Re­gional ar­chi­tec­ture for Africa’s pros­per­ity

Business a.m. - - COMMENT - OLUKAY­ODE OYELEYE Oyeleye is a pol­icy an­a­lyst, jour­nal­ist and vet­eri­nar­ian

THE CON­TI­NENT of Africa is vast. In land mass it oc­cu­pies a land area that is about four times the size of the United States, ex­clud­ing Alaska and Hawaii). It is three times big­ger than China. And, it has been es­ti­mated to be big­ger than the land masses of the US, China, In­dia, Mex­ico, Peru, France, Spain, Pa­pua New Guinea, Swe­den, Ja­pan, Ger­many, Nor­way, Italy, New Zealand, the UK, Nepal, Bangladesh and Greece put to­gether. All that is in land mass size.

In re­sources, how­ever, the story is en­tirely dif­fer­ent. Al­though Africa’s pop­u­la­tion has topped the bil­lion mark, hit­ting 1.216 bil­lion in 2016, thus nearly dou­bling Europe’s pop­u­la­tion then, Africa’s GDP re­mains mis­er­ably low. In the 2017 es­ti­mated gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) based on pur­chas­ing power par­ity, ab­bre­vi­ated GDP (PPP) China led with $23.159 tril­lion and $23.301 tril­lion by IMF and World Bank es­ti­mates re­spec­tively. Within the same pe­riod, the US GDP in were $19.390 tril­lion and $19.390 tril­lion, also by IMF and World Bank es­ti­mates re­spec­tively. But Nige­ria, which was rated sec­ond place af­ter Egypt in Africa, had $ 1.119 tril­lion by both IMF and World Bank es­ti­mates. Even the pros­per­ous South Africa fared less well in GDP (PPP) terms.

Whereas Africa was on a growth tra­jec­tory eco­nom­i­cally, it needed – and still needs – to ful­fil cer­tain con­di­tions to keep it on that tra­jec­tory. Apart from what may go wrong from within, the global trend in tech­nol­ogy, eco­nom­ics, pol­i­tics and eco­nomic sys­tems could dis­tort or slow down the growth al­to­gether. While the growth in in­fras­truc­ture in less than a quar­ter of the to­tal num­ber of coun­tries may be com­mend­able, much more needs to be done and all coun­tries must be brought into the growth bracket for shared pros­per­ity. Africa there­fore needs to build a con­sen­sus on fair and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, free trade and fair trade, par­tic­u­larly within the con­text of re­source-based economies.

The in­sti­tu­tions that would stim­u­late and sus­tain Africa’s eco­nomic growth are yet to be fully in place. The ex­ist­ing ones are not op­ti­mally func­tional and op­er­ate in worlds apart. De­spite the ben­e­fits of re­gional in­te­gra­tion, Africa’s re­gional bod­ies are yet to score much points of per­for­mance. The Com­mu­nity of Sa­hel–Sa­ha­ran States (CEN–SAD), Com­mon Mar­ket for East­ern and South­ern Africa (COMESA), East African Com­mu­nity (EAC), Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of Cen­tral African States (ECCAS), Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States (ECOWAS), In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Authority on De­vel­op­ment (IGAD), South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) all need to share vi­sions and ex­pe­ri­ences for com­mon good.

On the AU plat­form, Africa could do a lot. But, how well funded is NEPAD, for in­stance? And how much of tasks can it sin­gle-hand­edly take on at a time? How far has Africa been able to go in find­ing so­lu­tion from within to the hos­til­i­ties in Cen­tral African Repub­lic, South Su­dan and Boko Haram in­sur­gency in the north east­ern Nige­ria? What has be­come of the peren­nial drought in the east­ern and south­ern Africa, with re­spect to liveli­hoods, food se­cu­rity, re­gional se­cu­rity and economy? What are the roles of the academia and re­search in­sti­tu­tions in knowl­edge shar­ing and so­lu­tion find­ing?

Could it be said that some of the re­mark­able im­prove­ments in re­cent times were for­tu­itous, ac­ci­den­tal, and not de­signed or wellthought-out poli­cies by African lead­ers? Is not pos­si­ble that peo­ple are in a rush to cel­e­brate the im­me­di­ate and ob­vi­ous suc­cesses, with­out any se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion for the flip side? Is any­one wor­ried about China’s bur­geon­ing pres­ence in Africa even though there are some no­table ben­e­fits em­a­nat­ing there­from? What about long-term im­pli­ca­tions? Ac­cord­ing to McKin­sey, a global con­sult­ing firm, “two decades, China has be­come Africa’s most im­por­tant eco­nomic part­ner. Across trade, in­vest­ment, in­fras­truc­ture fi­nanc­ing, and aid, no other coun­try has such depth and breadth of en­gage­ment in Africa. Chi­nese “dragons”— firms of all sizes and sec­tors—are bring­ing cap­i­tal in­vest­ment, man­age­ment know-how, and en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­ergy to ev­ery corner of the con­ti­nent.”

Rather than giv­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate at­ten­tion to the tow­er­ing pres­ence of China in Africa, how much of at­ten­tion have African lead­ers paid to the transna­tional in­vest­ment of South African MTN in Nige­ria and many other coun­tries? How are des­ti­na­tion coun­tries ben­e­fit­ting from Dan­gote In­dus­tries’ in­vest­ments? Or how are African lead­ers as­sess­ing the im­pacts of Nige­rian com­mer­cial banks go­ing re­gional, the Ghana­ian tex­tile prod­ucts re­defin­ing fash­ion and dress­ing across na­tional fron­tiers or the ris­ing in­flu­ence of Nige­rian Nol­ly­wood in­dus­try on the con­ti­nent? Are there ef­forts at sus­tain­ing the Ethiopian Air­ways, Kenyan Air­ways, South African Air­lines or RwandAir and keep­ing them in busi­ness against all odds? If Emi­rates, Qatar, Eti­had can have vis­i­ble pres­ence in Africa, how many coun­tries within the con­ti­nent are well linked by lo­cal con­ti­nen­tal air­lines?

Be­tween Nige­ria, Mozam­bique and Ghana, Africa’s pro­duc­tion of cas­sava is higher than else­where else in the world. Yet, how much of cross-na­tional so­lu­tion in food se­cu­rity has cas­sava been able to pro­vide? And how much of em­ploy­ment have African coun­tries been able to pro­vide across na­tional fron­tiers in crit­i­cal ar­eas of the economy? Mul­ti­lat­eral De­vel­op­ment Banks have been pro­vid­ing sup­ports in forms of loans or fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance by other names in health­care, food se­cu­rity, in­fras­truc­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and economies, but how much has lo­cal gov­er­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tions been able to trans­late th­ese to am­bi­tious goals and re­mark­able re­sults?

The in­tan­gi­ble economy comes up again for reck­on­ing. This is the age of the mil­len­ni­als! The eco­nomic think­ing of lead­ers must fac­tor in this re­al­ity. Gov­er­nance and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship need a new mind­set and a new ap­proach. One does not suc­ceed by stick­ing to con­ven­tion. Ja­cob Morgan, in The Fu­ture of Work, wrote that “many or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world to­day are in trou­ble. The world of work is chang­ing around them while they re­main stag­nant. The larger the gap grows the greater the chance that th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions will not sur­vive. How­ever, or­gan­i­sa­tions shouldn’t just sur­vive, they must want to thrive and be com­pet­i­tive in a new rapidly chang­ing world. To do this re­quires pi­o­neer­ing change, not wait­ing for tragedy to hap­pen or for a cri­sis to force change.” What Ja­cob Morgan wrote about busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions is also true of coun­tries.

In­no­va­tion is a hall­mark of vi­brant economies, na­tions in progress, sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment and pro­duc­tive work­force. In Europe and north Amer­ica, coun­tries in­no­vate around en­vi­ron­ment, food, health, tech­nolo­gies and fi­nan­cial sys­tems. Africa must in­no­vate around some­thing. The fu­ture of food and en­ergy places Africa at a great ad­van­tage. If well de­ployed, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­new­able en­ergy will give Africa a lead­ing edge.

Lead­ers must fo­cus on th­ese nar­row ar­eas for a start. When the ba­sic is­sues of food and en­ergy have been set­tled, they can be­gin to pur­sue other es­o­teric goals. But as things stand now, Africa can only hope to move for­ward when food and en­ergy have been pro­vided for the teem­ing pop­u­la­tion and grow­ing eco­nomic prospect that need power and en­ergy to op­er­ate.

The in­tan­gi­ble economy comes up again for reck­on­ing. This is the age of the mil­len­ni­als! The eco­nomic think­ing of lead­ers must fac­tor in this re­al­ity

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