Treasure Hunting
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Farid's Pearls of Wisdom

Treasure Hunting



February 8th 2016

The Marché des Féticheurs in the Togolese capital of Lomé, more commonly known as the ‘voodoo market’, must be one of the creepiest places on earth. Freshly chopped off chimpanzee heads lie drying in the sun, and a concoction of Chanel No. 5 and ground-up chameleon is advertised as a love potion.

Voodoo is one of the major religions of the world: it is acknowledged as an official religion in the Caribbean Haiti and the West-African Benin, neighbour to Togo. Voodoo medicine makes use of a variety of fetishes, a number of which, each one more macabre than the next, can be found on Lomé’s voodoo market.

Besides religious fetishes, West-Africa also has a figurative one: oil. In Nigeria, the black gold accounts for 65% of the government income. Ghana, Togo’s neighbour to the west, is a relative newcomer with a total of 106.000 barrels a day in 2014. Now that the price of oil has dropped to 30 dollars a barrel, African leaders must be starting to get worried. The more southern Angola, very rich in oil, has accumulated a public deficit of 4%. Following in Arabian footsteps, many African regimes use their income from oil to create an ever expanding government. Such bloated bureaucracy results in relative stability - for as long as it remains affordable.

The years of continuous income from oil has made the population of the Gulf states lazy. The filthy rich governments lavish their loyal inhabitants with expensive things and fancy mansions. Thankfully, Africa has not yet reached this point of no return. There is still time to turn the tide and construct a healthy economy, based on the three Ds: delivery of services, decentralization and digitalization.

As of now, the delivery of services makes up as much as half of the gross national product in Nigeria, although there is still plenty of room for growth. It is a telling sign that London has more registered African companies than Lagos or Nairobi.

Decentralization allows Africa to solve big problems in ‘little’ ways, for instance through the use of the localized genera­tion of energy or solid mobile network coverage. The latter also involves the third D: a digital chasm between the wealthy north and the less affluent African continent still looms large. This is not just due to the poor quality of infra­structure, but also due to excessive bureaucracy and a lack of knowledge.

Rightfully, the World Bank stated that “To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on the “analog complements”” in their World Development Report 2016, published last week.

Crocodile heads are another prized commodity on the Marché des Féticheurs. According to believers, they unleash wisdom and primordial powers. If that is so, perhaps African leaders should purchase some. If the ritual inspires them to turn to sources of energy besides oil, such as solar energy and pure human ingenuity, the continent may well grow to be very successful.

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