Despite the fact that Africa is rich in vast natural resources and potential human resources it has nonetheless suffered from serious economic stagnation, civil wars, insecurity, poverty, epidemics and other serious socioeconomic problems.

I am proposing an “Integrated African Human & Natural Resources Initiative” which if properly formulated and implemented could help steer Africa out of its current socioeconomic challenges and usher in a new era of prosperity for the continent.

This initiative is not mutually exclusive with the African Union’s (AU) New Partnership for African Development because it actually complements and accelerates its actualization.

One of the major problems we suffer from in Africa is lack of human capacity and dearth of human capital relevant to the natural resources we possess in abundance.

The competitive advantage of any nation is the resources it has in abundance which is in constant demand globally. From Democratic Republic of Congo, to Nigeria, from Tanzania to Cameroon, from Angola to Morocco there is no continent that has the quality and quantum of natural resources that we possess in Africa yet most of these nations continue to wallow in poverty, disease, insecurity and other socioeconomic problems.

The first step in achieving a turn around is to come up with new academic curriculum tailor made for Africans bearing in mind their competitive advantage with regard to their natural resources. The content of existing curriculum for courses such as Engineering (Chemical, Mechanical, Electrical), Medicine, Law, Economics, Accountancy, etc would have to be reviewed extensively by a committee of experts made up of both African and non-African experts to make the curriculum African-resource-centric and as practical as possible.

The major challenge we face in Africa is not just the staggering number of unemployed graduates but the fact that most of them are unemployable. The curriculum should focus on practical skill acquisition relevant to the countries involved.

We cannot grow the economies of African countries by relying on expatriates to help us explore and exploit our natural resources such as crude oil, gold, diamond, iron ore, bitumen etc. We have to tackle this issue from the education angle. We should ensure practical courses are on offer in our universities and polytechnics which helps us create an assembly line of highly skilled workers who can fill the vacancies of the 21st century. This approach is a one that guarantees that when there is a vacancy for a highly skilled worker an African can fill the vacancy.

The second step is pursuit of African immigration reform that opens up all African economies to each other thereby facilitating the free movement of highly skilled labor between and among them. In other words, if there is a shortage of highly skilled labor in one nation another nation can supply it. There will be no need to import human capital from outside Africa if there is an African who can do the job. This will engender reduction in unemployment in Africa. This concept is similar to the emissions trading mechanism. What is being traded in this case is human capital. When one nation has highly skilled workers in excess and they are idle, another African nation suffering from shortages can make a demand on that nation. This mechanism should be called highly skilled workers trading platform.

The third step is to set up a brain-gain program. The main objective if this program is the return of highly skilled African workers in Diaspora to African economies. Over 70% of Nigerian medical doctors which the Medical Schools in Nigeria have produced in the last 35 years work in hospitals outside Africa. Because of this, there is an acute shortage of medical doctors in Nigeria. The same applies to nurses. We have to put a stop to this. A committee can be set up to put together a data base of highly skilled African workers working outside the Continent of Africa. That committee will also undertake the task of helping to integrate them back into the African economy. Seed funds should be mobilized from every available source to help them implement the transfer of the technologies that they can design and fabricate to their respective nations. Where patents have expired, their task will be to help their respective nations mass produce those products for their nations. China has done it, why can’t Africa do it.

The fourth step to achieving this is tearing down of all trade barriers among African nations to make it one market. This will entail the elimination of trade tariffs across the board for intra-African trade. This singular policy if implemented will create wealth in Africa because goods will be able to flow in and out among African nations without unnecessary delays. It will also eliminate corruption at the border points. Without this Africa will not be able to compete effectively against China, the U.S., and the EU.

The fifth step is the setting up of an International Court for African Governmental Corruption (ICFAGC). If corruption is not confronted head-on it will be very difficult for African nations to rise out of economic stagnation. The duty of the prosecutors at the tribunal is the tracing and tracking of all stolen African financial resources with a view to recovering them and sending them back to the countries from which they were stolen.

Those found guilty will also serve jail terms for their crimes. In order to do this an international convention among African nations will be needed and all African nations will have to be signatories. If this is well implemented poverty will be highly reduced in Africa. The current situation where political office holders inflate the national, state or local government budget to enrich themselves will be a thing of the past.

The sixth step is the setting up an infrastructure development commission. The job of this commission is the crafting of modalities for the building of intra-African high speed rails across several regions in Africa to facilitate the movement of goods and human capital. They will also be tasked with the responsibility of identifying major transit roads for movement of goods with the objective of ensuring that those roads are well maintained and that adequate security is provided for Africans moving their goods on those roads.

The seventh step is the setting up of an Industrialization Fund for Africa whose task will be to work closely with development partners and development banks with the sole purpose of mobilizing funds for African nations to build smart factories of the 21st century to help turn their raw materials into finished products. The natural resources or raw materials can be pledged as security for loans that will be mobilized to build these smart factories. If this is done a nation like Nigeria will become a net exporter of petroleum products and will no longer need to export its crude oil. Nigeria will be able to refine all its 2.5m barrels a day of crude oil production locally. We also will have cement, asphalt and fertilizer factories across Africa because a lot of African nations are rich in the raw materials for making them. We will stop being the dumping ground of finished products whose raw materials were soured from Africa. At the worst we will use intra-African trade to sell these finished products among ourselves when we produce them.

It is my humble submission that if the “Integrated African Human & Natural Resources Initiative” is implemented the economies of African nations will catch up with those of the most developed nations. We own the resources that the world needs, and we can use it to transform the continent.

Written By Bunmi Awoyemi, Ph.D

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