A Continent in Chaos

Is there any hope for Africa? This great land mass, home to millions living in misery, is slipping out of its third world category into a classification of its own—the Nth world—defying comparison with conditions extant in any other area of the developing world.
From the August 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

Take a country, any country, on the great expanse of the African continent, and, in the main, the same description applies—civil strife, disease, hunger, deprivation, exploitation, poverty. If ever a land mass on the face of this strife-torn earth were to exemplify the Shakespearean phrase of “man’s inhumanity to man,” it has to be Africa.

Of 174 countries measured on the United Nations human development index, the island tourist meccas of Mauritius and the Seychelles are the only African countries which fall within the top 60 nations on that scale. The UN’s human development index grades countries on attributes of national wealth, civic stability and the population’s general quality of life. Of the 53 countries which comprise Africa, 41 are graded as among the bottom 60 countries on this index. This means that the African land mass contains the largest number of lowest-achieving nations, with the lowest incomes, and the highest levels of poverty and disease on earth.

Africa is, literally, largely a continent of misery. Think of Africa and you think of famine, particularly in Chad, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Somalia. Think of civil war and one can list 27 African countries which suffered at least one violent change of government since decolonization. In the case of Nigeria alone, six coups have occurred in just 27 years.

Africa is the AIDS crucible of the world. It is the continent where ethnic hatred between black and black far exceeds that of black and white in the Western world. Of some of the continent’s most extreme racial or religious wars, none can match Algeria. Though spawning some of the most barbaric behavior between this war’s antagonists, Algerian news has become so “old hat” that the world press has mostly given up even bothering to report on it. It was the incessant need to constantly give to relief causes in many hopeless situations in Africa that spawned the term “donor fatigue.” Africa is the world’s own basket case.

What hope is there for Africa? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is simply to take the two richest countries on the continent and subject them to a reasonable analysis.

Best of the Worst

Following the frenetic scramble for African real estate by the competing colonial powers during the late 1800s through to 1912, it became apparent that the choicest parts of this great continent had fallen into the hands of the British. To students of Bible prophecy this ought not to have been a surprise. Though many have joked that Britain acquired a vast empire in “a fit of absent-mindedness,” the prophecies of the Bible clearly indicate that Britain was to inherit the choicest parts of the most blessed lands on earth. (For clear proof of this, write for your free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)

Unlike many other competing colonial powers, most African peoples who were ruled by colonial Britain thrived under their administration as part of a great and far-flung empire. People were given opportunity for education and advancement, allowed to maintain their rich cultural heritage, but penalized for acts of inhumanity. Clinics were set up for dealing with sickness and disease. The British colonial countries of Africa developed multifarious local tribal systems into thriving, productive economies of world standard.

With the rise of Irish resistance, however, and the exploitation of its methods by Ghandi in achieving independence in India, resistance to colonial governments soon spread like a rash throughout the world. Although a handful of African countries, notably Egypt and Ethiopia, had achieved independence prior to the mid-1950s, the avalanche of independence gained momentum in 1956 and swelled to a mighty rush in the 1960s. Since then we have witnessed a monotonously predictable outcome in most of these de-colonized African nations. The bountiful benefits of benevolent colonization have been traded largely for inept administrations—ill-conceived, ill-trained, exploitative of the nations’ populations. Often, huge advantage was taken by a privileged ethnic ruling family or tribe, largely salting away the fading wealth of their lands in a combination of Swiss bank accounts, hugely ornate mansions and ridiculous projects of dubious economic worth. Out of this mess, two countries remain the greatest in present wealth and potential for development on the continent of Africa—Nigeria and South Africa, both of them once part of a mighty British Empire. These countries represent the best of what remains of the once thriving African trade economies. Both also exhibit the continent’s worst traits.


Populated largely by three massive and highly developed tribes, ethnic animosity runs deep in Nigeria. To the north, the Muslim Hausa dominate with a culture largely influenced by the Arabs who regularly crossed the Sahara via the old camel trading routes. The Yoruba populate the West. They have quite an elaborate political-religious hierarchy and a history of active trade through the length of the West African Coast. Eastwards are the Ibo, an egalitarian people living within a largely unstructured village society. Predictably, upon attaining independence in 1960, three political parties emerged, built around each of these tribal groupings. Civil war came early with the Ibos attempting to carve out their own territory in the Biafran conflict. Biafra spawned the largest and the most costly civil war in independent Africa’s history.

Biafra collapsed in 1970 and, surprisingly for an African leader, the incumbent president of Nigeria, Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowan, did not permit reprisals against the Ibo rebels. Deposed in 1975, Gowan’s successor was assassinated in 1976. Various coups and counter-coups followed in Nigeria, leading to a succession of military governments. With the sudden death in June of General Sani Abacha, from a supposed heart attack, the latest military leader to take over the presidency in Nigeria is General Abdul Salam Abubakar. Pledging to hand over the reigns to a democratically elected government by October, the strongest proof of his intentions would have been the release of Moshood Abiola, the jailed Nigerian opposition leader. On the eve of his release, however, Abiola also died of a suspected heart attack.

Abiola’s death sparked off social unrest as old ethnic rivalries surfaced once again. The sacking of the Nigerian government assembly by General Abubakar, hard on the heels of Abiola’s death, further complicated the continuing political confusion in this country. The UN viewed the need for stability in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, sufficiently important to send Secretary-General Kofi Annan on an “urgent mission” to Lagos in June to negotiate Abiola’s release. Kofi Annan’s visit coincided with that of Commonwealth Secretary-General Eneka Anyaoku. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1995 due to the summary execution of a number of minority rights activists. It is interesting to note that the visits of Annan and Anyaoku to Nigeria were preceded by that of an EU envoy. The EU has a special interest in Nigeria as an oil-producing country.

With a population growing at a rate among the highest in the world, Nigeria is projected to have at least 618 million people within her borders in less than 50 years—more than the present population of the whole continent of Africa! Oil rich and containing vast mineral resources, Nigeria will be watched closely by the major industrial economies of the world. Her biggest trading partner, the U.S., wishes to ascertain whether this second-greatest economy in Africa will yet defy the wearying trends of the self-seeking native despots in Africa and offer a stable transition from military to free democratic government.

South Africa

Fountainhead of the dreams and hopes of the world for a positive change from the wearying monotony of hopelessness on the African continent, the new South Africa has now had four years to strut its stuff on the world stage. What has this once richly blessed, beautifully situated, bountifully endowed country achieved since the 1994 transition of government? Sadly, it has achieved the predictable. Cronyism and corruption in government, ineptness in administration, self-seeking leaders exploiting the trappings of undeserved office, ex-Soviet-trained guerrillas given authority over national security, downgrading of education standards, reduction in health services, the general degrading of the whole quality of life—the new South Africa exhibits them all. Yet, so rich was this nation’s economy prior to the 1994 handover of power to the Mandela government (despite the sanctions imposed upon it by a world uniquely ignorant of the true nature of the challenges which she faced), that many businesses still thrive.

The principal attraction to European settlers in South Africa was her gold and diamond reserves. The country also contains deposits of many other valuable ores. Yet South Africa contains no petroleum deposits. Obviously, in today’s oil-based economy, this is a significant strategic weakness. On the other hand, one of South Africa’s strategic economic strengths in relation to other nations within the African continent is that it generates about half the electricity used in Africa. The export of this energy by South Africa to numerous African countries gives it the potential for quite a reasonable level of diplomatic clout in the electricity importing countries.

However, it is the possession of know-how, technology and materials of a more politically potent energy source which is the wild card in South Africa’s hand. The possession of residual materials left over from the country’s nuclear armaments industry is causing more than mere heart flutters in the inner breasts of Western intelligence agencies.

During 1993, then South African Prime Minister F.W. De Klerk confirmed to the world that South Africa had produced seven Hiroshima-style weapons. In 1995, a former aid to Mr. De Klerk claimed in a press statement that these weapons were destroyed, with production and test facilities rendered harmless. Current intelligence speculates that the number of bombs may have been 24, most being sent to Israel, but it is possible not all of those weapons remaining in South Africa were destroyed.

According to the U.S. National Security Council, there exists deep concern within U.S. intelligence agencies that residual materials from South Africa’s nuclear weapons program may too easily find their way into the wrong hands. The South African government is presently reeling under the combined negative forces of recession, a dramatically plunging rand (her currency) and skyrocketing interest rates. Added to these stresses on the nation’s economy and security is South Africa’s easily penetrated borders.

In light of the shock wave rippling around the world following India and Pakistan’s recent demonstrations of their nuclear capability, the West looks with jaundiced eyes on South Africa’s relationship with Iran and Libya. Reports in 1996 indicated that Iran had already recruited South African nuclear scientists to work on the atomic energy program of this dominant and aggressively extremist Islamic power. The continuing strong links between President Mandela’s government and many of the terrorist regimes that funded the ANC’s bid for power are the weak links in a potential chain of events which could see South Africa, with its rapidly shrinking home economy, bend the rules by supplying nuclear technology, materials and equipment to one of these extremist nations.

A further fly in the murky ointment of South Africa’s economy under existing ANC rule is its burgeoning conventional armaments industry. Boasting over 700 companies producing a huge range of military material, South Africa is increasingly emerging as an important supplier of weaponry to a whole range of countries. The prospect of arms sales to Syria and Rwanda two years ago brought stout protests from Western governments. President Mandela’s retort was to thumb his nose at world opinion and declare that “we will conclude agreements with any country we wish to!”

Since then, South Africa has concluded deals with Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon and the turbulent Congo. The latest deal cut between South Africa and Libya is a $450 million arms-for-oil contract. Negotiated by South Africa’s Secret Service, sanctioned by President Mandela, this deal facilitates the supply of Libyan oil in return for South African weapons and spare parts. This flagrant breach of the UN arms and trade embargo on Colonel Qadhafi’s regime causes deep concern that the deal could also involve South Africa supplying information to Libya about chemical and biological weapons developed during the apartheid era. The Libyan intelligence service is now well established in South Africa.

Defenseless Waters

Paradoxically, while South Africa’s armaments industry tries to exploit the highly competitive and ruthless international trade in military hardware, its own defense forces have weakened considerably since the ANC takeover in 1994. South Africa sits on one of the great sea gates of the world, the Cape of Good Hope. Nearly 1000 oil tankers and 30 percent of all cargo shipped to the U.S. and Europe pass round the Cape each year. In terms of its own exports, 95 percent of South Africa’s outflowing goods leave the country by sea. If war in the volatile Middle East ever closed the Suez Canal again, the Cape would, overnight, become an even more vital choke point for international sea trade.

Yet, South Africa’s navy, with 3,500 kilometers of coastline in addition to the Cape, plus some islands in Antarctica to patrol, is under-equipped, grossly under-financed and poor in staff morale. It has no aircraft carriers, no jet aircraft, no submarine-hunting or amphibious ships. South Africa lies as a sitting duck to any aggressive power with a modern navy. Not only that, but the ease with which southern Africa could suffer a modern invasion from the sea becomes even more apparent when it is realized that no other country south of Nigeria in the west and Kenya in the east possesses a navy of any real worth.

Shadow of Death

Our quick review of these two countries of greatest potential in Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, shows that the best of the worst in this continent hardly encourages great hope for the future. Even more discouraging, there exists one overwhelmingly pervasive problem in the continent of Africa which casts its great black shadow of death over both present and unborn African generations—AIDS.

Last June, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) in Geneva released its most pessimistic assessment to date of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Africa contains two-thirds of the world’s total AIDS victims; 21 million suffering souls are infected with this insidious virus in Africa. This picture becomes even more horrific considering that 90 percent of these carriers of the disease do not know they are infected.

The W.H.O. draws a terrifying comparison between the AIDS explosion in Africa and the great plague of the Middle Ages. The W.H.O.’s field workers report that AIDS has drastically strengthened its stranglehold on central Africa and is now scything its way with increasing rapidity through southern Africa. Equal numbers of men and women are infected. Yet, the most worrisome findings reveal that HIV on this continent has hit children harder than in any other place on earth. Almost nine out of ten children in the world who are infected with HIV live in Africa. In addition to providing life to Africa’s out-of-control population, Africa’s mothers are, increasingly, spreading death, passing on the virus during pregnancy, childbirth or lactation. Africa is creating its own brain-drain, as statistics indicate that AIDS primarily affects the most upwardly mobile members of society. The W.H.O. declares that African nations should prepare to lose between 10 and 30 percent of their key work force to AIDS within the next decade. The disease will result in 10 million children being orphaned within the next four years. The UN has issued a warning that Africa could, within less than a generation, become a continent of orphans.

In a comment on the best of the worst in Africa, Peter Piot, director general of UNAIDS, has stated that the rate of transmission of the virus in Nigeria and South Africa has been grossly underestimated.

The gains in life expectancy made in African countries dependent on Western pharmaceutical drugs have paradoxically been wiped out by a virus for which medicine has failed to find a preventive barrier. Pre-AIDS life expectancy in Uganda was 59 years. Post-AIDS life expectancy has plummeted to 31.

One Man Rule

Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden has stated that Africa’s problems are “preliminary readings from the world’s messiest experiment in cultural and political change.” He describes how colonial administrations have been replaced by the era of His Excellency, the “Big Man.” Africa is learning a hard lesson. Her colonial benefactors may not have been perfect overlords. But her post-colonial “big men” have betrayed Africa. “More than 150 leaders, many of them ‘President for Life,’ have come and gone as the continent has been sucked downward in a spiral of declining per capita food production and unpayable foreign debt, of civil war and rampant corruption” (Blaine Harden, Africa, pp. 218-219).

Commenting on this phenomenon, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared, “Political victory assumes a ‘winner-take-all’ form with respect to wealth and resources, patronage and the prestige and prerogatives of office.” This is “one-man rule,” the wrong way! It is the way of the rapacious dictator, the “Big Man,” which has shepherded nearly all of Africa into rank poverty, economic and social dissolution. As an experiment in democracy, Africa has failed abysmally. “Not one African head of state, even in nations that tolerate a measure of democracy, has permitted voters to end his reign” (ibid., p. 219).

Future Hope

Africa has been destroyed largely by one-man rule, badly, often horrifyingly administered. Paradoxically, Africa’s only hope lies in one-man rule. Bible prophecy declares that King David will rule the nations of Israel with one-man rule in God’s coming government on earth (Jer. 30:9). Further, prophecies indicate that there will be a new era of re-colonization of the gentile nations by biblical Israel (Isa. 11:10). They will teach proper one-man rule, under the supreme Head of perfect government, administered by Jesus Christ, as Head of state and Head of religion—both King and High Priest. Authority will be delegated via a pyramidal hierarchy of future king-priests. They will oversee the reconstitution of the earth’s environment into an enriching abode for all life (Isa. 35:1-2).

Africa—corrupt, sick, starving Africa—will bloom and blossom into an unheard-of, disease-free lushness that will support teeming millions of Canaan’s offspring, colonized under the benevolent rule of king-priests (Isa. 11:4). The wild game of Africa will reproduce plentifully. Even the aggression of the lion will be tamed (v. 7). There will be peace, harmony, unity among clans and tribes (v. 9). The contented populace of this great continent will celebrate with joyful festivity in an annual rejoicing over the perfect form of government to which it will be their privilege to subscribe (Zech. 14:16).

Sound like a dream? It’s more sure than the temporary reality of today’s prevailing chaos in Africa! Its inevitability is underwritten by the more sure word of prophecy of the one who created both man and his living environment (II Pet. 1:19). Write for your free copy of our booklets Isaiah’s End-Time Vision and South Africa in Prophecy. They will give you a vision that will enable you to look to the future with real hope, secure in the knowledge that the chaos and corruption in this world’s present society will soon be replaced with an era of peace and true harmony between all peoples on this earth, unmatched by anything which man in all of his vain attempts has ever before achieved.