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In an age of poly-crisis “The motherland” is churning in political and economic volatility. Coups in the west, anti-government protests in the east, insecurity and insurgency in the south, all meld onto the canvas of a global recession to create a crescendo of chaos. Catalysed by the pandemic, a global recession and a paucity of good governance, incumbent governments in Africa are dealing with a long-brewing lack of legitimacy. The ringing clarion call of “Out with the old!” (Ways of governing, corrupt power elites, international alliances) resonates across the continent. To satiate the people’s hunger for the new, beleaguered leaders seek new opportunities, partners and development outcomes.    

With known and understood systems, incentive structures and processes actively working against the new, the entrenched status quo of poor governance and poor economic outcomes can only be dislodged by an equally intentional redesign of the intent and systems of governance, economics and society. The rusty cogs turning the machinery of old empires are straining under the pressure of a new world. Agitated by the inescapable spectre of ineffective governance, and its resulting fruit of poverty, Africa’s youth are demanding a paradigm shift. The continent’s political turbulence evidences a critical mass of irreversible momentum in our evolution. The Darwinian inclination to evolve past our path-dependency of poor governance and economic outcomes requires our government systems to transcend their inability to deliver the public interest or implode with the internal pressure of the disgruntled many. 

The root of the bitter fruit of poverty: Economic trauma 

To justify the dehumanisation, subjugation and commodification of a people, a complex social construct affirmed by global trade, Christianity and science was created to define a hierarchy of human value, with Africans at the bottom. Africans, through their conspired intellectual and cultural inferiority, are a casualty of the racial thinking and the moral-psychological narrative that justified colonisation and primed Africans as the dehumanised foundation of plantation capitalism. This was the first domino in the hegemony of Western culture that persists to this day. As a sinister result, racial thinking, capitalism and globalisation, have interwoven over time to develop and maintain the unholy progeny of racial capitalism, the global system of economic order that persists against all agitations for equity. Two principles govern Africa’s experience with this global system of capitalism. First, the global capitalistic order is reliant on violence, slavery, imperialism, genocide and colonisation. Second, this racialised exploitation and the accumulation of capital are mutually reinforcing. 

To attempt a visceral understanding of what this means, we adopt psychological language to understand the current economic manifestation of centuries of subjugation. Considered through the reductionist lens of economic trauma, Africa’s economic, political and social turbulence presents as a severe collective form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). Reeling from the acute stress of being violently relegated to the bottom of the economic barrel, and the agile evolution of racial capitalism from slavery to its current form of imperial philanthropy, Africa’s collective autonomic system is activated in a primal but futile attempt at economic self-preservation. 

If we extend the allegory of Africa as a collective psychic entity, currently manifesting C-PTSD, the defining attribute of this activation is a fawn response to new and historical foreign taskmasters. Terrified of the stick of state sanctions, assassinated revolutionaries, funded rebel groups, and other subtle forms of violence, and on the other hand, feverish for the carrot of philanthropic imperialism and potent economic methamphetamines in the form of debt, African economies exist to serve the interests of neo-imperialists.  

Strung out on debt, unable to break free of the behavioural mould of economic subservience, Africa is caught in a loop of economic re-traumatisation. This self-propagating system of self-betrayal has cost Africa its people, wealth, and peace.   

The morphology of economic self-sabotage 

Conditioned into economic subservience, Africa’s socioeconomic and legal systems are aligned to the interests of its economic captors and often, in direct opposition to serving the needs of its constituents. I have previously addressed the contrivance and effect of the perverse incentive design of post-colonial governments and have pointed out how they maintain a profitable status quo for the extraction of resources. However, in pursuit of the lever of economic agency for Africa and its disenfranchised, we must address our own destructive economic coping mechanisms.


The uncomfortable reality of state-sanctioned economic self-betrayal is too distressing for the majority of us who cannot spare resource bandwidth to engage in activism, advocacy and civic education. Caught in a survival-of-the-fittest hamster wheel of financial solvency, those Africans who cannot escape to other countries condense all their civil responsibilities into the singular electoral act of choosing their government represented by the president. 

Despite the pomp and fanfair of African elections, countless electoral cycles with poor economic outcomes have encouraged a large percentage of us to manage our psychological discomfort with denial. We have deified individual leaders and political outfits in the hope they will be the singular lynchpin that leads to economic independence, revolution, and freedom. Seeking psychological safety in a patriarchal strong man to protect us, we have been wilfully incognisant that the pre-contaminated pool of leaders we choose from has neither the intent nor the capacity to serve the people. 

In pursuit of the lever of economic agency for Africa and its disenfranchised, we must address our own destructive economic coping mechanisms.

Denial is no longer a viable strategy. A financial crisis, a pandemic, a contracted global economy, and uncommon inflationary pressures mean that in Africa, the public cost per policy is shooting up and the public interest benefit is plunging, the inefficiencies of anti-public interest policies are multiplying. Africa’s youth, the brunt-bearers of ineffective government, are loath to ignore the cleaver malevolence of a government corrupted against the interests of its people. 

A flower that blooms in the dark cannot be trusted. In the same vein, in a rigged and decidedly anti-black global capitalistic system of economic governance, any African leader who is forced to navigate global policy is contaminated by the same impulses of self-betrayal. Those who excel in this global reality of the neocolonialist agenda, the darlings of foreign alliances, the defenders of their principles, and champions of their causes are, in essence, treasonous to their people, to their nation, to this continent. The denial of the strained and disenfranchised majority of this continent has enabled the neglect of the fact that the people’s interest is not that of the global economic order. With the increasing internal pressure for change, the civic responsibility to choose the next government must be viewed through the lens of their inclination to provide the public interest in a global system that actively discourages it.  

 Displacement and political trauma bonds

In hindsight, the colonial collaborators won a place in the global hierarchy. Specifically, those African leaders who survived the “post-independence” fever dream of economic independence and Black power learned one very important lesson. An African leader’s compulsive, globally mandated task is to maintain enough administrative control, to allow and enable the quiet extraction of valuable resources. How well leaders were at directing the monopoly power of government to enable this resource-leaching determined their political and sometimes material survival.

While the age of the enduring African Dictator (red beret and aviator shades optional) is coming to an end, in a kind of “Groundhog Day” of poor leadership and outcomes, we still find ourselves the victims of almost comical leadership. In an almost karmic replication of the conditions that enabled the transatlantic slave trade, we keep choosing leaders who betray us, whip us into ethnocentric frenzies that demonise other Africans, tribes or religions and keep us focused on scarcity and meaningless conflict while the bulk of our continental wealth (people and other resources) make their way overseas. 

The pre-contaminated pool of leaders we choose from has neither the intent nor the capacity to serve the people.

The African collaborator’s original sin of disunity and greed has morphed into a kind of internalised self-hatred that dooms us to a perpetual cycle of “crabs in a barrel”. I venture that after hundreds of years, the familiarity of exploitation has been a comfort to the Africans, even if there are signs that this sadomasochism is abating, at least from the youth. The scales of denial are falling from the eyes of Africa’s youth and the shackles of complicity in our exploitation are slowly but surely disintegrating. In response to growing calls for change, I predict a clamping down of the old guard as incumbent governments displace their panicked aggression onto their citizens. As the old guard of incumbent governments tighten their treasonous grip through policies of austerity, higher taxation, rampant corruption, and the privatisation of state functions by foreign imperialistic forces, the exploitative basis of our public policy will be harder to justify.

Know thyself!

The impulse to evolve or succumb to the pressures of our economic subjugation is growing in a new scramble and partition of the motherland. The path of evolution means recognising and addressing this unnerving, collective pattern of self-sabotaging behaviour. It is the key to our absolution, our liberation, our evolution. The path to our self-destruction is carved by the ancestors of the colonial collaborators who sold the first slaves and then stood guard as the continent was plundered. These anti-Africans who pandered to the whims of empire are now selling Africa’s soul for a little bit of blood-gold, blood-diamond, blood-cobalt and blood-lithium. Having traded in their red berets and aviator sunglasses for Christian Louboutin, they may have the power, but Africa’s youth hold the key to a new now, another tomorrow. 

The civic responsibility to choose the next government must be viewed through the lens of their inclination to provide the public interest in a global system that actively discourages it.  

The self-aware choice is the key to awakening from Africa’s collective nightmare. The knowledge of the real threat of a global economic system that is invested in the collective subservience of African people and the unrestricted plunder of its resources and the evaluation of our leaders, policies and priorities with this in mind provides the first point of conscious action and the creation of new neural pathways that will transform our collective thought and ultimately, collective reality. A new Africa made manifest.