EMERGING AFRICA: A BOOK REVIEW
I have read several books on the prospects of Africa as an emerging â€Ž market; most of which were written by non-Africans from an outsider's perspective. In this refreshing book, Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu tells the story from an insider's perspective, with a world view. Not limited to traditional academic theories, the author pours out his years of experience (in United Nations, Central Bank of Nigeria, etc) â€Žin this compelling book. The book takes a cautionary look at the concept of an emerging Africa, and the real credentials and challenges of such optimism. The author argues that â€Žwhile the figures have undoubtedly been good, however, this growth has been buoyed by what the author refers to as 'soft' areas of globalisation as against the 'hard' side of globalisation (manufacturing); the real catalysts of job creation. â€Ž
The author chronicles the progress made by the continent and the shift from 'afro-pessimism' to 'afro-optimism'.â€Ž While the author shares in this optimism, however he did not shy away from interrogating the present and highlighting the yoke of responsibility on Africans to chart their own course, and not rely on booby traps in form of aid.
Written in clear and unambiguous language, the author presents his arguments patiently like a teacher would. The book is divided into four parts. Part I deals with the Philosophical foundations of Prosperity. Part II looks at Economic Transformation using Nigeria as a case study. Part III examines the global engagement (International Economic Governance, World Trade, etc). The Closing part looks at Strategy and Risk Management.
In the first quarter of the book, the author takes a scholastic tour of the concept of capitalism in a world viewâ€Ž and recommends the model of South Korea's industrial conglomerate called 'Chaebol' for most African countries - especially Nigeria. This model has seen the largely family-controlled conglomerates, with the support and encouragement of government, grow competitively across the world and has been a driving force of the South Korean economy. Samsung, LG and Hyundai are all beneficiaries of this deliberate policy. Moghalu argues that this 'might work for the West African country (Nigeria) because it is perhaps the model of 'least resistance' that ties into the reality of the country's political economy'. He imagines the transformation that would be achieved if the country had 10 more Dangote's involved in real economy manufacturing and agriculture. Although the author stated that this would be 'unorthodox, and politically incorrect' and rightly so, he didn't seem to consider how this can be correctly realized in view of our history of mismanaging such opportunities. Implementation has always been the issue in this part. Such optimism without control and a merit-based process would be suicidal.
The book progresses to x-ray economic transformation using Nigeria as a case study. The privatization of the power sector was seen to be a right step that holds the key to unlocking the potentials of the economy. The transformation in the agric sector was mentioned, as well as the need to make finance available as well as high-yield seeds. He also recommended the revitalization of food processing as an important value chain. The slow but steady progress made in the rail sector was also noteworthy to be mentioned by the author. However, the author was quite objective in his assessment, noting that there is still a long way to go in infrastructure development. The book juxtaposes Nigeria's Transformation Agenda with select countries such as Brazil, China, Malaysia and South Africa, who until the recent rebasing of Nigeria's GDP was the biggest economy in Africa.
The author raised some fundamental questions of political foundations and economic progress, sharing scholastic perspectives guided by his own rich personal experience. The concept of the sovereign wealth fund, prospects and challenges, was also brought into perspective. He advocated the need for a paradigm shift from an economy that exports raw material to one that exports finished goods. In advocating this he proposed what he calls economic complexity, Manufacturing Consent and (Strong) Institutions. He emphasized the need to articulate 'a clear industrial policy and equally clear innovation policy'. The federal government seems to be thinking in this light as the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) was launched earlier in the year, with the advisory committee inaugurated this week. It is my hope that such plan will yield practical results like it did for the Asian Tigers. The gradual revamp of automobile assembly plants in the country is also an indication that we seem to be heading in the right direction.
The book x-rays the concept of FDIs, factors that influence it, the obstacles and the implications of growth and development. The author looks at it from a cautious perspective, noting that all FDIs does not automatically translate to economic prosperity, except if they serve 'strategic national interest' of the host country. According to him, FDIs cannot substitute 'local factors that are essential for development'; It serves best when it complements. Thus, there is the need for African countries to be strategic on the kind of FDI they attract, having national interest in mind. That, for me, is quite apt and instructive.
As the book progressed towards the end, the author looked at knowledge economies from a world view; the importance of science and technology in wealth creation. He advocated that African countries will have to make science and technology a 'strategic priority', and also made a case for increased funding for the development of science and technology. The author brings to perspective the irony of Africans - despite the historical role they played in Science and Technology has grown backwards over the years while the west has grown in science and technology and by extension in wealth and prosperity. â€ŽThe author also made a bold attempt to discuss African Science; something that has not been properly ventilated by most authors of similar books. He looked at the historical significance, issues, challenges and prospects of science, technology and innovation in Africa. He is of the opinion that African countries need to do more to encourage innovation, harness resources, strategically engage scientists and engineers in the diaspora. In the closing chapters, the book discusses in great detail the concept of international community, the Bretton Woods institutions, World Trade and Strategy and Risk Management from an African context in a world view. â€Ž
Although the book is titled 'Emerging Africa', however the author dwelt more on Nigeria and less on the continent. There were lots of opportunities to present a lot more details about the other countries in Africa which the author did not quite seize. This might be a little disappointing for one who was expecting in-depth details on the various economies of the continent. However, he did ask very crucial questions that Africa must answer for them to achieve the needed economic prosperity.
The author has told his story of how Africa can 'prosper and matter'; one which he told as an African with a world view. It is an invaluable contribution to the growing contributions on the prospects and challenges of an emerging Africa.â€Ž The author in this book raised the fundamental question of who is responsible for Africa's future. His response, Africans! Like Chinua Achebe said: 'Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter'. The story of Africa's emergence needs to be told by Africans with a world view. Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu did just that with this book. It's an interesting and thought provoking book.
Written By Robinson Tombari Sibe