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Why Africa’s greatest need is not cash

In Africa, poor leadership, graft, poor resource management and ill-conceived policies are so intrinsically intertwined and can be attributed to widespread poverty and underdevelopment.

BY JOSEPH MUTHAMA

Africa is 30 million square kilometres and covers over 20 per cent of the earth’s total land mass. Interestingly, Africa is bigger than China, India, Japan and United States all combined. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Africa’s population is expected to increase from 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Understandably, in recent decades, Africa has experienced an exponential population growth hence demographic dividend. Demographically, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), for example, has a population of more than 600 million people, with an annual growth of 43 per cent. According to experts, it is predicted that by 2050, SSA will have a larger and younger workforce than China and India. Population Reference Bureau Report posits that more than one-third of people living in SSA have no access to improved drinking water, a problem that disproportionately affects women, girls, and those living in rural areas. Put differently, while SSA has experienced a monstrous population growth rate in recent years, it is characterised by dismal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), high unemployment rates, poverty, hunger and starvation.

In Kenya, for example, experts say that the population is projected to hit 96 million in 2050 up from the current population of 46 million, and 41 million people are expected to live in urban areas hence unprecedented demand for food, housing social amenities and job opportunities.   According to the World Bank, youth in Kenya comprise 34.5 per cent of the total population and one million of these enter the job market every year. Sadly, job opportunities are scarce.

Growth and development

Victor Harrison, the Commissioner of Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC) while launching Africa’s Development Dynamics 2018, the first economic Report said, “Africa has significant assets for addressing its issues, a young and enterprising population, regions undergoing fundamental change with growth in the countryside and rapid urbanization, considerable natural resources, dynamic economics, rich ecosystems and a solid Diaspora. However, far too often, public policies have failed to leverage these assets effectively.”  Indeed, fast-growing population and urbanization rates have put a strain on education, healthcare facilities, infrastructure and other basic services. In Africa, poor leadership, graft, poor resource management and ill-conceived policies are so intrinsically intertwined and can be attributed to widespread poverty and underdevelopment.

In September 2018, more than 40 African Heads of State attended Forum for China Africa Cooperation in Beijing, China. During the meeting, Chinese leader Xi Jinping unveiled USD60 billion (KSh 6.03 trillion) kitty to drive Africa’s development agendas like telecommunication, construction of roads, bridges and seaports, energy and human capacity development. The two-day conference was meant to help Africa bridge her infrastructural deficit. Dambisa Moyo, the author of Dead Aid says, “For the previous 50 years, trillions in development related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa with little to show.” Africa deindustrialization and underdevelopment woes are traceable to misappropriation of public fund.  Whereas Africa is experiencing unprecedented demographic growth rates, economic growth remains in doldrums.   

In August 2018, British Premier Theresa May visited South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria to strengthen bilateral relations between Africa and Britain. The controversial Brexit has necessitated Britain to look for other trade partners outside Europe.

International Trade

While globalization has opened unprecedented trade opportunities in Africa, balance of trade and balance of payment deficits in many African countries are no longer scintillating. The juggernaut of globalization has exacerbated Africa’s economic problems. Globalization of world trade superimposed onto Africa economies has inadvertently affected Africa’s industrialization dream hence globalization of poverty. International trade between Africa and other continents has remained skewed since time immemorial.

Despite efforts to boost continental economy, trade between intra-Africa and intra-regional economic blocs continue to face insurmountable bottlenecks and labyrinth legislations. Whereas foreign trade is of critical importance to Africa’s economy, it has often impeded intra-Africa trade. Over the years, Africa has been denied considerable altitude in deciding her trade partners.

Worse, cheap imported and counterfeit goods like electronic gadgets, motor vehicles, rice, sugar, fish among others that have flooded the local market continue to deny many African countries the much-coveted revenues and job opportunities.

Unless pragmatic measures are taken to reserve the current trend, Africa will continue to play second fiddle to developed continents.

Joseph Muthama is a Member of KIM, lecturer and writes on leadership and management  Email: josephmuthama05@gmail.com

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