Book Review: The African Progress Initiative by Ekos Akpokabayen

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Africa is sometimes considered to be one of the world’s biggest crimes. A crime against humanity, Africans, and the black race. Until this thought is investigated, Africans might wander and wonder for centuries more. “How did we miss it?” we would ask for generations to come.

Who better to help us navigate this question than Ekos, a Nigerian living in South Africa? This tug of war between Pan-Africanism and the growing hate for other Africans in South Africa set the stage for understanding Africa’s pain.  Being at the center of one of Africa’s biggest conflicts could just be the perfect place to start our dialogue on patching the broken pieces of the dark continent.

His introduction of Africa has close similarities with how Walter Rodney describes the continent in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. They agree in their philosophies about the critical role that agriculture, industry, and trade play in economic development. Ekos, allows his work to show how liberation struggles developed across Africa; from Ghana to Nigeria, to South Africa and to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ekos Akpokabai’s approach, in The African Progress Initiative, to the African problem, is akin to an investigative crime story. You’d sit through it all wondering who committed the ultimate crime that completes the whole puzzle. Then you’d realize soon enough that there’s no ultimate crime but a gradual decay that ate its way into the very heart of every actor in the stage play; that before your eyes diminish into a sore spectacle.

African leadership is one of such decays that Ekos investigates. He captures Africa’s history without boring the reader with all that transpires in each arena. He coordinates the story like a courtroom debate, lacing the logic with the strength of philosophy. The book engages you like the work of a historian but also like that of an Academic. He starts off with a historical narration or as he puts it, “an archaeological record” of man’s evolution from Africa into a divide of skin colour and the resultant acrimony, slavery, colonization, and conquests that followed.

In the African Progress Initiative, the reader must set aside time to ponder and ask questions. It’s not one of those reads where you blitz through and forget in the heat of euphoria.

These stories of coups and counter-coups are the real experiences of Africans, their leaders, the colonial economies, and the devious plots that turned Africa into something almost unrecognizable.

The struggle to govern Africa is one that has battled through the personal thirst of leaders for power, the metamorphosis of leadership into a capitalist venture, and horrid bloodletting. The motives for governance according to this book has had a long history of personal glory and entitlement by liberation leaders. The African leader is typically one who has had to stand against the tyranny of colonialists only for him to turn around and oppress his own people. Ekos shows how estranged Africans have been from this dimension of oppression. The struggles to liberate Africa from colonial rule, seemed legitimate as he offers. However, the aftermath and the struggle to free Africa from Africans is one that leaves even the most astute thinkers bewildered.

Therefore, Ekos continued his investigation by exploring the difference between rulership and leadership. In his words, “African leaders, particularly generals and dictators who had altered their country’s constitutions to give them indefinite rulership, now found themselves in some dilemma with the new dispensation of democracy. That dilemma was evident in the fact that in instituting democracy, a certain degree of power had to be given to the people (citizens).”

Some of these rulers were caught between their feelings of entitlement to power as former freedom fighters and the need for democratic processes. In this new system of government which was sweeping across Africa, one man’s conscience was not enough for justice, one man’s directive was not enough for leadership, and the people’s desires took priority over one person’s desires.

This power struggle between the ruler and the ruled is one that tugs and pulls at the very fiber of our humanity as Africans. The African Progress Initiative identifies the roles of morality and ethics in the fabrication of a new consciousness. Another substantial decay that has followed poor leadership like flies on excreta being unabated corruption, the author proposes new African systems and ideologies that rely on ethical processes.

In concluding his work, Ekos prescribes systems that would serve to heal and mend fences across African borders. The author expounds theories about intra-African trade including those between top economies like Nigerian and South Africa. These two giants have continued to lock horns instead of collaborating for global competitiveness. This book highlights the role that Africa’s internal trade could play in positioning Africans for inclusion in global forums like the BRICS, Commonwealth and many others.

He tells a story that draws on the comparative advantage across African countries. He doesn’t isolate his prescribed solutions from the weakness that such solutions must encounter. An example is the human resource management failure in Nigeria contrasted against the entrepreneurial aptitude of the people. Another is how South Africa’s industrial prowess overshadows all her many flaws. The author proposes, that harnessing industry with enterprise could help the African youth become a better version of himself. In this future Africa, government-backed investments provide the machinery for Africans to be protected in their foreign ventures, and African voices become better amplified. Africans will no longer be caught singing solos in empty theatres. Rather, it will be an orchestra of the most unimaginable size and magnitude as Africa transitions from emerging to be a developed continent.

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