Why is Africa still mostly poor? Progressives will shriek that the ghost of colonialism and the spirit of capitalism has turned the continent into an unsalvageable wasteland mired in corruption and poverty. In recent years, many countries have introduced fragments of the free-enterprise system, which has given a lot of people a taste of prosperity. Still, the continent remains mostly socialist, comprised of leaders who have been educated in the Marxist school of thought. From Uganda to Zimbabwe, Africa’s history with socialism is far more barbaric and tragic than Britain’s 20th-century colonization. Following decades of destitution, deprivation, and despair, has Africa learned from socialism’s failure?
In the post-colonial world, a lot of African countries became independent of Great Britain. Once they broke free from the European empire, nations adopted a socialist economic model, which was followed by an authoritarian government. Despite being rich in natural resources, like gold and crude oil, Africa quickly metastasized into enduring the lowest living standards for its people. When you examine what its national leaders instituted, the region’s perpetual collapse makes sense. Let’s hop on H.G. Wells’ time machine and find out what happened in several countries.
In his one-man quest for absolute power, Idi Amin committed socialist atrocities in Uganda that were on par with Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Amin nationalized the means of production, collectivized agriculture, and abolished private property. To no one’s surprise, Ugandan factories collapsed, farmlands were mismanaged, businesses were neglected, and its commodity exports disappeared. Like every country desperate to alleviate the situation, Amin printed money – and lots of it. Inflation eventually surged 700%, making toilet paper cost almost a month’s wages.
The late and not lamented Robert Mugabe transformed Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa into a third-world toxic sewer. Despite being described as a liberator by the foreign press, Mugabe was, to anyone paying attention, a living, breathing disaster for his nation. He presented himself as a Marxist-Leninist, and he assured everyone that socialism was the ZANU-PF’s “sworn ideology.” So, what did Mugabe do during his 30-year reign of terror? He expropriated land from white Zimbabweans, put blacks in charge of white-owned companies – for purely racial reasons – introduced price controls, and destroyed the currency by running the printing press. All this in addition to a laundry list of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Food shortages, blackouts, and beatings of white farmers were the new norm in the former Rhodesia.
In the 1980s, Mengistu Haile Mariam and his Ethiopian government introduced villagization, a land reform and resettlement scheme to centrally-regulate village life and the agricultural industry. The Derg, also known as the Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia, mirrored the Marxist-Leninist initiative on Soviet endeavors to boost food output and enhance social services. The campaign sparked a food crisis and the displacement of 70,000 people, worsening the situation it attempted to remedy.
You would not believe that one of today’s poorest economies had been a prosperous one in the past until it flirted with socialism. In 1961, Tanzania declared its independence, and Prime Minister-turned-President Julius Nyerere introduced Ujamaa, which means socialism and brotherhood in Swahili. Despite having an economy on par with South Korea before the implementation of this system, the country immediately saw the adverse effects: economic stagnation, slumping food production, and Mao-style communal living that wiped out personal capital. Decades later, Tanzania remains one of the planet’s poorest countries.
Socialism – Then, Now, Forever?
Did every African state travel down this Marxist road? No. There was “The Ivorian Miracle,” explains Germinal G. Van, a libertarian scholar and author:
“In the 1960s and 1970s, Côte d’Ivoire was the most economically advanced country in West Africa. While its neighbors were embracing socialism, Côte d’Ivoire opted for a market economy. Despite having an authoritarian political regime, like all African countries during that time; the Ivorian people were, nonetheless, economically free. They had the freedom to create businesses, and to expand private property.”
The results? Over 20 years, the gross domestic product expanded 8.1% annually, lifting real terms capita from $595 to a little more than $1,100. Today, it is the wealthiest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, thanks to the private economy’s use of its vast cocoa beans, natural rubber, crude oil, and other agricultural commodities. The Ivory Coast is far from a perfect nation as it still faces governance and cultural issues. It could even serve as a model for its neighbors that are in dire need of a change. It is that or heading down the same dangerous path of South Africa.
Although it is the second-largest economy on the continent, South Africa will inevitably suffer the same fate as many of its regional partners. One such socialist policy guaranteed to produce devastating long-term consequences is the confiscation of white-owned land without compensation. The Coronavirus pandemic slowed down this policy, but with lockdowns easing, the government continues to pursue it. Another state measure is the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), aimed at greater black representation in management, non-profit organizations, and corporate boards. The media will not call it socialism out of some allegiance to the politically correct mafia, but it is just another variant of the deadly ideology, with a focus on race.
It is said that socialism mirrors African culture, but the data suggests this is nonsense. Why do Africans suffer in Africa, but prosper when they leave the continent? When you look at Africans who have relocated to the U.S. and other Western countries, they do remarkably well. For example, Nigerian Americans maintain a median household income of $63,000 in the U.S., which is higher than the national $58,000. Therefore, you could surmise that capitalism is more in line with African heritage.
By Any Other Name
Marxism, socialism, communism – rat poison by any other name would be as deadly. Africa will not be fixed until it abandons these lethal orthodoxies that have obliterated the continent’s potential. The socialists aver that “you can’t have capitalism without racism.” This is a statement that would fit well on a placard at a demonstration, but it is objectively baseless – though it perhaps mirrors New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s doctrine of being morally right instead of factually correct. Colonialism may have been a stain on African and British histories. However, it was the socialism that followed that inflicted far more harm than what Conservative and Labour prime ministers at 11 Downing Street could have envisioned for several decades.
Read more from Andrew Moran.