Cradle System.’ Using this model, the extended family had ownership over the land. They used the commodities they produced themselves and sold the remainder for a profit which went solely back into the family. There was free trade throughout. Cities such as Timbuktu had massive market places. But when the continent was gradually colonised, Western leaders wrongly decided Africa was ready for socialism.
The ‘cheetah generation’ encompasses the many groups of people who want to fight against the establishment. Many in the African Diaspora have acted as agents of social change, particularly in Ayittey’s home country, Ghana. Ayittey encourages more people to mobilise themselves for justice. Together, he says, they may take back Africa one village at a time.


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