Harare ‑ Africa needs a new economic model that will benefit all its citizens and result in real growth and development.
With the continent marking the watershed 50th anniversary of the formation of the African Union (formerly OAU), experts say economic models employed over the past five decades have failed to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and provide them with the basic necessities of living, such as access to clean water, healthcare and food among others.
Professor Vusi Gumede, who heads the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at the University of South Africa, recently said: “As Africa celebrates 50 years since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, it is fitting to ask questions pertaining to Africa’s post-independence development.
“A philosophy of Pan-Africanism and a hope of African renaissance should shape Africa’s approach to development and global effects.”
Escaping the mould of poverty will require visionary and fearless leadership that will mark a radical break from past practices of simply accepting economic dictates from the West, such as the Washington Consensus.
Prof Gumede said, “To make Africa work better, African cohesion is paramount. Africa must ensure renaissance and unity.”
The AU Commission is working on a 50-year development plan that has been dubbed “Agenda 2063”.
Addressing a session of the Pan-African Parliament in early May, AU Commission Chair, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said of Agenda 2063, “It is an opportunity for the people of the continent to define our African dream, and the role that must be played by governments, non-state actors, youth, children and the elderly, men and women, rural folks and urban dwellers, the private sector and entrepreneurs, intellectuals, artists and our religious communities in realising this dream.
“The AU Commission has as its core mandate the implementation of the vision of our Union of an integrated, people-centred and prosperous Africa, at peace with itself.
“The Commission has therefore recommended its Third Strategic Plan for 2014-2017 to the policy organs, based on the following eight clusters of priorities and our assessment of the state of the continent.”
The clusters are building human capacity (focus on health, education, water and sanitation, science and research); boosting agricultural production; promoting inclusive economic development, industrialisation and intra-Africa trade; peace and stability; empowering women; internal resource mobilisation; and building a “people-centered” AU with increased institutional capacity at continental and regional bloc level.
The editor of The Patriot newspaper, Prof Charles Pfukwa, believes for Africa to achieve meaningful development over the next 50 years, the continent’s leadership must draw inspiration from the OAU’s founding fathers, who believed in unity and integration within the context of social, economic, cultural and political development.
“To succeed, for growth and health to persist we must be very aware of the roots. This is a call to consciousness. We must never ever forget about the roots. Forgetting spells disaster. It is our roots that inform us of potential dangers, threats and opportunities.”
Prof Pfukwa goes on to say: “Survival cannot be achieved by wishful thinking but constantly revisiting the roots that are our source of nourishment. Continued growth is dependent on firm roots.”
Prof Gumede adds to this saying, “Indigenous knowledge – a source of Africa’s resilience – could be the basis for the Afrocentricity or pan-Africanism that should be the framework shaping Africa’s affairs.”
Effective economic transformation, experts say, will require Africa’s leadership and the citizenry to embrace the tenets of Pan-Africanism from a visionary perspective that looks at short, medium and long-term development.
This, they say, will see the continent abandoning economic practices – such as pinning economic growth on extraction of raw materials with little or no value addition – that have resulted in Africa stagnating or in some cases even sliding backwards.
Consequently, Africa needs economic policies that place people’s livelihoods at the centre without remaining fixated on conventional indicators such as GDP, which in many cases have had no direct bearing on the actual standards of living of the majority.
An Economist, Happison Zvenyika, believes that the new development model must factor in the private sector as a an agent for growth.
However, he adds that this requires the business leadership to have strategic skills and similarly be visionary in their outlook.
“For business in Africa to flourish, business leaders or those at the helm should attach strategic leadership and work hard to chart the direction to which the continent and organisations in it should follow.
“There is no way Africa can achieve development without effective strategies. Development does not come by accident. It has to be planned.”
Corporate leaders in Africa must attach strategic leadership and use it to create realistic expectations and to attain their organisational goals.”
He goes on to point out that “strategic leadership is about creating realistic expectations and balance these with people’s aspirations”.
“The starting point, therefore is for Africa to first believe fully in the potential of Africans to take the continent forward.
“The next step is to have a vision on a global scale, which looks at Africa’s place in the world and what its comparative advantages are. We can then prioritise and strategically plan what it is we can do now and what it is we can do in the long-term.”
To this end, he proposes, governments and the private sector must work together to sponsor research and thus build an indigenous and relevant knowledge and skills base to propel Africa forward.
Dedication and Sanctions
A primary ingredient, however, remains political will on the part of Africa’s leaders.
Africa’s political leadership should move from paying lip service to continental integration and boosting trade among their countries and start implementing mechanisms and building institutions that actually work to achieve these things.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Industry, Manyazewal Mekonnen, has said development will “not happen by itself”, and Africa’s leaders must back up their big words with real action and resources.
“The issue of boosting intra-Africa trade is not new as it goes back to the 1960s. But despite this early start the situation on the ground is still not good… These things (increasing intra-Africa trade and enhancing integration) do not happen on their own.
“We need a leadership that is developmental, a leadership that is transformative. Without development these things will not happen. We can make declarations, we have been making declarations … but nothing is happening. Leadership is critical.”
African governments, he said, must start funding their own projects.
For instance, the African Development Bank has on several occasions proposed that countries contribute just one percent of their GDP annually to a continental energy and infrastructure fund. So far there has been much commendation for the suggestion, but not one taker.
Prof Festus Fajana of the African Trade Policy Centre in Addis Ababa said a monitoring mechanism is needed to prod countries into action.
“There must be sanctions on those countries that are not doing enough.
We need a monitoring and evaluation mechanism, and agreement enforcement mechanism to ensure we all do our best.”
An example where sanctioning countries could spur development is that of removal of tariffs on intra-African trade.
According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Steven Karingi, the simple removal of tariffs would see intra-African trade rising from 11 percent of total trade on the continent to 14 percent almost immediately. Better trade facilitation, he adds, will see the current 11 percent figure doubling to 22 percent.
Other measures such as improving access to trade information will see growth of 1.8 percent; providing advance rulings on tariffs and related import/export requirements would add 3.7 percent growth in trade; and improved co-ordination among border agencies would result in a 2.4 percent decline in costs to importers and exporters.
In total, Karingi says, these “small measures”, excluding a change in tariffs, could add 10 percent growth in intra-African trade.
Countries that refuse to comply with these measures should then simply be sanctioned from trading with other African countries until they fall in line.