African Socialism Was A Disaster

It beggars belief that someone affiliated with Harvard University, namely, Emmanuel Akyeampong, whose post is that of Professor of African Studies, can credit Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere as having had a “vision” which Africa needs to embrace.

African Independent does its credibility no favours by publishing such nonsense (issue 02/March/April 2018).

Clearly, Akyeampong has never read Martin Meredith’s book The Fate of Africa: A history of fifty years of independence published by Public Affairs in New York in 2005. The book was acclaimed, inter alia, by the New York Times, Boston Globe and the Financial Times.

Here are the key facts regarding Nkrumah and Nyerere.Although, semantically, Nkrumah quarrelled with Nyerere over what socialism in Africa should be, his pursuit of it had the same disastrous outcome. Like Nyerere, he advocated the nationalisation of the economy. By 1966 there were 50 state owned enterprises in Ghana.They included: Ghana National Construction Company; State Steel Works; State Gold Mining Company; State Fibre Bag Corporation; Ghana Fishing Corporation; State Vegetable Oil Mills Corporation; State Farm Corporation; State Airline – p.185 of Meredith’s book.

By 1966, the year Nkrumah was ousted in a military coup, all those enterprises were loss-making disasters and part of the reason Ghana was bankrupt by 1963 – just six years after receiving independence at which it was described as the ‘jewel of Africa.” State farms were staffed by Nkrumah functionaries who were agriculturally illiterate. Living standards had receded to what they were before 1939.(pp. 186-87).

Nyerere’s embrace of socialism replicated the mass relocation of peasants that Stalin and Mao Tse Tung carried out in Russia and China – with the same disastrous outcomes.

In 1967, in the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere stated his intention of clustering Tanzania’s peasant population into extended villages. The policy was called ujamaa and was intended to promote self-reliance. It was to be implemented on a voluntary basis. (Meredith, pp. 252-54) At the same time, Nyerere nationalised the entire Tanzanian economy – every aspect from banks to manufacturing and food production. By mid-1973 only some two million peasants had opted to live in the ujamaa villages. Impatient to see his collectivist plan fulfilled, Nyerere used coercion and brutality to herd a further 11 million peasants into his ujamaa paradise (Meredith, pp. 253-54).

By 1979, with 13 million Tanzanians effectively incarcerated in camps, mass starvation had become a reality since their communal agricultural efforts produced only five percent of the country’s food needs.Food aid through the World Bank amounted to 200,000 tons. (pp. 256-57)

Between 1977 and 1982, national productivity in Tanzania declined by 33%. Living standards plunged by 50%. Whilst admitting that his socialist dream had not materialised, Nyerere remained adamant that socialism was the answer (p. 258). Under Nyerere, in the 1970s Tanzania became the world’s greatest recipient of foreign aid – $3 billion (p. 259). Yet thanks to socialism,it had nothing to show for that aid and became one of the planet’s most impoverished states.

From this cursory critique, it should be obvious that neither Nkrumah nor Nyerere can be regarded as beacons towards which Africa should chart its future. One hopes, in the spirit of audi alteram partem, that you will have the courage to publish this critique in the next issue of African Independent.

The African Independent (This is a new glossy magazine sent free to all subscribers of the Mercury)
Published,  March 16, 2018.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *