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The following was written by ASFL Programs Manager Olumayowa Okediran

One does not need statistics from the World Bank or the United Nations to recognize the depth of primitivism of the African continent, Africa is a backward continent and that is a fact! I have received a good dose of verbal bashing, usually a mob-like polemic from Africans who consider my views about the continent fallacious or better still a sacrilege, to them. I must be an insane zealot of the West, who deserves nothing but the wrath of the gods of the land. Unknowingly to them, they ignorantly vindicate me by their obvious intolerance to my point of view. Many times, these Africans in all their “sophistication” resort to shouting me down or totally blocking me out from discussing my views about the continent and what I consider as a footpath towards modern civilization. This sheer act reflects the primitivism of several African intellectuals. Toleration of the views of others is an important aspect of modernization.

Westernization is not Modernization

I need to start by stating that I do not consider westernization to be a synonym for modernization, I hope this will convince the parade of pseudo-anti-Western-imperialism advocates to stay around a little longer and hear me out.

There is a common erroneous misconception as to what constitutes modernization and westernization. There has been a conflation of both in African intellectual circles, just as there has been a conflation of capitalism and colonialism. However, I save a discuss on the latter for a later day. Olufemi Taiwo, Professor of Philosophy and Global African Studies at the Seattle University in his book “Africa must be Modern” did a good job in laying out the differences between westernization and modernization. He states that, “the history of Africa’s engagement with modernity has always been wracked with doubt, ambivalence, confusion and hostility. Because in the dominant thinking of Africans and non-Africans alike that modernity is coterminous with westernization and the West.” He goes on to state his experience with African scholars who are “almost required to ritually reject anything western or, at least, show that their relationship with it cannot be other than negative or ambivalent”.

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The following was co-written by African Students For Liberty Board Member Alex Njeru     

As a way to end the lingering crises in several parts of Africa, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has renewed calls for a pan-African president to lead a United States of Africa. He was joining the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s refrain of pan-Africanism as a route to Africa’s development.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

At some point in Africa’s colonial and post-colonial history, ‘pan-Africanism’ was very popular. Notable pan-Africanist like Kwameh Nkrumah, who was quite conspicuously the poster boy of Pan-Africanism, and others like Haille Sellasie, Ahmed Sekou Toure and Muammar Gaddaffi proselytized it. They trotted the four corners of the continent looking for new adherents and converting them. This was one of the reasons for the establishment of the African Union.
However, very little thought went into what pan-Africanism was all about in form, substance and philosophy. Its emotional appeal did well to invigorate the struggle for independence of African countries. Sadly, it has not moved any further from its rallying call of people of African descent to an agenda for development. Pan-Africanism was supposed to be the force that galvanized Africa’s cause. It was supposed to give Africa a post-colonial identity, make a statement on Africa’s being, of Africa’s break-away from Euro-centric hegemony. Yet because in its very being pan-Africanism was very amorphous, none of these goals were met.

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The following was contributed by African Students For Liberty Local Coordinator Stephen Oyedemi

One of the beautiful things about most African countries is the diversity of cultures that define them; from Kenya to Nigeria to Ghana, Africa celebrates rich cultures that have evolved over many years. Culture simply put can be defined as the predominating attitudes and behaviour that characterise a group.

Cultures evolve; African cultures should come into modernity.

Many of us believe that the cultural settings of our forefathers were shaped by their society, what they saw, and their limited exposure to knowledge. We live in the times of Google, smart phones and apps, to mention a few; our thinking is highly influenced by the enormity of knowledge we are exposed to and there are no reasons for us to be confined to the ‘ancient’ cultures, or to pretend we love certain parts of them that in actual sense, we find extremely barbaric and irritating. Certain parts of cultures are good and could be exalted, but it is up to us to also decide those components of our cultures that we should forfeit.

Yoruba children for example are required by tradition to prostrate (male) or kneel (female) for their elders, but while this is a sign of respect and reverence for the elders, it is taking things too far when youths are expected to continue the practice in its undiluted form of a flat-faced form of genuflecting. While showing reverence should not go out of fashion, forms of expressing reverence should evolve.

Those parts of our cultures that do no uphold individual rights, liberties and dignity should be abandoned; those components that tend to crush the dignity and life of the girl child, render the lives of women worthless, dominate and frustrate minorities, should be discarded. We should be (more…)

             This article, first published on africanliberty.org, was written by Olanrewaju Olagunju

A market economy refers to a system in which economic decisions especially the pricing of goods and services are fully determined by the aggregate interactions of a country’s citizens and businesses, with little or intangible intervention from government. More innovations and technological advancements in rich nations have been successfully recorded as a result of the opportunities and provisions made available by a free market system, far much more than government policies can ever boast of. I take America as a study case, just about a century ago, only about 4% of Americans have indoor plumbing in their homes, only 2% of homes in the United States were graced with electricity.

Owning a personal computer and cell phone was totally out of the equation. There was 0% access to the internet. 1% automobiles and many wore casual clothes. The only few things that were available on the high side were maternal and newborn mortality, routine death from diseases due to lack of medicine. Without spilling any figures, you’d easily that story has long changed. America today is a world giant and this is loudly evident in the quality of lives of its people. It is important to clearly state that government policies weren’t essentially responsible for the phenomenal improvements in America between 1900 and now. Rather market happened to the American economy.  (more…)

The article was written by ASFL Executive Board Chairman Emeka Ezeugo

Every man wants to have his way, but a lot of factors prevent us from doing just that. Some of these factors may be religious, cultural or political. A Buddhist Monk or a Catholic Priest is forbidden by his religious vows to get married, some cultures forbid a King to step out of his palace except on peculiar situations, while some political ideologies encourage state regulation of the actions and behavior of its citizens.
In Nigeria, unfortunately, religion is used as an excuse to deny people of their individual rights and liberty. From a report, the daughter of a pastor of a popular Nigerian church converted to Islam and her father threatened fire and brimstone until the young lady took refuge in the palace of the Emir of the community. In another case, the British Broadcasting Corporation for Africa (BBC Africa) on June 25 broke the news of the Nigerian man who was bundled to a psychiatric hospital by his family members for not believing in God. The doctors certified him okay and advised his family members to let him be. I have mentioned in another post the case of LGTBs and why their rights should be respected. 

In various ways, the market has been so regulated that people find it difficult doing business in the country, while government monopoly and cronyism are encouraged. A few cases may suffice.
The federal government has put tariff on imported cars at 70% (35% Levy and 35% Duty), all in the guise of promoting locally made cars. What does it mean for the market? An increase in tax will lead to an increase in the price of cars, thereby reducing the people’s capability to buy imported cars and the services that come with it. In other words, car importers will increase the prices of imported cars considering the amount of tax they have to pay, therefore the average Nigerian will need to pay more to purchase second-hand cars popularly called “Tokunbo.” (more…)

The following was written by ASFL executive board member Peter Yakobe

Corruption has cost  Africa more than it has received in foreign aid. It is retarding the development in Africa and has disturbed the major operations in all sectors of society on the continent. In all of these sectors, the major operations have been going down because people in these sectors have been involved in rampant corruption hence increasing their own pockets at the expense of the poor people. Transparency International’s Corruption Perception index for 2013 confirms that corruption is highest in Africa compared to other parts of the world.
Corruption is an effect and a cause of poverty in Africa. We can reduce it.

First, there is a need to change the mindsets of people from seeing the abuse of public trust for personal gains as the usual. Awareness campaigns highlighting the dangers of corruption should be embarked on.

Parents and guardians should be teaching their young children the dangers of corruption. Once corruption is treated as immoral in our families, it will be seen as such by the younger generation. Children are influenced by what their parents do. This behoves on parents to avoid corruption at all costs in order to set good examples for their children. From the families, the next step should be to influence the school curriculums. Our curriculums from the lower classes should incorporate the lessons about corruption and its dangers. It should always be preached to our children as an immoral and dangerous to our development. We should include the anti corruption message in our songs and poems. We must ensure that the minds of people have the anti corruption message.

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On August 28, President Goodluck Jonathan launched a national identification card scheme for Nigerians. The biometric card will do more than serve as a means of identification – it will also serve as a passport and a depository of all financial records which will be held in trust by an American credit card company,  Mastercard.

This is not the first time a national identification project will be launched. Ten years ago, about $214 million went down the drain in such project. While the expatriates involved in the scam were convicted of bribery in their home country, Nigerians indicted in the scam that did not pass on to glory, roam free. The lesson of the past is how unserious we are about tackling graft. Ten years later, this disdain for due process is now disguised as a banking solution. We should not be deceived.

For one, the claims of a historic launch may be true. There is a chance that if the pilot program to enroll 13 million succeeds, Nigeria is on its way to show the world the danger of trusting in the government to respect citizens’ rights to privacy, especially with its collusion with a private company. The sinister marriage of Big Data and the Nigerian government should raise the hairs on our necks.

At the launch, President Goodluck Jonathan demonstrated the utility of the card by withdrawing money with it. His demonstration of the card’s qualities was impressive. It betrayed the range of information the card will store, from your mother’s maiden name to whether you are Hausa, Kalabari or Ijaw. Although the teaching of history is often relegated in our schools, we should not be ignorant of the dangers of profiling that the scheme portends. The Rwandan genocide was helped by group identification; people were easily dispatched on the basis of their ethnic affiliations.

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We are very pleased to announce that the Amharic edition of ‘The Morality of Capitalism’ is just out. It is one of our main accomplishments of 2014 which aims to challenge the common perspectives of free market capitalism and influence the thinking about the subject matter of liberty by filling the gap of the language barriers and providing the basic texts of freedom in a post socialist Ethiopia which lead to further the momentum to build toward achieving social change.

Our translation projects are focusing on translating, publishing, and distributing the work of incredibly prolific and brilliant writers aimed at spreading the central ideas of classical liberal thought to as wide an audience as possible and empower students on how a society could develop harmoniously in a non-centralized free economic and social order.

The Amharic edition of ‘The Morality of Capitalism’ now helps to improve student’s knowledge on the values of economic freedom and free market principles, which in turn have great impacts on strengthening free enterprise, enhancing human flourishing, and spreading the central ideas of free market entrepreneurship. In addition, we believe it develops the understanding and strengthens the abilities of students to act as antidotes to the country that is still heavily under the influence of socialist policies, none more destructive than the prohibition on private land ownership and notorious for the advancement of free trade.

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The following was written by ASFL Executive Board member Alex Njeru

The other day I had a really candid discussion with a Matatu driver, these Matatu drivers tend to be the uncensored voices that even nerdy professors need listen. This particular driver was lamenting.

‘My brother just died,’ He said.

‘Oh sorry, I said,’ how? I asked.

‘He had a tumor, he died two days ago at Kenyatta National Hospital,’ he continued.

He then continued to pore over the rather unfortunate circumstances that the led to his brother’s death.

It turns out that his brother was a member of the Akorino sect.  Quite messianic and dogmatic, did not believe in modern technology nor medicine, he died from an innocuous non malignant tumor that would have been treated without so much of an incision, when he went to hospital it was already too late.

The Matatu driver continued to narrate the story of his deceased brother, ‘Ucio ndaratumagira thimu, ati thimu ni daimon,’ that one could not use a phone, because he considered phones demons from the West,’ he told me in local language.

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The Following Article was Written by Olumayowa Okediran, ASFL’s Programs Manager

Africa has been the focus of many studies by economists and development experts. Though there exist diverse views about the way forward for Africa, the continent has seen little development in contrast to the rest of the world. Peter Bauer (1915-2002) spoke with resounding clarity on solutions to the economic penury of the developing world and Africa in particular. Bauer’s interests were related mostly to development economics and foreign aid. He sought to show the demerits of central planning, foreign aid and protectionism. He criticized the idea that the disadvantaged had no motivation to improve their condition and that third world countries are underdeveloped due to limited resources available to them, a theory peddled by several foreign aid advocates.

Bauer was interested in Africa and based his study on first hand observation of the continent. Barun S. Mitra, director of the Liberty Institute in India in his preface to the book Peter Bauer and the Economics of Prosperity, stated that Bauer’s insight into poverty was a result of his intensive work in Africa and Asia in the 1950s and 1960s. By studying West African economies closely, Bauer published West African Trade (1954) where he emphasized the importance of trade for economic development. All his life, he debunked the supposed necessity of government-to-government financial interventions in developing countries and emphasized the benefits of trade as a more suitable alternative.

Despite Bauer’s careful study of third world economies and his warnings about the demerits of foreign aid, every year, Africa’s begging bowl is constantly replaced with a bigger one. Between 2000 and 2008, foreign aid flow to sub-Saharan Africa increased from $12bn to $36bn, a whopping 300 percent increase, without any significant visibility in real economic development as a result of these huge amounts of money. One would wonder why countries like the United States, which tops the list of foreign aid donors, continue to give, despite its obvious ineffectiveness. Subsidizing African governments inevitably increases the power of government, escalates corruption and as Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid that she dedicates to Bauer states that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for economic development. Benevolence is not the reason why foreign countries give to Africa: it is simply economic control, not economic development.

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