In 2017, the World Bank reported that Africa received foreign aids to the tune of 45 billion USD from the International Development Association.[i] This kind gesture, meant to be a harbinger of economic development, had no effect in reducing the vulnerability of the common man. Based on data sourced from the International Labor Organization in sub-Saharan Africa, the youth unemployment rate hovers around 12%.[ii] While this is a bit lower than the global youth unemployment rate of 12.4%, Africa has the world’s highest rate of working poverty vis-à-vis people who are employed but earning less than 2 USD per day.[iii] Why is Africa, a continent blessed with abundant natural and human resources, living off the ‘hand-me-downs’ of other continents like beggars? How can Africa move from this aids-dependence era to decades of enormous economic development and transformation? These are pertinent questions that seeks thorough addressing. In this essay, I will outline a number of strategies for economic reform. This includes; Decentralization of power, Tax reform policies, Revitalization of the electoral system, Diversification of the economy as well as Public-Private-People-Partnerships.
There is an old African proverb that says, ‘If you do not come to the table, you are on the menu’. This proverb echoes our need for decentralization of power as a continent. There is a huge amount of diversity in Africa. Some may argue that there is strength in diversity but it has been proven beyond doubt that it is a singular factor which has done more harm than good in African nations. This is mirrored in the huge amount of resentment harbored by the people towards the government due to feelings of marginalization, social exclusion and misrepresentation of interest. Any nation that seeks to solidify her economic growth must first and foremost, carry its citizens along in her vision for transformation. Making every state, district and region politically and financially independent, but somewhat united, should be a top priority in all African countries. Independence in the respect of fully managing resources and revenues generated by the state without a central influence, and unity in the sense of assisting neighboring ‘not well-to-do’ states from time to time as a way of carrying them along. This strategy has a lot of measurable benefits. This includes accountability on the part of the grass-root government, friendly competition amongst regions, promotion of peace, removal of the tribal/religious quota-system, proper appropriation of funds as well as better representation of the interests of the people.
Furthermore, an undebatable fact about taxation is that it is the most feasible, sustainable and short-term means of raising the national revenue with significant positive impact on the economy of a nation. In 2012, sub-Saharan Africa tax revenue was 10 times larger than the 51.9 billion in Official Development Assistance the continent received.[iv] This figure has either stagnated or spiraled down across African nations with Rwanda being the most notable exception. She increased her revenue by almost 50% between 2001 and 2013. The reasons for the stymied tax revenue figures are not far-fetched. Wild spread tax evasion and unmerited tax freedom are problems that need to be taken care of. Multiplicity of tax payment and collection entities (as protested against by the Association of Ghana Industries), sheer unwillingness of the elites to redistribute their wealth through tax payment, and ambiguous international tax laws and policies are the multifaceted causes of tax evasion. To address these issues, I will introduce the use of biometric means of generating peculiar tax IDs (such as fingerprints, optical scans etc.) as obtained in India, and several developed countries to avoid multiple and illegal tax collection. Emphasizing the long-term public benefits of tax payment such as extra public support to upgrade and secure the area in order to attract more investors is an effective way of getting business and property owners to shell out tax money to the government. In addition, negotiating on the international table to reform the skewed tax policies that allows for evasion in tax havens by Africans will be a top priority of mine. Also, the status-quo of unmerited total tax freedom being granted to businesses and property associated with religious bodies is very mind-boggling. I will put this to a halt and instead, give a 5-year window period of tax freedom to the deserving ones in the likes of innovative African entrepreneurs in order to encourage them.
Governance reform is an efficient vehicle on which African nations can hitch a ride to the world of positive transformation. To achieve this, the fundamental process of placing power in the hands of certain individuals needs to be revitalized. There are three sides to this coin of change; before, during and after the election process. Before the election, contenders must fall within the legal civil service age limit, as well as declare and account for all property under their name. Property not accounted for will be confiscated and utilized by the state. During the election, paperless systems of voting such as biometrics, online platforms and the likes will be introduced. This will reduce the ‘sales of votes for bread’ situation in Africa to the barest minimum as well as limit the tampering of election results. After the election, ‘the Nigeria’s whistle-blowing policy that generated over 26 million dollars for the country in 2017 alone’[v] will be modeled in other African nations. This will, to some extent, curtail the abuse of power by the government officials. All the aforementioned strategies will curb corruption in the long run by ensuring the right and accountable leader gets into office as well as prevent looting of public funds.
‘Not to be taken lightly’ is Africa’s need to jettison her over-dependence on non-renewable resources and embrace diversification. This is a long-term and lasting solution against fluctuation in commodity prices. However, Africa’s poor conception of what diversification entails precludes finding the appropriate way out of her over-dependence. It should be noted that diversification is not borne out of the investment of a nation’s resources into untapped sectors of the economy but rather, the fruit of industrialization. Before industrialization is attempted, developing the people and the Knowledge, Skills and Competence (KSC) framework is paramount. This can be done in two ways; sending delegates abroad for proper training or bringing in experts to train our youths. The latter is my personal favorite because it totally avoids the issue of unwillingness to return back to the continent on the part of the delegates. Once the people and KSC framework is developed, the next line of action is for stringent border laws and embargo on foreign intermediary and processed products to be put in place in order to set the stage for industrialization by local and foreign investors. Once industrialization is achieved, concurrent surge in the development of other sectors of the economy such as transport, agriculture, mining, tourism etc. will follow suit.
A formidable force to be reckoned with in Africa’s quest for economic growth is Public-Private-People-Partnerships (PPPPs). This was China, Japan and America’s ticket to the enviable stage of economic giants. The unique features of PPPPs that make it very viable in any nation is the fact that it operates on a performance basis and it takes into account the people’s view and contributions on potential projects. That is, huge amounts of public funds will not be made available to private entities until they accept to incur more responsibilities/risks as well as meet up the high standard of service delivery required by the government and the people. These responsibilities include exchange-rate risk, feasibility and sustainability risks. No matter how brilliant an idea is, it can never be without cons, the most apparent being the fact that the government has to pay more for the services delivered by these private bodies. This is however, not a true fiscal disadvantage because in the long run, the value for money is usually realized. Also, I will ensure that a clear legal and regulatory framework is laid out to silent every ambiguity and bureaucracy that may arise in the course of these partnerships. Cases of how PPPPs are giving Africa a new look can be found in the Lake Turkana wind power project in Kenya, Senegal’s Dakar-Diamniado road, the Tanger-Med port project in Morocco,[vi] to name but a few.
In conclusion, it should be noted that all the strategies discussed hitherto in this essay can be likened to a spider web. Whereas, a single silk thread does nothing for the spider, the web is a true hero. Same principle applies to the strategies if Africa is ever to evolve to the point of rendering aids to other continents. I truly believe these are ideas worth sharing.
[i]Lisa Schlein (March 20, 2017). African Region to Receive $45 Billion in Development Aid. Voa Live. Retrieved from https://www.voanews.com/a/african-regions-to-receive-45-billion-development-aid/3773966.html/. On May 23, 2018 by 09:06GMT
[ii] African Center for Economic Transformation (April 1, 2016). Unemployment in Africa: no jobs for 50% of graduates. Retrieved at http://acetforafrica.org/highlights/unemployment-in-africa-no-jobs-for-50-of-graduates/. On May 24, 2018 by 9:30GMT
[iii] Same as 2
[iv] Gargee Ghosh (May 10, 2016). Journey to Equitable Finances. Retrieved from https://addisfortune.net/columns/journey-to-equitable-finances/. On May 22, 2018 by 22:23GMT
[v] Mathias O, Terhemba D et al (March 22, 2018). Whistle blower policy generates N9.12b, says FG. Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved at https://m.guardian.ng/news/whistle-blower-policy-generates-n9-12b-says-fg/. On May 19, 2018 by 2:00GMT
[vi] Peterson Tumwebaze (September 16, 2017). How public-private partnership is giving Africa a new look. The New times. Retrieved at http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/2200009. On May 10, 2018 by 6:20GMT
What do you think?