Friday, October 05, 2012

The economic benefits of conflict

      Historically, conflicts and crisis comprise the process of development and progress in a nation. Usually these conflicts are a means to correct perceived injustice and are not for economic benefits. However, in the case of the African continent, the occurrence of inter and intra tribal raids for slave trade to present day sponsoring of conflict in other African nations by African leaders to internal conflicts (Examples include Ghadaffi’s alleged role in training Niger-Delta militants, the rise of the Niger Delta warlords, Charles Taylor’s role in Sierra Leone’s civil war and Gourevitch’s critique of the humanitarian aid industry) prove that conflict is a lucrative business for its promoters. The existence of conflict and violence is gainful employment for all involved except the victims.
      Lives are wasted for nothing- and I mean that literarily. This begs the questions WHY? I have weighed the costs of a conflict- economic and productivity losses, emigration and capital flight, destroyed infrastructure, systems and values, and no growth- and benefits of a conflict situation – political gains, wealth, increased sale of weapons for manufacturers-and don't understand why individuals engage in this business. The greed versus grievance theory of conflict- in my mind- fails to fully capture the nature of violence and conflict in Africa.  I think there is the added dimension of cruelty. I believe that there is something inherently mean and vicious about our nature. This shows even in our everyday relationships. The other I observed an argument between an artisan and a cook over drinking water!
     Walter Rodney in “How Europe underdeveloped Africa” asserted that as at the time Europeans initially arrived in Africa, the whole continent was 400 years behind Europe. There are no prizes for guessing the gap now.
    As Nigerians and Africans, we rail about the slow pace of development, poverty, high cost of living, and rising food prices but fail to connect the dots on how these events are a consequence of our conflict and violence prone nature. For instance, in Nigeria we complain about the rise in the cost of tomatoes and yam but forget that the prices of these items must rise because the activities of Boko Haram is gradually shutting down the economy of the North. Also I wonder why we gripe about these issues yet are still willing tools in the hands of those who promote violence. We support them and call their activities noble whilst we suffer and they smile to the banks. I imagine what joy a militant derives from killing others or vandalizing property with no substantial benefits to him (he still lives in poverty) whilst his principal enjoys the good life.
     The one solution I can come up with is that individually we need to shed the culture and attitude of my way or the highway (tied to corruption) even if it is for enlightened self-interest.

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