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Africa Must Produce or Perish

by Philip Emeagwali

e m e a g w a l i . com

Imagine that it is May 25, 2063 , the 100 th anniversary of Africa Day, a day for reflecting on Africa 's successes and failures. The newspaper headline announces, “Last Remaining Oilfield in West Africa 's American Territory Dries Up.”

The article continues: “The last patch of rainforest will soon be empty land scarred by oil pipelines, pumping stations, and natural gas refineries. Wholesale pollution will be the environmental legacy for future generations.

“ Africa 's offshore oil reserves will ebb away. Abandoned oil wells could well become tourist attractions, and oil-boom settlements will be transformed into derelict ghost towns.

“In a world without oil, air travel will disappear, and people will voyage overseas on coal-powered ships. Farmers will use horses instead of tractors, and scythes instead of combine harvesters. As crops diminish and populations soar, famine will grip the globe. With no means to power their vehicles, parents will be housebound, without jobs, and children will walk to school.”

This scenario could become a reality, because we no longer have an abundant oil supply. We know oil exists in limited quantities and that most oil wells dry up after 40 years. It is as certain as death and taxes. Rather than debate the exact year when we will run out of oil, I prefer to imagine that we have already run out. It may come sooner than any of us expect. Our heirs will thank or curse us for how much oil we left for them. Instead of asking, “When will Africa run out of natural resources?” we should ask, “When will Africa be unable to export raw materials, either for lack of our own oil or because foreign markets have themselves dried up?”

A $100 bar of raw iron is worth $200 when forged into drinking cups in Africa , $65,000 when forged into needles in Asia , $5 million when forged into watch springs in Europe . How can this be? European intellectual capital – the collective knowledge of its people – allows a $100 raw iron bar to command a 50,000-fold increase! It could be said, therefore, that a lack of intellectual capital is the root cause of poverty.

Without African intellectual capital, iron excavated in Africa will continue to be manufactured in Europe and exported back to Africa at enormous cost. To alleviate poverty, Africa needs to cultivate creative and intellectual abilities that will allow it to increase the value of its raw materials and to break the continent's vicious cycle of poverty. Poverty is not an absence of money, Rather, it results from an absence of knowledge.

In oil-exporting African nations, multinationals such as Shell (selling rigs for a 40% royalty on exported oil) are getting rich, while the oil rig workers remain poor. Instead of addressing the underlying causes of poverty – minimal productivity resulting from a lack of intellectual capital – Third World leaders have focused on giving false hope to their people.

We need less talk about poverty and more action to eliminate it. So how do we do this? Education has done more to reduce poverty than all the oil companies in the world. So it is disheartening to realize that few leaders believe that their people's potential is far more valuable than what lies beneath the soil.

Intellectual capital, not higher wages, will eliminate poverty in Africa . If we all demand higher wages, we will end up paying the higher wages to ourselves. Intellectual capital will result in the creation of new products derived from new technologies. The end result will be not just a redistribution of wealth, but the creation and control of new wealth.

And Africa 's power to reduce poverty will open the floodgates of prosperity for millions of people. One catalyst for such prosperity could be telecommuting. If 300 million Africans could work for companies located in the West (just as millions of Indians do), then both regions would benefit. The strategy would be to recognize the labor needs of the global marketplace, and enable Africa to fulfill those needs.

For example, tax preparation experts living in Africa , where labor is cheaper, could fulfill the needs of US-based accountants. Furthermore, the time difference could allow for a fast turnaround in service. It is clear that knowledge and technology is crucial to alleviate Africa 's poverty.

Africa will perish if it continues to consume what it does not produce, and produce what it does not consume. The result will be a depressing cycle of increasing consumption, decreasing production, and increasing poverty. We are missing a golden opportunity by not using the trillion dollars earned by exporting natural resources to break Africa 's cycle of poverty.

We are at a crossroads where one signpost reads “Produce” and another reads “Perish.” We risk becoming like the driver who stops at an intersection and asks a pedestrian,

“Where does this road lead?”

And the pedestrian replies, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don't know,” the driver replies.

“Then it obviously doesn't matter which road you take!” replies the pedestrian.

If we adopt the same attitude as the driver, Africa will have lost its chance to “choose” its future.

For decades, power in post-colonial Africa rested in the hands of those with guns, not those with brains. We were not always at war with our neighbors, but we were always at war with poverty. And we spent more on guns than on books and bread.

Africa 's choice is clear: produce or perish. However, it is important that we do not blindly choose the lesser of two evils – producing what we cannot consume or consuming what we cannot produce. We can avoid this. My wish is that by the end of the 21 st century high-end products in New York City will sport the label: “Made in Africa .”

We cannot look forward to our future until we learn from our past. Five thousand years of recorded history reveal that technology was ancient Africa 's gift to the modern world. Forty and a half centuries ago, geometers in Africa 's Nile Valley region designed the Great Pyramid of Giza, the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. That man-made mountain remains the largest stone building on Earth. It is an icon of engineering, and testifies that Africa was once the world's most technologically advanced region.

It is absolutely imperative that Africa regain its technological prominence, which will enable it to produce what the world can consume. When we do that, Africa will finally be eating the fruits of its own labor. When Africa has regained its technological prominence, the world's leaders will seek it out. And, like a rainforest renewed, Africa will flourish again.

Excerpted from a speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali to the African community in Valencia , Spain on May 11, 2008 . The entire transcript and video are posted at emeagwali.com .

Philip Emeagwali has been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN and TIME , and extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former U.S. President Bill Clinton . He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, the Nobel prize of supercomputing.

© Congo Vision


The Graves Are Not Yet Full

by Philip Emeagwali

e m e a g w a l i . com

Walk with me down memory lane. The time: 1968. In 30 months, one million dead. The setting: a dusty camp in Biafra where survivors waited and hoped for peace. The survivors: Refugees fleeing from the “Dance of Death.” My mentor: One of the refugee camp directors, whom I called “Teacher” out of respect.

“Martin Luther King has been killed,” Teacher said, with a pained voice and vacant eyes. I looked towards Teacher, wondering: “Who is Martin Luther King?” I was a 13-year-old refugee in the west African nation of Nigeria , a land then called Biafra . Martin Luther King. What did that name mean?

Eight out of ten Biafrans were refugees exiled from their own country. Two years earlier, Christian army officers had staged a bloody coup killing Muslim leaders. The Muslims felt the coup was a tribal mutiny of Christian Igbos against their beloved leaders. The aggrieved Muslims went on a killing rampage, chanting: “Igbo, Igbo, Igbo, you are no longer part of Nigeria !” In the days that followed, 50,000 Igbos were killed in street uprisings.

Killing was not new to us in Biafra . I was 13, but I knew much of killing. Widows and orphans were most of the refugees in our camp. They had survived the Igbo “Dance of Death” – a euphemism for the mass executions. One thousand men at gunpoint forced to dance a public dance. Seven hundred were then shot and buried en masse in shallow graves. When told to hurry up and return to his regular duty, one of the murderers said: “The graves are not yet full.”

A few days later, with only the clothes on our backs, we fled from this “Dance of Death.” That was six months before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Teacher and I were eventually conscripted into the Biafran army and sent to the front, two years after our escape.

After the war, Teacher – who had taught me the name of Martin Luther King – was among the one million who had died. I – a child soldier – was one of the fifteen million who survived.

Africa is committing suicide: a two-decade war in Sudan , genocidal killings in Rwanda , scorched-earth conflicts in Ethiopia , Somalia , Uganda , and Liberia . The wars in modern Africa are the largest global-scale loss of life since the establishment of the Atlantic Slave trade, which uprooted and scattered Africa 's sons and daughters across the United States , Jamaica , and Brazil .

Africa 's wars are steering the continent toward a sea of self-destruction so deep that even the greatest horror writers are unable to fathom its depths. So, given our circumstances, Martin Luther King was a name unknown, a dead man among millions, with a message that never reached the shores of Biafra .

Neither did his message reach the ears of “The Black Scorpion,” Benjamin Adekunle, a tough Nigerian army commander, whose credo of ethnic cleansing knew nothing of Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement: “We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces move into Igbo territory, we even shoot things that do not move.”

As we heed Martin Luther King Jr.'s call, and march together across the world stage, let us never forget that we who have witnessed and survived the injustice of such nonsensical wars are the torchbearers of his legacy of peace for our world, our nation, and our children.

Excerpted from a speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia at the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination . The entire transcript and video is posted at emeagwali.com .

Philip Emeagwali has been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN and TIME , and extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former U.S. president Bill Clinton .

 

RDC : Le gouvernement boucle le montage financier des grands travaux devant être exécutés par la Chine

( VOA News 08/05/2008)

La RDC a annoncé finalisé avec la Chine le partenariat devant lui permettre de développer ses infrastructures. Kinshasa apportera ses contrats miniers et Pékin ses capitaux ainsi que les moyens nécessaires à la réalisation des grands travaux en RDC. Le ministre congolais de la communication, Emile Bongeli, a annoncé l'arrivée prévue au plus tard, en août 2008, de 12 000 tonnes de matériel pour des chantiers à Kinshasa et dans les provinces. Ces projets découlent d'un accord passé en septembre dernier entre Kinshasa et Pékin, accord-prêt portant sur plusieurs milliards de dollars, nous dit notre correspondant Eddie Isango.


Un dossier d'Eddy Isango - Ecoutez (MP3)

http://www.voanews. com/french/ 2008-05-07- voa2.cfm

© Copyright VOA News


Le pouvoir de Kinshasa floue le peuple!

Depuis vendredi 08 mai 2008, le contenu du contrat signé entre la République Populaire de Chine (RPC) et la République Démocratique du Congo (RDC) n'est plus un secret pour personne. Le pouvoir de Kinshasa a fini par le présenter à l'Assemblée Nationale après plusieurs pressions internes et externes.

Celui-ci a été décortiqué par les élus du peuple non sans complaisance selon qu'on appartenait au camp du pouvoir ou de celui de l'opposition. Mais, comme la vérité était difficile à masquer, tout était clair pour dire que la Chine était la partie la plus gagnante dans cette affaire où la R.D. Congo ne se contentait que des miettes et c'est au nom des intérêts d'un pouvoir que l'on veut pérenniser en flouant ce peuple dont on prête pourtant servir.

En effet, les analystes notent que ce contrat signé pour 25 ans est en faveur exclusive des Chinois qui n'y perdent rien car, toutes les dispositions mettent le pays de Mao à l'abri de tout danger tandis que les Congolais auront à payer toutes les casses même après le terme du contrat.

Ceci démontre clairement que Joseph Kabila, bénéficiaire principal de ce contrat, a tenu compte seulement de ses intérêts afin de préserver son pouvoir en comptant, avec ce contrat chinois, pour réaliser ses promesses électorales dans l'immédiat, les autres conséquences devraient être payées après son r&! egrave;g ne, par le peuple qui ne peut rien changer aujourd'hui car, ses représentants, les députés nationaux, ont clairement soutenu le caractère désavantageux de ce contrat qui n'apporte pas grand'chose à la RDC et qui, somme toute, le dépouille aussi bien que ceux signés dans le passé et qui ont été qualifiés par tous, des contrats léonais! Et pourtant, les honorables (sic) députés congolais, en majorité, ont complaisement appuyé le gouvernement qui est leur émanation quand bien même ils ont tous reconnus les nombreux désavantages de ce contrat pour la RDC.

En dehors de l'Assemblée Nationale, les gens pensent ceci: Dans 25 ans, soit en 2034, l'opposant le plus farouche des régimes despotes congolais, Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, ne sera plus pour confondre les initiateurs de ce contrat et tous ceux qui le soutiennent. De même, Joseph Kabila Kabange, son grand bénéficiaire, ne sera plus aux affaires, si la constitution de la République est respectée.

Ceci revient à dire, pour le peuple congolais qui subit le dicta du régime Kabila et qui aura à payer plus tard ce qui est entrain d'être puisé aujourd'hui chez les Chinois en vue d'honorer les promesses électorales pour le moins démesurées de Kabila, que personne n'avait compris avec quels moyens le fils de M'Zee Laurent Désiré Kabila pouvait, dans cinq ans de mandat, construire des écoles, des hôpitaux, des routes, des logements dans un pays aussi dépourvu de tout en ce moment. Dire que le Congo Kinshasa, l'un des pays les plus peuplé et le plus grand d'Afrique, bat le record de chômage et son tissu économique est quasi inexistant suite &agra! ve; la g estion calamiteuse de plus de 45 ans d'indépendance et aux nombreuses guerres dues à la conquête du pouvoir.

Ainsi donc, les promesses démagogiques ont amené les dirigeants congolais au bradage pure et simple des richesses nationales. Et une fois de plus, le peuple congolais est floué, n'en déplaise aux Chinois qui ont réalisé une très belle affaire.

Richard Kabamba

Kric

© Congo Vision