The Africa de­vel­op­ment im­per­a­tive

A com­ing pop­u­la­tion tsunami could threaten world peace

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Dan Ne­grea Dan Ne­grea is a New York pri­vate eq­uity in­vestor.

Africa, the world’s poor­est con­ti­nent, will see its pop­u­la­tion dou­ble over the next three decades. With­out sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment progress, this pop­u­la­tion tidal wave will cause great hu­man suf­fer­ing, trig­ger desta­bi­liz­ing mi­gra­tions and im­pact global se­cu­rity. De­vel­op­ment aid for Africa has not been a suc­cess. For both hu­man­i­tar­ian and strate­gic rea­sons, Amer­ica must lead the world com­mu­nity in find­ing new ways to help Africa. Africa’s pop­u­la­tion is pro­jected to grow from its cur­rent 1.3 bil­lion to 2.5 bil­lion in 2050. Three-fourths of this growth will oc­cur in 27 coun­tries in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, whose pop­u­la­tion will at least dou­ble over this pe­riod. Nige­ria, the con­ti­nent’s most pop­u­lous na­tion, will see its pop­u­la­tion grow from 191 mil­lion in 2017 to a stag­ger­ing 411 mil­lion in 2050 to be­come the world’s third most pop­u­lous coun­try, be­hind In­dia and China and ahead of the United States. These 27 African na­tions will have dra­mat­i­cally larger num­bers of young peo­ple to feed, clothe, ed­u­cate and em­ploy.

The coun­tries fac­ing this tremen­dous chal­lenge are poor. Their per capita gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP), the best mea­sure of eco­nomic pros­per­ity, ranges from $3,100 in An­gola and $2,200 in Nige­ria, to just $780 in Mali and $434 in So­ma­lia. To add some per­spec­tive, the world’s 2016 per capita GDP was $10,300. North Amer­ica was first with $37,477 and Africa last with $1,809, pre­ceded by Asia with $5,635.

A gen­eral look within these African so­ci­eties is not com­fort­ing, ei­ther. The Fund for Peace pub­lishes a Frag­ile States In­dex for 176 coun­tries. The in­dex re­flects 12 in­di­ca­tors that mea­sure eco­nomic, so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and peace con­di­tions. All these 27 African coun­tries are above av­er­age in risk in the 2017 rank­ing.

For decades now, the ad­vanced coun­tries have been send­ing de­vel­op­ment aid to Africa — with dis­ap­point­ing re­sults. Dam­bisa Moyo, a for­mer Gold­man Sachs econ­o­mist, au­thored the book “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Work­ing and How There Is a Bet­ter Way for Africa.” She makes the fol­low­ing ob­ser­va­tions in a 2009 Wall Street Jour­nal ar­ti­cle: “Over the past 60 years at least $1 tril­lion of de­vel­op­ment-re­lated aid has been trans­ferred from rich coun­tries to Africa. Yet real per capita in­come to­day is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion — over 350 mil­lion peo­ple — live on less than a dol­lar a day, a fig­ure that has nearly dou­bled in two decades.” Ms. Moyo and other de­vel­op­ment ex­perts ar­gue that much of the aid has been stolen or wasted, grant­ing cre­dence to the say­ing that de­vel­op­ment aid is a tax on the poor in de­vel­oped coun­tries to ben­e­fit the rich in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Still, past de­vel­op­ment aid fail­ures are no ex­cuse for giv­ing up on Africa. The world must find new ways to help, and do so ur­gently, be­fore this pop­u­la­tion cri­sis hits. One promis­ing idea is to keep aid at the same high level, but make bet­ter gov­er­nance the top ob­jec­tive. The No. 1 gov­er­nance fo­cus should be peace — there is too much war both within and among African coun­tries. Other key ob­jec­tives should be fight­ing cor­rup­tion, build­ing an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, and train­ing com­pe­tent pub­lic ser­vants.

Bet­ter gov­er­nance is not a new as­pi­ra­tion. The African Union has a peer re­view and men­tor­ing pro­gram in which African states eval­u­ate each other against agreed-upon stan­dards and pro­vide as­sis­tance when re­quested. Sim­i­larly, Tony Blair, the for­mer United King­dom’s prime min­is­ter, founded the Africa Gov­er­nance Ini­tia­tive. It pro­vides in­ter­na­tional ex­perts to work with African pres­i­dents and gov­ern­ment min­is­ters in pri­or­i­tiz­ing, plan­ning and per­for­mance man­age­ment.

But progress has been slow. Mo Ibrahim, the bil­lion­aire African en­tre­pre­neur, cre­ated in part­ner­ship with Har­vard Uni­ver­sity a good gov­er­nance foun­da­tion that pro­duces an in­dex of African gov­er­nance. The in­dex con­sists of 95 in­di­ca­tors in four cat­e­gories: Safety and Rule of Law, Par­tic­i­pa­tion and Hu­man Rights, Sustainable Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity, and Hu­man De­vel­op­ment. Be­tween 2006 and 2016 the in­dex only im­proved from 49 to 50. Progress was held back by a de­cline of al­most three points in Safety and Rule of Law, the cat­e­gory that re­flects armed con­flict be­tween and within coun­tries, as well as cor­rup­tion and gen­eral law­less­ness.

Amer­ica’s pri­mary strate­gic in­ter­est in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa is tied to its global war on rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism. Weak coun­tries with un­governed ter­ri­to­ries have al­ways been breed­ing grounds for ter­ror­ists, and Africa is no ex­cep­tion. Sev­eral African ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, like Al-Shabaab in So­ma­lia and Boko Haram in Nige­ria, ac­tu­ally pledged al­le­giance to Al Qaeda.

But Amer­ica has one other strate­gic in­ter­est: The com­ing pop­u­la­tion tsunami may cause such hu­man suf­fer­ing in Africa that it could gen­er­ate mas­sive mi­gra­tion waves to­ward the Mid­dle East and Europe and thereby desta­bi­lize Amer­i­can al­lies and threaten world peace.

Amer­ica’s for­eign pol­icy is driven by ideals and in­ter­ests. When the two co­in­cide on a crit­i­cal is­sue, we have a pol­icy im­per­a­tive. Amer­ica has a moral duty to al­le­vi­ate hu­man suf­fer­ing and pro­mote growth in Africa. It also wants to pre­vent Is­lamic ter­ror­ist at­tacks and desta­bi­liz­ing mi­gra­tions from Africa. It is im­per­a­tive that Amer­ica lead the world in a gov­er­nance know-how trans­fer to ac­cel­er­ate Africa’s de­vel­op­ment in the in­ter­est of our strate­gic ob­jec­tives.


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