2020; Africa and the Burden of Development

By Jerome-Mario Utomi
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With the year 2020 now with us, it is just a decade, that separates us from the attainment of 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty. And has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

Accordingly, an Interesting sidelight without going into specific concepts or approaches that have recently reshaped the development conversation is a sudden renunciation of the underlying philosophy, and realization by both economists and development practitioners that the world economy can be seen in a simple unitary way or the notion of the world as a single market as all now have their own laws and ideologies.

Despite this shift in the global economic arrangement, the average living standards of the poor are at risk of multiple communal shocks including extreme poverty and hunger, unemployment, devastation and other natural disaster-sometimes conflicts and medical epidemics as well as idiosyncratic shocks-including theft, damage to the homestead, illness and death in the family.

Further heightening but differently, the strategic implication of this new economic order and challenging reality the world and Africa in particular currently face were William F. Maloney and Gaurav Nayyar. While discussing; Industrial policy, information and Government Capacity, they observed that government are resource and bandwidth constrained. Hence, needs to prioritize productivity-enhancing policy. To win, they advised that it requires information on the nature and magnitude of market failures on the one hands, and the government capacity to redress them successfully on the other.

Given the above economic development, came two potentially interesting solution from the Western world. First, America/Europe separately entered into developmental partnership with corporate/private organizations, Civil Society Organizations and development agencies in the race for infrastructural development. Secondly, to promote their economic interests, ‘they used their economic, political, social and diplomatic powers to level the economic playing field with China (the de-factor empire that tries to behave as if it were a nation-state)’, defend democratic values at home while guarding against Chinese political influences.

If the above policy and approach worked for America and Europe, brought accelerated development, and helped these continents establish themselves to the level of raising fears among African countries, it again raises the following posers; Why have African governments and policymakers on their part serially failed to come up with a better communication and co-ordination of information on the nature and magnitude of market failures, and the needed government capacity to redress them successfully? Does the poor level of infrastructural and socioeconomic development in the continent have any link with how successive governments in Africa managed funds from their countries? Will more funds in the coffers of African leaders translate into greater well-being of African citizens? What incentive or deterrents are in place to promote accountability and transparency with government spending in Africa?

Before attempting to provide answers to the above questions, there is an important distenction to make. Productive partnership between government and private sectors will continue to elude African countries. The reason is simple.

Admittedly, there are ongoing calls globally for private organizations to shift from risk to resilience management. However, despite this call, no sincere corporate organization will be willing to partner with African governments because of the perennial challenge of transparency, openness and process devoid of efficient risk analysis.

This assertion is specifically built on the premise that no organization can enter into partnership with any government when not enough is known to create and validate a convincing quantitative risk assessment or decision analysis that commands substantial agreement from different stakeholders.

Beyond this partnership challenge between the government and private sector in the race for massive infrastructural development, there are other palpable fears and factors that may impede development of the continent even as the world races towards achieving the sustainable development agenda.

Such fundamental obstacle includes but not limited to governmental reluctance to appreciate development plans and reform programs from a rights-based perspective. This posturing on the part of leaders in Africa has continued to engender cynicism among the populations. Directly and indirectly, this adversely affects the efficacy of development initiatives, as the citizenry do not perceive their participation as a right possessing available remedies in event of violation by the government.

As clarified by the United Nations Independent Expert on the Right to Development, the right to development is the right to a particular process of development that allows the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and all fundamental freedoms, by expanding the capabilities and choices of the individual.

Against this backdrop, the human rights approach to development should, therefore, entail the infusion of human rights principles of participation, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination towards the attainment of equity and justice. Individuals, groups and communities have a right in decision-making, planning and implementation of programs that affect them.

To, therefore, reshape the Africa’s economy, eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, attain universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health among others, attract productive partnership that will engineer infrastructural development to the continent in 2020, African policymakers must learn to stop being a coach in a game that they are supposed to be a captain, view alliances as assets to be invested in rather than cost to be cut, drop the attitude of policy inconsistencies and somersault, and recognize that ‘private sectors understand better the location and nature of market failure and barriers that inhibits industrial and infrastructural development of any nation and give them that pride of place’.

Finally, like the generality of Africans, as we hope that the continent makes appreciable progress infra structurally in this 2020, I must quickly add that we should be mindful of the speed with which we rush to China for partnership. The above warning is based on recent experience by other developed countries in this direction.

As an illustration, it was in the news that Germany still treasures its special relationship with China, but has grown unhappy with Chinese behaviour. It was particularly noted that Germany is not alone in its awakening. Europe two other biggest powers-France and the United Kingdom-along with Poland, Spain and the Scandinavian countries, all maintain that copration with China on global challenges, such as climate change and nuclear proliferation, serves Europe’s interest. But they also believe that China is undermining Western values, rules and standards.

Utomi(08032725374), writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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