Africa: From Dependency To Growth And Development


President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will present Africa’s common economic development position

[Issues On Economic Development]

Recasting Africa’s development in the post-2015 agenda

Under the leadership of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Africans are preparing a common position to be adopted by Heads of State and/or Government early in 2014 to guide African delegates at the United Nations in New York in negotiating a global post-2015 development agenda from 2016 to 2030.

This is an important exercise that should take into consideration past development experience including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), identifying success stories to build upon and challenges that have stifled equitable, inclusive and sustainable development to be overcome.

First and foremost, Africans and their leaders need to recognize that development is generated from within, not from without.

However, development partners should extend to Africa a helping hand through untied and predictable aid, fair trade that according to some estimates African farmers would earn some $200 billion a year, more than 20 times the amount Africa receives in aid; investment and transfer of appropriate technology.

It is also important to recognize that virtually all countries that are developed undertook agricultural transformation, industrialization and equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth through remunerative employment or social welfare benefits and have thereby significantly reduced poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease. They also employed a development model in which the state played a strategic role.

Africa’s development has pursued a different path based on economic growth devoid of state participation, equity and inclusiveness and on comparative advantage that has failed to transform Africa’s economies and societies and protect the environment. In the post-2015 development agenda, the current development trajectory needs to be recast, if not overhauled.

Before integration into the world economy, many African communities engaged in the production of a wide range of products according to their resource endowments and bartered surplus in local and regional markets. For example, Ugandans specialized in the production of goods such as crops, livestock and fish, salt; bark cloth and hides and skins garments, wooden and clay products and a wide range of iron products. Upon integration into the global economy, Uganda was reduced to the production and export of agricultural and mineral raw materials that were processed abroad and then some returned to Uganda as manufactured products. This comparative advantage wiped out industries that added value to primary products and created jobs through backward and forward linkages.

The export of cheap raw materials in exchange for expensive manufactured imports resulted in unfavorable terms of trade and Africa’s inability to import the necessary goods and services for consumption and production purposes or incurred unsustainable debts that have undermined Africa’s growth and development. This crippling comparative advantage needs to be rethought.

Thankfully, African leaders have already decided that the continent’s economic transformation will be driven by industrialization supported by infrastructure including roads and affordable energy. African delegates must ensure that industrialization of African economies is built into the post-2015 development agenda. Processing raw materials on the spot will improve Africa’s control over her natural resources.

Like the majority of countries that have developed, Africa needs to transform its agriculture from semi-subsistence to commercial agriculture where some 70 percent of the people earn their livelihood.

The transformation of agriculture need not replace small holder farmers with large-scale ones. There is scientific evidence that when properly facilitated, small holder farmers are more productive, more efficient, create more jobs and thereby reduce rapid rural-urban migration and are more environmentally and socially friendly than large scale farmers.

While Africa should continue to promote economic growth, it must keep in mind that economic growth and per capita income per se don’t automatically reduce poverty and hunger. Under the operation of market forces alone, economic growth tends to favor the rich. Africa should therefore ensure that in the post-2015 development agenda, economic growth is inclusive, interconnected, equitable and sustainable. 

It has also been recognized that without peace, development won’t occur. Accordingly, every effort should be made to create stable societies with governments that are democratic, transparent, participatory and accountable to the people and observe human rights and freedoms and the rule of law.

Africa is well endowed in natural and human resources the latter dominated by a young population that if well harnessed through quality education should lay a solid foundation for rapid, equitable, sustained growth and sustainable development.


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