A few days ago, the world’s youngest leader (34), interim head of state of Burkina Faso had what is considered the best performance by any visiting head of state during the just ended Russia-Africa summit. He was reminiscent of the visionary Thomas Sankara; radiating a seeming authenticity and genuine concern for the well-being of his people and the people of Africa as a whole. He presented himself as the voice of the African youth and has since become a beacon of hope.

Part of me relishes the sight of youth leadership in Africa but I also fear he is leading a populist movement that has no real solutions for the problems faced by the people of Burkina Faso. Guinea, Mali, and now Niger have also come under military rule in recent times, All these military governments are working to support each other in a bid to create some new vision for governance in Africa that I fear might not have much substance beyond the advantage of force. Force that might at best keep out external threats but also maintain a stronghold over the people they supposedly serve.

After calling out his fellow African African leaders during the general assembly for being aid seekers, Ibrahim Traore proceeded to seek aid from Russia and pledge support for Russia’s movement to create a multipolar world. Overall I saw a continuation of the African narrative in which there is the victim, the perpetrator, and the savior. Every African country sees itself as the victim. The perpetrator and the savior change depending on the circumstances. In the case of Burkina Faso, France is the perpetrator and and Russia is the one that can save them. The issue with this way of thinking is that the savior almost always becomes the perpetrator when you think you no longer need him.

I looked as Traore’s delegation and it was filled with military personnel who make it a point to stick to the fatigues and avoid the suits, communicating their ready for combat state of mind. Those people have their strengths in combat and recognizance but what do they really know about world economics or science and engineering. In discussing a deal with an investor to build the fruit processing factories they want Russia to help build, who do they want to lead such discussions? I know my people will tell me Dangote did not go to Harvard but I believe Harvard graduates are the people Dangote looks to hire.

Change in Africa must be led by Africa’s intellectuals. There are many out there lending their brains to Fortune 500 and other top companies and governments around the world but you don’t see them being called when it is comes to making development plans for Africa. The obvious reason is that those people are intimidating to these leaders with an inferiority complex. There is a saying that you can insult a King’s everything but his intelligence. If we keep getting aid to build infrastructures that we don’t have the skills to maintain, we will continue in this cycle of debt. 60 years post independence, we still need foreigners to construct a simple road or stadium. The Douala International Airport is under the management of a foreign company. That to me is just ridiculous.

For me, a plan to bring Africa out of poverty must start with a quality skill based education. We must train the people that can build the roads and other infrastructure we need. This will make sure we make better use of the aid we get by hirings locals to do the job. Right now we get aid from China then pay the Chinese to do the job, then pay them to manage the infrastructure later. That sis a win win situation for China and a win lose situation for us.

I am almost tempted to say Cameroon had a significant win during the summit; getting Russia to increase academic scholarships from 47 to 100 students. The problem is, how do we create an environment that attracts all of these trained experts back into the country. I believe there was a time when Cameroon itself invested in training its own people instead of relying on foreign governments to give them scholarships.

We must also understand that we cannot adopt western life standards given our current circumstances. Most importantly, we must stop with the victim narrative and assume full responsibility for our now and our future.



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