Whenever the term “intellectual” is sandwiched between “Lazy” and “African Scum”, there is a high likelihood of public backlash. However, Field Ruwe skillfully threads the needle to deliver a candid and thought provoking article dissecting a conversation he had with Walter a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) agent in Zambia. The gist of the article can be summed up as a pep-talk for African intellectuals to utilize their knowledge, expertise and resources to advance their societies.
Africans have for decades fought and demonstrated the desire to be on a path to prosperity. We are always grateful and eager to partner with comrades who can offer meaningful support and sincere advice with the capacity and tools to leap existing barriers. Africa has for long been viewed as a continent with a lot of potential and resources but lacking a spark and leadership to unlock the immense human capital.
What I find hypocritical and indefensible about the character of Walter is the notion that he lambasts the “lazy” generation of African intellectuals for not cleaning the well from which they drink while he is dumping toxic waste in it. He is still eager to return to Africa under the umbrella of an organization with the same agenda as the IMF to further exploit the same Africans he appears to care immensely about.
“I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked.
This is not an attempt to defend the ineptitude of African intellectuals that Walter candidly points out. We certainly have a lot of work to do. However, it would be foolhardy to down-play the impact of expatriates that have for long baited Africa with the “Carrot and stick” “Give me an African president, just one, who has not fallen for the carrot and stick.” Says Walter.
The “Carrot and stick” is a technique of managing people and inducing behavior by combining the two principles of motivation “reward” and “punishment”. This strategy was historically utilized by cart drivers; they would dangle a carrot in front of a mule (always out of reach) while also holding a stick behind the mule. The mule had two options, either it follows the positive reinforcement of attempting to reach and bite the carrot and in the process draw the cart or resort to negative reinforcement when the driver whipped it with a stick and the fear of the excruciating pain forced the mule to move forward. Walter confesses that the organizations he works for including the IMF have been employing such hard-handed tactics to manage African leaders and in the process gaining control and influence over resources and national affairs.
“I work for the broker that has acquired a chunk of your debt. Your government owes not the World Bank, but us millions of dollars. We’ll be in Lusaka to offer your president a couple of millions and fly back with a check twenty times greater.”
Organizations such as the IMF operate a classic “Carrot and stick” strategy. They provide loan packages (the carrot) with strings attached (structural adjustment policies (SAPs). Countries have to adhere to these conditions—which often outline economic and governing policies; where and how loaned money will be spent or what has to be cut and sacrificed for loans to be repaid. Countries that fail to adhere to these policies are often cut off from IMF funding, debt servicing and loan forgiveness programs (the stick). Under-the watchful eyes, policies and prescriptions of the IMF, Africa is currently home to the most heavily indebted poor countries, rising inequality and stunted economic growth while Walter and the IMF are walking away with “a check twenty times greater” than what was originally invested. The big checks African governments make to service debts and bank accounts of expatriates is ironically the sweat of the hardworking people that Walter claims to have wept for. “Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept”
The partnership between the Bretton Woods institutions, multinational organizations and corrupt leadership is a perfect storm that has left African nations scrambling in the deep end– drowning in debt. “We come in with our large boats and fish your minerals and your wildlife and leave morsels—crumbs—I get what I want and you get what you deserve, crumbs. That’s what lazy people get—Zambians, Africans, the entire Third World.” Walter’s confession highlights the plight of our nations and the urgency for Africa to seek a path towards economic independence.
Africans have to refrain from the temptation of the “Carrot” and stand fearless whenever the “stick” strikes. It’s imperative that we lay the foundation of collective responsibility to tackle African problems, refraining from enticement and short term gains. To avoid getting bread crumbs, Africans need to start baking their own bread.