Sub-Saharan Africa plays host to most of the world’s poor people, fuelling the decision of West Africa as the area of interest for this article. I chose three peculiar West African countries; Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon to show the contrast that exists within this region.
Ghana officially called the Republic of Ghana with Accra as its political capital city, is a sovereign multinational state with a unitary presidential constitutional democracy located along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, in the sub-region of West Africa.
In 1957, it became the first African nation to declare independence from European colonization. It is for this reason that, Ghana is seen as the symbol of Black achievement. This helped to inspire other African nations to seek independence, having a major influence on Pan-Africanism and the Black Pride movements in the United States of America. Ghana’s current president is Nana Akufo-Addo, who won the 2016 presidential election against, John Dramani Mahama, by a margin of 9.45%. Akufo-Addo was sworn into office on 7 January 2017. John Dramani Mahama who was president since July 2012 faced serious criticism during his tenure. Mahama’s government is blamed for the economic hardship the country is currently facing with hopes kept alive for Akufo-Addo to make significant changes. Akufo-Addo has so far been praised within and out of Africa for his charisma, dynamism and exemplary leadership.
Ghana has a total land area of 238,533 sq km. According to the World Factbook (2016), the country has a population of 26,908,262 (July 2016 est.). She has a GDP of $114.7 billion (2015 est.) on PPP. Ghana has an unemployment rate of 5.2% (2013 est.) and the percentage of her population living below the poverty line stands at 24.2% (2013 est.). The literacy rate of those who are 15 years of age and above, who can read and write is 76.6% (2015 est.), with an internet penetration rate of 23.5%, (Freedom House 2015). With these statistics, Ghana qualifies as the good piece of the West African Pie.
Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its federal capital territory, Abuja. British influence and control over what eventually became Nigeria and Africa’s most populous country grew through the 19th century. A series of constitutions after World War II granted Nigeria greater autonomy and subsequently, independence came in 1960.
Elected in 2015, in what is widely referred to as Nigeria’s first ‘transparent’ elections, Muhammadu Buhari is currently Nigeria’s president. Unfortunately, his leadership has been a bittersweet experience. According to IMF’s World Economic Outlook for October 2016, though many top government officials have been jailed for corruption, Nigeria – “Giant of Africa”, is still fighting hard to keep her position as Africa’s biggest economy. The government continues to face the daunting task of reforming the petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement. Also, worth mentioning is the fact that, Nigeria continues to experience longstanding ethnic and religious tensions resulting to the creation and existence of groups like Boko Haram and the Niger Delta Avengers who are responsible for most of the societal insecurities in West Africa as a whole and Nigeria and Cameroon in particular.
According to the World Factbook, Nigeria has a population of 186,053,386 (July 2016 est.) with a GDP of $415.08 billion (IMF’s World Economic Outlook for October 2016). Nigeria has an unemployment rate of 23.9% (2011 est.) and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is 70% (2010 est.).The literacy rate of those from 15 years and above who can read and write is 59.6% (2015 est.) (World Factbook, 2016). These statistics place Nigeria in the not so good/not so bad piece of the pie.
And then Cameroon. Cameroon, known as the Republic of Cameroon with Yaounde and Douala as her political and Economic capital cities respectively, is a country in the West Central Africa region. The country is often referred to as “Africa in miniature” because of its geological and cultural diversity. French and English are her official languages due to her political history.
French Cameroon became independent in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year, the Southern portion of neighboring British Cameroon voted to merge with the new Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state forming the United Republic of Cameroon. Until recently, the country had generally enjoyed stability, despite a very slow movement toward democratic reforms. Political power remains firmly in the hands of President Paul Biya who has been president since 1982. It will be useful to mention that since 2009, Cameroon has suffered several terrorist attacks masterminded by the Nigerian grown sect- Boko Haram. Cameroon today plays host to a huge number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and refugees, who are either victims/survivors of Boko Haram’s attacks or the current political unrest in the Central African Republic or Gabon.
In recent times, schools, courts and other businesses in the English-speaking region of Cameroon have remained closed as tensions between the Anglophone regions and the current government persist. As an act of civil disobedience, the English speaking regions through their lawyers and teachers, in November 2016 called on the government to implement certain reforms to ensure equality between the Francophone and Anglophone regions. The Anglophones say they are being politically and economically sidelined by the Francophone government. The government’s slow or adamant attitude towards handling the issue has resulted to a call for outright separation and independence of Anglophone Cameroon. Several people have been arrested thus far, some maimed, tortured and killed in the English speaking regions from November 2016 till date. French is spoken in eight of Cameroon’s 10 regions and English is spoken in the north-western and south-western regions.
The socio-economic dynamics of these three countries show the contrast that exists within Africa. It is, therefore, obvious that it will be unfair to use a single brush on all these three countries.