A.B. Assensoh of Indiana University offers comments on USA/Africa Dialogue Nos.1 and 95:
Perusing the excellent discussion on Malaysia, Singapore and other places in Asia by Gloria (Dr. Emeagwali) brought nostalgic flashbacks to and "sweet" memories of the mid-1980s' Fulbright-Hays research period that I spent in Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore; Communist China; South Korea, and Japan, with institutional residence at Gaja Madah University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Of course, in Singapore, fellow researchers and I learned that we could not even chew or throw gum on the streets (as it is commonly done in many places in Africa). Well, some of the, seemingly, harsh measures we saw there and elsewhere, in the region, could be akin to what prevails in some African countries, whereby one's camera, for example, could be seized by an aggressive security guy because one made an error of taking a photograph of a vehicle conveying soldiers in uniform, etc. Yet, there is no comparison in their endogenous (or indigenous) developmental successes, including advanced import/export business, computerization, etc.
In fact, the very day that we landed in Malaysia, two Australian tourists, caught with drugs, had been tried and convicted by a local court. All local and foreign appeals failed and they were being hanged; indeed, they hanged. When the British and the Australian leaders said that the hanging was cruel or too crude, the Malaysians responded in their local press that, as Muslims, they preferred beheading; but that the Europeans taught them how to hang people! The hanging was a tough act to watch on television, but didn't Abacha hang an honorable writer and his comrades?
Yet, as I rode (1) the clean, air-conditioned and TV-equipped train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang (Malaysia), and (2) the well-run local Garuda Airline System, I paused to wonder about the differnce in the "God" that created African nations, their, mostly, non-working train and airline systems and the excellent economic stuff that I saw in these Southeast Asian countries.For example, visiting post offices and other public places, one saw that they were efficient and workable entities. In Jakarta, Bali and Yogyakarta (Indonesia) and other places, most of the breakfast, lunch or dinner meals and desserts served at their very clean, luxurious and safe hotels were locally produced: pineapple and several other juices; banana pudding; rice pudding, coconut products, etc. Economically, African nations have a lot to learn from their Southeast Asian counterparts, even if they are also in the so-called Third World! After all, endogenous technologies are used to produce several of these food items; farms and autoparts!
In USA/Africa Dialogue No. 95, The Nation of Nairobi, Kenya makes interesting suggestions about "federalizing" Africa. In fact, the best way to start is with our Embassies, whereby the African Union could arrange for group diplomatic representations. This is imperative as one recalls that in some world capitals, several African diplomatic missions could hardly meet their local bills. Some of them even had their phone lines cut off or suspended for non-payment of monthly charges. As for insisting on "federalization", it could easily mean pockets of new civil wars and internal conflicts, which would be similar to what we experienced in the Nigeria-Biafra conflict. After all, how many of our African politicians are willing to surrender their sovereignties? However, it is a fact that a long journey begins with one step and, as a result, we should begin somewhere, even if not immediate federal form of governance, which the late President Kwame Nkrumah and some radical leaders saw in balkanizing terms if immediate unity is not achieved!
An interesting scenario that I noticed in most of these Southeast Asian places, including China, was that people were contented with their motorcycles, scooters and bicycles, while many people in African countries are often dreaming of expensive cars (Mercedes Benz, BMW; Volvo; etc.), driven on bumpy and potholed roads! Anyway, these are some of my "wild" thoughts!