By Gerald Mwale, LUSAKA Zambia
I just feel compelled to share the narrative below with as many people as possible…
Is Poverty in Africa Indigenous or Imported?
A friend of mine went to Chongwe on the outskirts of Lusaka, the Zambian capital, a few years back.
He found a peasant farmer whom he asked: “Are you a poor man?”
The man, because that’s what he’s been told ever since he was born, replied: “Oh, yes. Certainly I’m a poor man!”
To this my friend said: “Ok. Let’s sit down. You affirm that you’re poor, but in this homestead I see chickens scratching the ground; how many do you have?”
The man scratched his head because he had quite a number. “I think 20 or 30,” he replied.”
“Really?” my friend rejoinder. “What about the pigs I see roaming the yard? The cattle? And the maize in your barn?” The man replied that they belonged to him.
“So…”my friend went on: “You still maintain that you are poor?”
“Yes,” the man replied, “I’m poor.”
“Why do you say you’re poor?” my friend asked.
“Because I don’t have electricity, a TV and a car, like you town people,” was the reply.
“Is that so?” my friend went on: “Come on, let’s put a price on each of the items you have: the chickens, the goats, the pigs, the cattle, the maize in the barn…”
When they quantified the items, the man was amazed to be told that he was rich; that he was worth much more than the average town dweller.
But he still insisted that he was poor. Because to him poverty was already defined by the educated elite in town.
That, to me, is the African tragedy: Not just the politics, natural resources, and economics debates about poverty in Africa.
As a people, we continue to discount ourselves and our own personal wealth, because to be “rich” does not conform with the Western definition of the continent’s status quo.
African poverty is within our psychic. It has been preached and ingrained in us to such an extent that we believe it’s the natural state of affairs.
To remove the stigma, we must first find value in our selves instead of continually degrading ourselves in the eyes of the rest of the world.
That’s why we have all those sub-Saharan youths risking their lives making that perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. And there are those horrible scenes in Libya where sub-Saharan youths are being treated like dirt.
It’s because they are made to believe they are valueless in their own home countries.
I have brothers and cousins in the rural areas who are all engaged in agriculture and they are NOT poor! Visit them in my village “kwa Mgubudu” in Chipata, eastern Zambia, and see for yourselves.
And I can’t forget how, several years ago, the West humiliated sub-Saharan Africa by making countries compete for the title of “Highly Indebted Poor Countries” (HIPC) in order to be exploited further.
The author Gerald Mwale is a Journalism Lecturer and Researcher, Media & Communication Studies, University of Zambia You can contact him via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com