Dependency syndrome is the African curse
There are stubborn facts that have been coined about Africa in the past, these include the fact that the continent is the richest in terms of natural resources and also a booming investment hub of the 21st century attracting attention from Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Africa is also by far the continent with the best weather conditions so much so that some African countries rake in billions from tourism.
However, with such a background African countries are still battling underdevelopment, malnutrition, constant wars and dire poverty.
Research done by the United Nations Children Fund on Africa in the past shows that countries like Sierra Leone ‑ the world’s largest producer of diamonds, the Democratic Republic of Congo ‑ blessed with vast mineral resources and South Sudan ‑ an oil hub, constantly suffer from malnutrition.
As if that is not a curse enough, some countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including Namibia – the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium, Zimbabwe ‑ booming with platinum and diamond resources, Botswana – blessed with diamonds and South Africa, which is by far the world’s largest producer of platinum, suffer from rampant unemployment.
In fact, the average unemployment rate in the SADC region is 29 percent.
Alas, even the largest consumers of African raw materials for the past centuries ‘bemoan’ the lack of development and a lack of planning in African countries to steer value addition to their products.
The same donor aid providers also boast of being a helping hand to the continent’s needs.
An EU senior representative for the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, Koen Vervaek ‑ who visited Namibia recently, argued that there is now need for a reciprocal engagement that has mutual benefits between Africa and Europe. He also said the European Union is eager to improve trade relations with Africa in a manner that steers Africa’s development.
“We are planning for the EU-Africa Summit and we are eager to engage. There are issues that have been pending in the past and these include value addition to Africa’s resources in order to improve employment creation. It is also visible that the continent needs a plan to improve its skills and we are eager to find ways of dealing with that. We also hope that a conclusive and fair deal will be completed with the Namibians on the Economic Partnership Agreement,” were his words although coming short of explaining why Africa is underdeveloped.
According to the EU, under the 10th European Development Fund (2008-2013) the bloc committed approximately €12 billion for African countries.
The EU also argues that it remains the most important donor for Africa. African countries received close to €24 billion of Official Development Aid (ODA) from the EU for the period 2007-2012. Other top donors to Africa are the USA and the World Bank.
Europeans place a particularly high priority on Africa within their development agenda as demonstrated by the share of aid to Africa as part of their total aid budget. The top 10 donors by share of aid to Africa include only European countries, topped by Ireland (with 81 percent of its total aid to Africa) and followed by Belgium (77 percent), Portugal (73 percent) and France (63 percent).
Among other cocktails of building dependency, the EU has proposed to available €1 billion for a Pan-African Programme (PAP), as part of the Instrument for Development Co-operation.
The EU is already looking forward to beneficial relations pined on African resources with revelations that discussions are on-going in Council and Parliament as part of the negotiations on the EU budget 2014-2020.
The PAP will support the implementation of the strategic partnership by providing assistance to cross-regional and continental programmes and thus further enable the EU to treat Africa as one.
Under the current financial perspectives 2008-2013, the European Development Fund (€22.7 billion) is the main instrument for co-operation with Sub-Saharan African countries. The European Development Fund supports the co-operation at national, regional and intra-ACP levels. The national and regional programming for Africa for 2008-2013 amounts to €13.9 billion.
While the next Africa-EU Summit is expected to take place in this year in Brussels, one wonders if African leaders will take a unified stance of shunning donor aid and work towards mutual business engagements that will see Africa developing by using its resources rather than being kept on a debt leash by multinational financing institutions.
One wonders why the African continent still survives on donor funding or carries begging bowls to the rich and mighty in a bid to survive when a simple well calculated industrial policy on the continent would see self-sustenance.
It is also unthinkable that African countries need donor aid to drive their economies while most governments on the continent export their raw materials in their original form without any value addition.
In fact, scholars equate the exportation of raw materials from African countries to the first world, as exporting development and employment to other countries.
A thorough look at the Africa-EU engagement agenda shows that the EU views Africa as an important development priority because;
• Africa has a large majority of least developed countries, as identified by the UN, (34 out of 49) are in Africa.
• Three out of every four Africans live in poverty, while there are powerful development opportunities to be seized in Africa.
• Most donors, apart from the EC, support a limited number of better performing states; the EC believes aid should go where it is most needed and, therefore, also supports the poorest countries and fragile states.
• Even if Africa is expanding its economic relations with other continents, the EU remains Africa's top trading partner; while Africa accounts for 9 percent of EU27 trade, with France, Italy and Germany accounting for more than half of all EU27 trade with Africa. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso underlined, however, that the EU remains the globe's top provider of “aid for trade”.
• Africa is the continent that suffers the most from the effects of climate change and where energy poverty is highest. Nevertheless, it has enormous potential to spark a “renewable energy revolution” and lift almost 600 million Africans out of energy poverty.
• The current economic recession can have even greater consequences for Africa than it has on Europe. People may not only lose jobs and houses, but may pull their children out of school and have less money for food and health.
• Steady economic growth and improvements in poverty reduction in Africa have a positive impact on progress on the Millennium Development Goals; particularly in increasing access to primary education and decreasing HIV/AIDS prevalence.
African countries and the European Union have concluded a number of agreements that link them together in partnership.
However, despite being viewed from such a grim light Africans are still to see the need to capitalise on their natural resources for the betterment of the continent and would rather ask for financial aid than capitalise from vast natural resources.
€1 = R15