Bamboo’s Statement and Opinion Editorial On The Crisis In Egypt: ‘A Revolution Of Dissatisfaction and Dashed Expectations’
(January 31, 2011, Nairobi, Kenya/Atlanta, Georgia) What we are witnessing in the African nation of Egypt is the culmination of years of dissatisfaction felt by the people of not only that country but all of the continent’s 53 countries. In 1922 Britain recognized Egypt as independent, yet control of vital assets, systems, and centers of power was not fully transferred to its government or people. Decades later, the last British troops left Egypt but a colonial presence remained. Frantz Fanon described the remaining work to be done generally as ‘decolonizing the mind,’ in his book The Wretched of The Earth. In 1956 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser boldly nationalized the strategically important Suez Canal, yet again, the colonial economy was not dismantled.
It continued in the mentality of leadership as well as public policy.
The problem that every post-colonial African nation has faced and failed to completely address and confront is how to end its own business monopoly – the control it or foreign powers have over the rules that dictate economic activity – in a way that empowers the poor, the youth, the talented, intellectuals, professionals, and women. In every instance in one form or another either poorly guided Socialist or Marxist control of economies, or what is called the ‘Washington Consensus’: 1) privatizing economies according to the orders of the IMF, WTO, and World Bank 2) establishing democracies and 3)focusing on the corruption, falsely advertised their benefits and produced an elite who, in partnership with an international financing structure, disproportionately controlling business activity, political expression, and personal freedoms.
Regardless to whomever wins elections, it seems, the ‘ins’ and the ‘outs’ have only ‘their people’ in mind when they come to power and hand out political patronage, and the economy fails to expand beyond mining the region’s precious minerals and natural resources for export to other parts of the world. The result are economies that never become broad or dynamic enough to employ their own sincere and talented people and a level of dissatisfaction and dashed expectations inherited from generation to generation. That level of dissatisfaction has now reached a boiling point – not just on the streets of Cairo but in the hearts and minds of all sincere people who simply want a better quality of life and want to enjoy inalienable civil, human and universal rights and freedoms.
This generation – in Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa and all over the world – is simply too sophisticated, too informed, too connected by social media and too fed up to tolerate what their parents did. With over 40% of its population below 15 years of age, Africa has the largest youth population in the world. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 77.7 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unable to find work. Of the world’s 620 million economically active youth between the ages of 15 and 24, 81 million were out of work at the end of 2009.
I launched the Pan-African Street Movement largely because I think that maybe the biggest problem in Egypt and Africa is youth unemployment. Over the past few days I have heard economists, analysts, and so-called experts talk about the need for job creation and the role that government plays in that. I don’t disagree but I also believe that the best job creators are not governments but the people themselves – the entrepreneurs and hustlers who everyday find a way to make a way out of no way and get it!’ Until these persons have access to the same kind of capital that governments control through their business monopoly, the situation is not going to change and more and more stubborn leaders who have outlived their usefulness in office are going to be removed from power. Sadly, I believe this will happen violently as much as by peaceful means.
And just like it was in the days of the liberation struggle, when the masses set their differences aside to target a common enemy - the people will be united across their conservative, radical, traditional, and progressive political ideologies, and even tribal, ethnic, religious and racial boundaries.
Unless the current Arab and African leadership begin to make radical and realistic policy changes like distributing oil revenues (and those which come from gold, diamonds, and precious minerals) directly to the people, allowing them to feed their families, start and grow businesses, and enjoy a higher quality of life, the level of dissatisfaction is only going to increase and we will see revolution, after revolution.
The direct distribution of natural resource revenue has been discussed for the Niger Delta which has long had a dispute over the equitable sharing of oil revenues; and in Libya, where the Leader, Muammar Gadhafi, was bold enough to suggest that as much as $30 billion of the country’s oil wealth would do better in the hands of the Libyan people than government officials and bureaucracy.
However, in both instances, this progressive idea has not been implemented.
In 2011 we have entered the era of the dissatisfied global youth, and we’d all be wise to hear their cry and make a change for the better, or else it will not just be Tunis and Cairo that will be burning.
Bamboo is an international recording artist raised in both Inglewood, California and Nairobi, Kenya. He is co-founder of the Pan-African Street Movement dedicated to the empowerment of the poor, women, entrepreneurs and youth of the world. His forthcoming album, The International, will be released this Spring.
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Monday, March 14, 2011