Wednesday, February 13, 2013

‎"Africa: A Continent of Beggars - Anonymous

What is going on? Why have we turned into a continent of beggars?
Our leaders go abroad to beg for “aid” to support the national budget or else they can’t run our countries. They beg for loans, grants, and experts to develop Africa. It makes no sense, when you have everything you need at home to cook a good meal, to go begging your neighbour for their food."

What is going on in Africa? From Burkina Faso to Madagascar, from presidents to street children, I have never come across so much begging in my life. Every single day, no matter which African country I am in, I am accosted by beggars. And I don’t just mean the regular beggars we see on the streets everywhere in the world. No. The African culture of begging permeates all spheres of life–from extended family members to the young bank teller; everyone seems to think begging is okay. In fact, some of us have even become professional beggars and live solely by this way of life. Can you imagine the frustration of arriving in a country and dealing with immigration staff that are nothing more than beggars in uniform? I have known situations where immigration officers, on the pretence of checking for contraband goods, have rummaged through my belongings and begged for whatever item catches their fancy.

Recently, on arriving at the airport in Accra, Ghana, I was disgusted when an immigration officer actually begged that I give him the biscuits I had bought for my children. Just ordinary biscuits, which he could easily have bought on the streets of Accra! Naturally I refused. Can you believe another young officer escorted me to my waiting car, all the while trying to convince me to part with the biscuits? What kind of begging is this? After extracting myself from that irritating situation, it was time to go home. But not before the hangers-on at the airport had demanded I give them “pounds or coins”. All across the continent, you see young men standing at the airports, ready to help you push your trolley to your car for some “small change”. Whether you seek their assistance or not, everybody is keen to “help” you.

But of course you soon find out this “help” comes at a cost. These days, one of the biggest beggars (like our immigration officers) also comes in uniform. I am talking about African policemen and women. Even if you are the victim of a crime, the police have no shame in begging you for money before coming to your assistance. Right now, drivers in Ghana are being accosted every day and night by these “beggars in uniform”. Because of the high incidence of robberies in the past, the Ghana police started mounting barriers at night, as a way to protect innocent members of society. The idea really is for the police to search each vehicle to make sure it is not full of robbers carrying dangerous weapons such as guns.

Instead, when a driver gets to a barrier, the police shine their pathetic torch lights in the car and, sometimes, ask for something “small for iced water or Fanta”. I mean, what kind of life is this? Why should policemen and women turn themselves into professional beggars? I know they are underpaid, but come on, begging for money from the populace is not cool. These “beggars in uniform” are all over the streets of West Africa and travelling by road from say Ghana to Benin is no laughing matter. You will come across so many barriers and you know at each one, a beggar in uniform will demand something from you. For doing their job! That is what gets to me the most. The majority of people begging in Africa are in full-time gainful employment.

Yet they beg for money from you for them to do their jobs! Can you imagine, after withdrawing your money from a bank, the bank teller begs for “something” from you? I have heard of secretaries who, no matter how many times you visit their offices, will tell you their boss is unavailable. Yet the same secretaries have no shame in begging you for “something”. “Something” which, when it materialises, guarantees you a meeting with the “absent” boss.

This culture of begging has permeated the whole African social order, from our governments down to every sector of society. In the classrooms, teachers beg schoolchildren for their “luxury foods” such as apples which they cannot afford on a teacher’s salary. Pathetic but true! Visit any establishment and the security officer will act as if he is helping you to find a parking lot. The minute you step out of your car, the begging starts: “Oh madam, I dey ooo!”You stop at the traffic lights and young children who are supposedly trying to earn a living by cleaning your car windows or selling chewing gum, all of a sudden turn into professional beggars. These days, many of our young men are creating work for themselves by filling in the potholes on our roads, whilst at the same time begging for money!

What is going on? Why have we turned into a continent of beggars?

Our leaders go abroad to beg for “aid” to support the national budget or else they can’t run our countries. They beg for loans, grants, and experts to develop Africa. It makes no sense, when you have everything you need at home to cook a good meal, to go begging your neighbour for their food. You may not be a good cook, but once you have the ingredients, surely you can only try? For as long as we keep begging foreigners to produce for us, we will never know how to manufacture anything. We may not know how to mine and polish diamonds, but how can we know when we do not learn? We would rather beg foreign investors to come and do it for us, on their own terms! "

My Passion, my focus, the change that I want to see in the world - is my propellent factor.

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