What do I envision Future African Societies to look like?

PS: This was submitted as a research assignment for Africa in the International Setting Course at Ashesi University.

Urgency should be put into perspective while envisioning how African societies should look like in the future. It is sacrosanct that today’s actions draw insights from where African societies have been and reflect on creating communities that take cognizance of the enormous gaps economically, socially, and politically. Therefore, future African societies should identify, define, and implement concrete policies, with priorities being job creation, regional integration, and economic empowerment through an amalgamation of both human and financial capital towards reducing foreign aid dependency.

In his book, Why Africa is Poor: And What Africans Can Do About It, Mills (2011) reflects on political leaders’ role in bringing Africa to her knees by failing to implement policies geared towards economic growth. The policies are mostly counterproductive. In seeking the solution to this, he proposes that low-income countries can prosper when their leaders implement policies that promote private-sector-led investment

To work towards this proposed development scheme, we must understand where African societies were and currently are as we envision what they should be in the future.

Where were they? African societies: Postcolonialism

The struggle for independence and ultimate autonomy for African states is prevalent in postcolonial Africa up to date. It can be attributed to the ongoing battle against neocolonialism, and lack of economic independence and subsequent disunity among most Africans. Therefore, it would be safe to deduce that the post-independence was “post” in name only, rather than a grant of full autonomy to the “independent” states. The post-independence African states retained all colonial institutions (Muiu, 2010)

The impoverishment of the African continent, therefore, was because of the retention of these institutions. During colonial times, the European powers had instituted a one-way flow of resources, both economic and human. In effect, this led to prolonged periods of siphoning of resources from Africa and leaving it in a state of deterioration.

With postcolonialism came neoliberalism. It forced most African states into bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that involved exporting raw materials and natural resources to their former colonies in exchange for highly volatile aid agreements in the form of loans. Some of these loans have become huge baggage for a majority of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund discredited the ideological organizations of post-independence Africa leaders and forced them to take loans in the 1980s that were conditioned on liberalization and privatization (Olukoshi, Hormeku-Ajei, Balaji, & Nayar, 2020)

Undeniably and undoubtedly, the post-independence states of Africa remain tied organically to their former colonial masters and a great extent been a detriment to the continent. Africa is a continent endowed with massive potential in Agriculture but has faced persistent food crises since time immemorial. This is a testament that even, with this endowment, there is a neocolonial orientation of contemporary Africa’s economies (Gana, 1985).

Sub-Saharan Africa has been at the helm of the destructive political effects of foreign aid. Africa is hugely “aid-dependent” with the support being earmarked towards the improvement of government. In 1996, the World Bank governors admitted that aid on balance undermined institutional capacity in Africa (Goldsmith, 2001).

High levels of poverty have instigated Africa’s over-reliance on foreign aid. Besides, there have been external sponsorships of conflict long after the end of colonialism, for instance, the case of Liberia, where the US government sided with Firestone, the antics of divide and conquered that were first introduced by the colonialists and later adopted by the African leaders, which ultimately led to ethnic divides.

Postcolonial African states could therefore be described as fragile, unpredictable, and precarious, which transcends to contemporary ones

Where are they? Incumbent African societies

Decades after colonialism, most colonial powers still have a sense of ownership of their former colonies, hence transcending the neo-colonialism rhetoric that still exists to date and postcolonialism.

Postcolonial Africa’s over-dependence on aid has led to a considerable rampage in contemporary African states. A new problem is being evidenced, however. Foreign aid is now more synonymous with corruption than before, and the current global trade and money evidence flow in and out of the African continent. Money flows majorly via illegal corporate disbursements, tax heavens in Europe, unfair trade rules and money laundering.

Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodorin Nguema Obiang, had nine of his luxury cars seized as part of a money-laundering business that yielded 2.8 million Euros in Paris, France (Cars Seized from E. Guinea President’s Son Reap 2.8 Mln Euros | Voice of America — English, n.d.). Additionally, the Kenyan government recently ordered an investigation into finding the number of Kenyans who own offshore accounts. They have been suspected to be operating in the money laundering business (Owino, 2020). The state in these two countries represents what is prevalent in most of the other sub-Saharan African countries.

With the synonymity of aid with corruption, poverty has been more prevalent, and its consequences are far-reaching. The higher prevalence in most of these current states has often made it unattractive for foreign investors, slowed bureaucracy and unaccountability.

As a matter of fact, and as testified by the postcolonialism era and contemporary African states, neocolonialism, neoliberalism, and poverty have fueled the over-dependence on foreign aid which, in my supposition future African societies must get rid of.

Where do I envision them to be?

I. Creation of Jobs

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation reported that in 2019, 60% of the total African population was under the age of 25, making it the youngest population in the world. Moreover, by 2100, Africa’s youth population could be equivalent to twice Europe’s entire population (Africa’s First Challenge, 2019). Given this statistic, there is needed urgency to formulate ways in which this population can be productive members of society; however, cognizance must be taken regarding the shortfall jobs in the future. According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, by 2040, there will be a shortfall of 50 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa that need to be created (McVeigh, 2017). The various governments need to formulate policies and develop implementation plans to expedite a more competitive private sector. With this assured, there will be robustness in businesses’ growth, hence facilitating more job creation and subsequent stimulation of African economies.

A stimulated economy would comprise a good governance system with a strengthened judicial system that will bolster transparency and reduce corruption. Moreover, sound fiscal and monetary policies and an improved investment climate would be guaranteed.

Foreign investors would seamlessly be wooed into investing in the corruption-free and welcoming climate that has been created for their investments to thrive. Long-term investment, especially in the private sector, manufacturing, and agricultural industries, for which African societies provide raw materials and infrastructure, will mitigate the key challenges facing them. They heavily rely on foreign aid. These challenges include food insecurity and unemployment; however, with the private sector’s enabling environment, there will be the necessary employment opportunities for African youth.

African societies should provide incentives geared towards improving the quality of education, which will be vital in producing a skilled workforce, that can be absorbed by the different investors. A skilled workforce absorbed by private investors implies more remuneration to the various African states and, hence, key in complementing their budgets for long periods relied on supplementary aid.

II. Africa regional integration

Africa is a continent made up of 54 states with diverse economies, which, however, collaboration and cooperation would thrive, irrespective. For the continent to move away from over-reliance on foreign aid, the different states should improve regional integration initiatives, which, undeniably will be vital towards sustainable development and encouraging long-term prosperity of the continent. Key among the components to accelerate economic prosperity is escalating intra-African trade. In return, there will be improved productivity, increased industry competition, and local infrastructure development, which mostly has been reliant on foreign aid interventions. An example is Zambia, which has been described as the most prominent debtor to China. Recent reports have indicated that this economy is at the verge of defaulting on the same. Zambia is currently and steadily working towards restructuring, renegotiating, or refinancing its extensive Chinese project finance debt; however, the Chinese companies are playing hardball as reported (Smith, 2020). Such scenarios could be avoided with the adoption of the proposed regional integration.

A recent conference, where the International Labour Organisation(ILO) was a participant, recognized how the timeline for adopting Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) had been derailed. However, its adoption would be fundamental in realizing the integration of the African continent as it will establish free trade among all 54 states on the continent as earlier projected to have been attained by 2017 (ILO COOP Participates in the ICA Africa Regional Conference on ‘Fostering Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area through Cooperatives’, 2020). This will be a significant moment for development in Africa, subsequently leading to continental unification.

The current level of trade between African states is only 12 per cent compared to 60 per cent for Europe, 40 per cent for North America, and 30 per cent for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the World Trade Organization (WTO) (Kwemo, 2017).

Trade between the different African states is estimated to grow by approximately 50% as the CFTA would establish the world’s largest single market. A combination of political stability and good governance integrated with intra-Africa trade through market integration will be significant. Consequently, there will be increased economic growth, accelerated job creation, more employment.

The efforts towards regional integration are geared towards poverty reduction, the inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development, and better integration of the continent into the global economy. Its ultimate goal is to decrease the continent’s current over-dependence on the outside world for its growth.

III. Economic empowerment

Economic empowerment is sequential with having inclusive financial institutions. Most countries in the world differ in their economic success because of their different institutions — the rules influencing how the economy works and the incentives that motivate people. However, if Africa succeeds in the front towards having intra-trade and united in this front, inclusive economic institutions will thrive.

These institutions are sacrosanct to the prosperity and development of African societies. As aforementioned, private investment is vital towards reducing reliance on foreign aid, and these institutions will help realize this and create grounds for the same.

African states that incorporate these institutions will provide a degree of infrastructure, making economic growth seamless. Adopting a neo-liberal approach, not in its entirety, will help towards realizing this.

The realization of economic prosperity in future African societies is dependent more on what Africa will negotiate and not on what Africa deserves. Incumbent and future African leaders must actively seek commercial and trade engagement through the Intra-regional trade in the African continent (Acemoglu, 2013).

Nevertheless, African nations must prioritize more excellent dialogue between regional economic communities to implement necessary policies reform to accelerate such reform and increase trade and investment between the different African countries.

Human capital is a vital determinant in bolstering economic growth in developing countries, and so is financial capital. With good institutions and investment in education, there is a guarantee in “learning by doing” being fostered faster and subsequently leading to increased human capital. Future African policymakers have the responsibility to work towards the continuation of this trend.

In the proposed development, aid would be only to complement rather than supplement the existent strategies towards African societies’ growth. In an interview with Patrick Pawletko, an advisor at GIZ described that the outlook on foreign aid in the future would be determined by the African states’ ability to combine technical and socio-economic expertise. This would be guaranteed by progressive job creation, regional integration, and economic empowerment.

With a united African front, there will be minimal reliance on expatriate human resources. A skilled labour force would be capitalized and ensure that the private and foreign investments in infrastructure and manufacturing can be done by Africans and returns remain within. This is unlike the situation in Liberia where Firestone took advantage of the political instability and extracted resources and exploited Liberians and brought Liberia to its knees (FRONTLINE | Firestone and the Warlord | Season 2014 | Episode 17, 2014)

The proposed scheme for developing future African societies is not perfect. Any unprecedented challenges can be addressed through systemic cushioning and mitigation strategies that would have been envisioned by current and future African leaders. Additionally, there is a chance for potential criticism and heresy on whether Africa can sustain itself without any aid, my superposition is generally Africa having minimal reliance on aid, hence complementing its efforts towards attaining economic prosperity for posterity

In a nutshell, for the prospected future of African societies, they will need to actively create the enabling environment necessary to boost local economies, attract foreign investment, encourage private sector growth and competitiveness, and increase regional integration.

Future African societies are primarily believed to have minimal to no reliance on aid to supplement development in different industries. They, instead, will be the primary contributors to their growth and prosperity.

The policy implications would be occasioned by the transition to a semi-neoliberal approach that would require bilateral agreement between the government and the private sector. However, it might be not easy; I believe that there are higher chances of this being seamless with regional integration.

The current debates are on Africa’s overdependence on China for foreign aid majorly in loans and have had a significant toll on the economies. Before my approach is implemented, these states should offset the various loans and mitigate corruption, where youth and activists can come in handy. State resources and assets hidden in offshore accounts will require the intervention of both leaders and human rights activists to push for the same, and hence the proceeds of corruption can be recovered.

The role of youth and civil society is, therefore, apparent. They will put both the government and private sector, where often corruption thrives unnoticed compared to the public sector. They will do checks and balances to ensure that the government follows the prospected plan and seeks advice in other circumstances and scenarios.

As a future member of civil society or prospect leader, my role would be to ensure that in my actions I am accountable, I can formulate and implement policies that are no detriment to the economic growth of my nation. In either role, I am optimistic I will bring to fruition an Africa that is less dependent on aid, more focused on creating human, social and economic capital towards the economic and social prosperity of my continent.

References

1. Acemoglu, D. (2013). Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty (Pbk.ed.). New York: Crown Business.

2. Cars Seized from E. Guinea President’s Son Reap 2.8 mln Euros | Voice of America — English. (n.d.). Retrieved December 24, 2020, from https://www.voanews.com/africa/cars-seized- e-guinea-presidents-son-reap-28-mln-euros

3. Gana, A. T. (1985). The State in Africa: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. InternationalPolitical Science Review / Revue Internationale de Science Politique, 6(1), 115–132.

4. Goldsmith, A. A. (2001). Foreign Aid and Statehood in Africa. International Organization,55(1), 123–148.

5. Kwemo, A. B. (2017, April 20). Making Africa Great Again: Reducing aid dependency.https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2017/04/20/making-africa-great-again- reducing-aid-dependency/

6. McVeigh, K. (2017, June 27). Africa facing shortfall of 50 million jobs by 2040, report says. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jun/27/africa- facing-shortfall-of-50-million-jobs-by-2040-report-says

7. Muiu, M. wa. (2010). Colonial and Postcolonial State and Development in Africa. Social Research, 77(4), 1311–1338.

8. Olukoshi, A., Hormeku-Ajei, T., Balaji, A., & Nayar, A. (2020). Post-Independence Africa Had Dreams of Freedom. Neoliberalism Offers Nothing But Subordination.

9. Owino, S. (2020, November 19). MPs seeking to recover stolen money hidden abroad | nation. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/-mps-recover-stolen-money-hidden-abroad- 3203344?view=htmlamp

10. PBS Frontline. 2014. Firestone and the Warlord. Pro Publica. First released: November 18, 2014. https://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-firestone-and-warlord/ (Accessed: October 9, 2020)

11. Smith, E. (2020, January 14). Zambia’s spiralling debt offers glimpse into the future of Chinese loan financing in Africa. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/14/zambias-spiraling- debt-and-the-future-of-chinese-loan-financing-in-africa.html

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