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African Underdevelopment Will Continue, Says American Diplomat


A development economist, Mr. Brian Browne, has said that the economic underdevelopment of Africa and third world nations in general, would continue until there is a change in the economic design of the world which he said was deliberately made to keep poor nations down.

He said this at the 90th birthday lecture in honour of Professor Adetowun Ogunsheye, the first woman professor in Nigeria and the first African woman to graduate from the Ivy-league University of Cambridge, held in Ibadan, Oyo State at the weekend and organized by Ogunsheye’s collegues in Atayese, a Yoruba organization that believes in the redirection of the lot of the people in Nigeria.

According to Brianne in the lecture he entitled What will save us from the injustice of mainstream economics?, only a conscious effort by these nations can change the wrongs that have “relegated so much of humanity to poverty and despair”.

Brianne, a columnist with the Nation newspaper, a career diplomat whose last African posting was American Consul General to Nigeria, co-authored the famous book, Financialism, with the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which is an expose on how misleading conventional economic thinking can lead to bad policy decisions and underdevelopment using examples from the United States and Nigeria.

Explaining the nature of the financial and economic crises that he said had bedeviled poor nations of the world, Brianne said the system was such that the poor nations were held down in all respect.

“Ten of the world’s richest people hold more wealth than the 3.6 billion people who constitute the poorest half of humanity. The world produces more food than at any point in history yet one in every ten people struggle against dire poverty and imminent hunger. Meanwhile, tons of edible food are discarded and burned on a daily basis.

“Affluent people have amassed so much wealth that they can afford to visit outer space in their own craft. Yet, billions of people live as their distant ancestors did, using the same rudimentary farm implements to till barren soil and eke out a hard scratch existence. The cell phones that have pierced into these areas are but trinkets to gull people into believing they are of the modern world when that world has left them far behind,” he said.

According to him, it is only a conscious understanding of the nature of the underdevelopment that can break the cycle of want and poverty.

“Try as they might, African nations cannot break the hold that poverty and rich nations have on them. African nations have basically done as told by the economic masters. You opened your markets to free trade. Instead of benefiting, you lost the small control you had over your economic life. You integrated into their financial system and banks like them. The more banks you build, the more you fall into debt that takes you farther from the development you want,” he said.

In his own words, the Chairman of the occasion, Chief Tokunbo Ajasin, said that Atayese recognised the contributions of Ogunsheye and thought it wise to celebrate her on the attainment of such a significant age and enjoined Yoruba to come to terms with the objectives of the organization.

“Our main objective within Yoruba land is to advocate the establishment of good governance, uphold the Omoluabi ethos in Yorubaland while re-enacting and improving on the modernization scheme started by our revered forebears in the latter half of the fifties. Ever since Nigeria attained independence in 1960, the Yoruba nation and indeed Nigeria has practically gone to sleep.

“Before independence, we had a common goal in getting rid of the colonialists, but unfortunately, having gotten rid of the foreign oppressors, our leaders relapsed and themselves became worse oppressors, particularly with the advent of the military in governance. We had thought that with the institution of democracy, the situation would change. But rather than being ameliorated, the situation has gotten worse by the day,” he said.

He bemoaned the state of the Nigerian economy which he said had been “so bastardized, pulverized and looted to the extent that over 80% of Nigerians now live below the poverty line” stating that his Yoruba organization, the Atayese, “believes that now more than ever is the time to think out of the box. We cannot continue to do things the same way over the years and expect a different result.”


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