Dollarization & Pauperization Of Countries Without Memories

By Farouk Martins Aresa

How did we get here, when can we get out and what foreign taste are you willing to give up? The best academic opinions on the dollarization of African currencies have shown mixed economic results and few benefit to a country that does not print its currency. It denies them crucial economic decisions that could only be taken at home but left to countries’ self-interest where dollars and euros are printed .

Apart from dollarization in some African countries, others practically use dollars and euros for major transactions and purchases like cars, houses, school fees, rents and of course to pay foreign loans. Some of the citizens, vendors and traders openly reject local currency as worthless. It exacerbates the exchange rates creating local inflation that call for dollarization as a cure for the same problems created in the first place.

Well, is that not the real reason for economic domination and helplessness over African future? African countries cannot trade between themselves without using currencies outside their Continent, only petty traders do. There is nothing African about international standard or international currency. China is finally breaking the European and American dollar and euro monopoly.

Since we got used to everything imported, most of the money we make were spent on foreign goods and services. The more expensive they got, the harder it became to meet daily responsibilities with our meagre income. Ordinary pins and pencil, we had to import with dwindling income. In short, as consumers of everything foreign and producers of nothing, we became import dependent economy. We would rather buy used imported goods than produce our own at home.

We simply could not sustain our “sugar tooth” anymore, so had to swindle, steal, loot or magomago our way to increase income to support our additions to foreign goods and services. It is not that we never tried, our local manufacturers were derided and looked down on as Ijebu and Okrika made.

Recently we discover rice production within our countries, we are making progress.

Can we go teetotal back to local consumption in order to save ourselves from reckless tastes for goods and services we refuse to make locally in sixty years since they are readily available outside?

Before SAP (Structural Adjustment Program) and Currency Depreciation, we pride ourselves on “Being” good Christians and good Muslims. We became “civilized” by how much French, English and Portuguese we could speak and how little African languages we could think in or speak.

People have forgotten that the best time most African countries had was when our currencies were at par with foreign currencies. It sounds like ancient history now. We then moved to a point when foreign currencies were regulated to preserve our foreign exchange to the time foreign currencies were totally banned. It was later relaxed and certain amount were allowed for travel, school fees and limited goods and services.

We were still good up to this point because violations led to serious time in jail. Most sober Africans would tell you those were good old days. However, economists and exploiters preached liberalized and open market, free competition to spur production and ingenuity as the same argument used for SAP and currency devaluation. The losers started from devastation of the middle class to the working poor masses.

Countries without memories are bound to repeat the same mistakes like a recurring decimal. The leaders that were united in the fight for Independence had a common bond to fight their oppressors and tormentors. Like other African countries, as soon as the colonial oppressors departed, leaders with foresight established industrial areas for workers, farms, schools and hospitals within their states and regions’ capabilities.

Those that benefited from the hard work of Independence fighters became complacent enjoying what they consider their entitlements. Education was almost free to any level or supplemented with scholarships at the state and Federal levels. They got so used to all the freebies since they were recruited from colleges and universities after graduation. They then lost their thinking cap, waiting for paychecks without producing any tangibles.

The vigor, exuberance and skills used to confront the colonial masters soon disappeared and replaced with bloated ego as long as they excel in western education and acquire foreign taste. They pride themselves as copycats of Western and to a lesser extend of Eastern civilizations. They threw their own culture, food, clothes and everything needed for survival at home, away. Since these could be easily imported, they got them until they could not do without their foreign goods. Call it sugar tooth.

These borrowed habits and cultures dogged those that consider themselves “civilized” and passed it onto their children, including foreign languages at the expense of their own. It is not uncommon to find “educated” families unable to converse with their children in their own language. Much has been made about Mission schools forcing children to speak in English. Who forced them to speak English or French at home?

Recently, some African glowed at the “perfect” accent of Kenya’s President at the White House. They forget that neither François Mitterrand, any other French President or Greek’s George Andreas Papandreou that taught in American university ever spoke English when they met USA or British leaders. Not the Russian or Chinese leaders.

It became expensive to support this foreign lifestyle in local communities. Even when local food was cheaper at the local markets; Akada and Adaka preferred supermarket where foreign food is sold. Since we neglected what was ours, we patronized foreign clothes, shoes, English gold (exported raw from us), sardines (fresh fish exported from our waters), etc. This was how we increase production and jobs abroad and killed our local industries at home.

The irony is that the only place genuine organic food is sold were at our local markets. Almost everything at the “so-so” supermarkets were canned. By the time they were opened, they must have spent ages locked up and stale. Most of them were exported from our shores as fresh fish turned into canned fish or our beef turned into corn beef.

  1. course, they were bought cheap and sold very expensive to us. It has got to a stage where Chinese products and food are sold cheaply to displace ours in our markets. Even worse, some of them were of inferior quality. They killed our textile material industry and some of the imported food were made of plastic. We were wasting good money (external reserve) to purchase inferior brands.

Our import dependent economy has a long history but we lack memories and never learn from our past. It was illegal to drink our local gin since it would compete with foreign made. Tai Solari had to take local gin to police station to dare arrest!

Each time before an election, citizens and even political cronies are suddenly surprised at the amount of dollars, euro and pounds that are circulating at these conventions. One would think they were sleeping before this time or their brain were on sabbatical. If any big spender is suddenly exposed or reported in the newspaper, they gasped. Bah!

Europe and America have delegated us to be the producer of raw materials and appointed themselves as the manufacturers of finished products. It does not take much calculation to know that if you pay ten to hundred times more for finished products from what is paid to you for raw materials, you would become a debtor forever.