Oftentimes we hear about the rhetoric especially from the African political elite, that Africa is on the road to economic success. Such a discourse is normally couched in the popular phrase of ‘Africa on the Rise’. Although there are some grains of truth in such a phrase, it needs to be outlined from the onset that, Africa’s economic development and growth is inextricably tied to her politics, peace, security and stability.
Inescapably, Africa for over many centuries now, has been powering the industrialisation process in the so called ‘developed economies’. But experts had indicated on Africa’s rise, Goldman Sachs has even gone on to brand the Africa’s Turn. Surprisingly, on the other hand, Africa seems to be witnessing slow growth rates – that is if she has (not yet remained stagnant) in terms of economic growth and development due to instability and conflict in the post-Cold- war epoch. As can be evidenced across most African economies (though it is difficult to offer a generic conclusion), it remains abundantly clear that, African economies are being hampered by both exogenous and endogenous factors.
History is the best teacher. But for how long will Africa continue to leave in the past, arguing that, Africa’s underdevelopment is as a result of slavery, asymmetrical trade, colonisation, imperialism (Berlin Conference) and slow pace in embracing the modernisation theory as compared to the East Asian Tigers, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong et al. The question in the offing is, for how long will Africa continue to blame the so called ‘developed economies’ – and how long will Africa continue falling in love with Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’s thesis? I add, and for how long will Africa continue to read or listen to the Confessions of an Economic Hitmen by John Perkins?
How long will the African political elite evoke the sentiments of history, nationalism and patriotism as a cover up to their thieving? Such questions are also pertinent to ask in the backdrop of reported missing US 20 billion oil trade revenue in Nigeria. Such questions are also very significant in analysing Africa’s trade and growth trajectory in the wake of man – made coups in this 21st century as reflected in Mali . With the nascent conflict in South Sudan which has posed a threat to peace, stability and security in Africa’s newest state, many questions abound.
With the ongoing breakdown of rule of law (that is if it ever existed in Somalia) one wonder whether Africa will ever learn from her mistakes. The Central African Republic (CAR)’s events are all before us to see. Indeed the events substantiates the fact that, state fragility, violent conflict and strife is still within us at least for the next couple of years. Hard times are upon Us!
But, given these and more numerous episodes across the African socio-economic and political landscape – it remains unclear whether Africa is on the rise or on the fall. What Africa is experiencing is what Richard Joseph term, ‘discordant development’.
Corruption, Illegal Financial Flows and Leakages
With the rising corruption in Africa, it is believed that Africa has and continue to lose billions of dollars (illegal financial flows out of Africa) by a very few connected ‘Big Guys’ up there! Such huge sums of money could have been used in domestically funding health care facilities in Africa. Unfortunately, such sums of revenue end up in some safe tax havens in places like the Mauritius Islands. This is indeed a bad vice that continues to eat through the soul, heart and fabric of African economies. To therefore suggest that Africa is on the rise, given the alarming and nauseating level of poverty,corruption,underdevelopment and retarded growth, might be missing the bigger picture! What Africa needs at the moment is Africans who are generous with the truth, Africans who are alive to the reality, Africans who are sensitive to Africa’s suffering and troubles. What Africa does not need at the moment are those Africans who pay lip service to addressing poverty, group distress, unemployment, inequality, violent conflict, underdevelopment, [mis]governance/bad governance, maladministration, graft, embezzlement and exploitation of her God given natural resource wealth. A distinguished Ghanaian economist George B.N Ayittey holds that Africa loses at least $148 billion dollars to corruption alone. So shocking and alarming indeed!
Of Conflict and Missing Transparency
Living with the danger of Tuareg rebels, Boko Haram and Al Shabab attacks (as evidenced in the recent Westgate mall attack) one will be forgiven for asking if whether Africa is on the rise or its rather hanging on the cliff edge. Judging with the pace at which SINO – AFRICA trade relations are evolving, surely Africa is being milked rather than benefiting (read ‘Chinese resource grab’). In itself, the asymmetrical trade that is being endorsed by the political elites in Africa in cahoots with the Chinese investors is not doing justice to the exploitation of her natural resource wealth as compared to the intended benefits.
Oftentimes we hear of African presidents who sign more than 16 trade/economic co-operation agreements in a space of one solid hour – mostly in the departure lounge within the cosy comfort of their airports. Surely, such a trend if left unchecked will do more harm than good to Africa’s meteoric rise and leap towards sustained economic growth and development. Contrary to expert projections about Africa being tipped to double her economic growth in the next decade – is the sad reality of Africa’s growth plummeting. Rather, what Africa is going to experience is the Dutch disease and natural resource curse coupled with negative development.
From Bamako, Kinshasa, Harare, Soweto, Mombasa, Bangui etc. citizens are living below 1 USD per day, yet and contrarily Africa is reportedly to be witnessing huge growth rates as pronounced through rise in GDPs. But without uplifting the qualitative living standards of the poor through efficient service delivery, affordable health care, provision of education, clean water facilities and so forth, can Africa said to be on the Rise? Many analysts have hinted that Africa is on the rise due to several factors, chiefly among them the dependence of Europe and the Rest to Africa (in the aftermath) of the Global Financial Crisis. Whether this has translated to the rise of Africa’s economic growth rate or has exacerbated the continued plunder and expropriation of her resources seems a subject of debate in another paper. As of now, it’s only a Food for Thought. Africa has to choose whether to embark on a Road to Success or Road to Failure as is the case with some African states like Somalia. From Cape to Cairo, through the valleys of the River Nile,we will see whether Africa is on the Rise or on the Fall. Do Africa have a place towards the Agenda 2063.Only time will tell.What is needed of now is great optimism.