Harare – Regional bodies such as the AEC, EAC, ECCA, ECOWAS, COMESA, IGAD and SADC hold the potential for renewed impetus to Africa’s economic development and greater co-operation for integration.
In his OAU Summit Conference in speech in Cairo in 1964, Dr Kwame Nkrumah said the continent must unite for economic viability first of all, and then fully exploit its mineral wealth to fund development that brings real prosperity to Africa and to the world.
Ten years after that statement by Dr Nkrumah, the United Nations acknowledged that “…since no development model can claim to be the only one possible, the task now is to start with the real societal contexts and ensure the right of every country to adopt the economic and social system it deems the most appropriate to its own development and not to be subjected to discrimination of any kind as a result”.
One viable economic development model is premised on regional blocs and the integration agenda.
Addressing the 14th session of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 1979, the then Executive Secretary, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, said that a true test of any development strategy is its ability to enable all of us “to pursue relentlessly and with single-minded determination the objectives of establishing a new national and regional economic order in Africa based on an increasing measure of national and collective self-reliance and dedicated to the task of achieving an equitable distribution of the products of development among the African peoples”.
Africa certainly has the mineral wealth required to industrialise the continent and improve the citizens’ general standards of living.
On average, the IMF has projected that African economies will grow by 5.5 percent this year, and this is without even fully leveraging on the continent’s great mineral wealth.
It means greater political will is needed for Africa’s industrialisation.
South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, last month told the BRICS Business Forum in Durban that: “The African continent is recognised as the second fastest growing continent after Asia.
There are four drivers of the economic growth in the African continent.
“These are the boom in mineral products in the African continent, the development of the service industries fuelled by amongst other things the embracement of ICT in Africa, the benefit of not of having financial the crisis and infrastructure development.”
The DRC alone has known mineral reserves worth US$24 trillion, while Zimbabwe is said to have the highest mineral wealth per capita in the world. South Africa is a leading supplier of platinum, gold and diamonds among other precious minerals, while countries like Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania all also hold immense mineral wealth.
But the Southern Africa region, like much of Africa, remains highly un-industrialised. With all its resources, Africa’s people deserve so much more.
For instance, a few years ago the DRC – whose mines generate tens of billions of US dollars annually – collected just US$32 million in tax revenues from mining.
The story is the same across the continent, and this means any attempt to leverage mineral wealth for industrialisation first requires changes in tax laws and policies.
The continent, through the African Union, must start working on harmonising such matters.
At UNECA’s Adhoc-Expert Group Meeting in Harare, in March this year, under the theme “Industrialisation for Economic Transformation and Sustainable Development in Southern Africa”, Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Investment Promotion, Dr Desire Sibanda, said industrialisation was the cornerstone of economic development.
“A strong manufacturing sector will harness and optimise the benefits of industrial clusters through stronger forward and backward linkages and facilitate export diversification,” said Dr Sibanda.
As such, African countries need to prioritise scientific research, technology and innovation if industrialisation is to be seriously pursued.
UNECA Southern Africa regional office director, Beatrice Kiraso, told the meeting in Harare that for Southern Africa to develop and expand its industrial base, the region would need to address factors affecting competitiveness of the economies; including prudent regulation of private institutions, ensuring transparency in public institutions, widespread inefficiencies in goods markets, poor financial market development and weaknesses in social policy.
“Addressing these challenges should create a conducive environment for industrialisation backed by a stable macro-economic environment, supportive infrastructure and appropriate institutions,” she said. Former UNECA Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh is on record saying “future growth in the world economy and in the developing world will depend on harnessing both the productive potential and untapped consumer demand of (Africa) …. (to) ensure Africa assumes its rightful place on the global stage and finally banish the horrible moniker of the hopeless continent”. Africa must – as a matter of urgency – pursue establishment of an African Central Bank to issue a single African currency, perhaps a gold-backed currency, and thus meet the world on its own terms.
The continent must also establish an African Investment Bank and an African Monetary Fund as envisaged at the formation of the African Union in 2002.