How to stop South Africa and Africa from Burning

2016-06-21 15:12

At the turn of the century, The Economist, belligerently described Africa.  It proclaimed that there were “floods in Mozambique; threats of famine in Ethiopia (again); mass murder in Uganda; the implosion of Sierra Leone; and a string of wars across the continent. The new millennium has brought more disaster than hope to Africa. Worse, the few candles of hope are flickering weakly.”  Arguably, this could have been seen as the case.  In the 1980s, economies and political systems dramatically fell apart, despite the growth and prospects shown in the 1970s.  By the 1990s, the havoc caused by the mismanaged and inadequate structural adjustment programs instituted by international financial institutions, continued to decimate the social sector of African economies.  Nevertheless, African nations have worked tirelessly to improve their politically, socially and economically spheres so that the nations can be actual participants in the global economy.  Today, the efforts by the governments have shown a mild progression towards development but there are still challenges which hinder Africa from fully maximizing its potential to fulfilling its ultimate vision.

Today, almost 16 years after the Economists predications, we may see less civil wars ravaging our beautiful continent, but we are still folly to Zimbabweans ban on foreign imports such as weaves, wardrobes, beauty products and wardrobes; South Africa’s capitol city being masked in smoke over protest action against the new mayoral candidate and climate change implications resulting in droughts and famine whilst devastating masses of land in East Africa and Zambia. But there is no longer time to bathe in the issues but it is now time to address the issues and consider constructive solutions.

South Africa, for instance, in light of the current events plaguing Pretoria needs to address the challenges associated with inequalities and disparities.  The poorest of the population have unequal access to quality education in the rural areas, limited access to healthcare and other social services.

The growth of disparities between the rich and poor has to seize to propagate, instead the growth of a middle class, should come into fruition.  To grow the middle class, access to education, employment and health services should be ascertainable.  Studies and reports have also shown that a growing middle class elicits job creation, good governance and entrepreneurship opportunities; a driving factor towards inclusive economic prosperity.  Accordingly, by governments evaluating the needs of the marginalized in their communities and addressing them, increases the chance of sustainable development.

The leads to the next challenge entitled - the middle income trap.  Now, with respect to the rest of the continent, African nations are becoming and some have become middle-income economies.  But many African populations remain poor or in the low income bracket.  Those nations who are in middle-income category, struggle to transition from a middle income country towards an advanced and competitive economy.  Although there were countries who were transitioning in this direction in early years, for example, Botswana, Cape Verde and Mauritius, and achieved a per capita growth rates of about four percent, they are still not high income countries.  African countries struggle to sustain the growth rates that should continue into the next generation.  Countries, like South Africa, reached the middle income status, and plateaued because of a lack of innovation, inability to widen their talent pool and majority of the population being unskilled or semi-skilled.

There is a possibility of solutions to avoiding this trap.  African states need to have a diversified economy which is open to the global economy.  States should increase productivity in addition, increasing competition whilst reducing corruption.  One of the mandates should be move persons out of low productive activities (e.g. agriculture) to higher producing productivity activities which involve labor intensive manufacturing, innovative technological machinery and globalized services.  Also, a reduction in trade barriers, that opens trade regimes to allow goods to get to the international markets.  This would improve domestic competition to produce and promulgate for the goods to be produced locally and regionally.  Consequently, the reduction of trade barriers and the liberalization of trade policies could also enable Sub-Saharan states to join certain lucrative global value chains and profit from the outcomes.   Moreover, businesses should be cognizant of the markets and market based prices to be able to allocate resources adequately. Governments need to have more discipline, honest, humility and courage to have social cohesion in their communities and obligation towards helping their people.

Africa is a young continent, filled with young and diligent future leaders.  Young unemployed minds, with energy and talent cascade over Africa leading to idleness and vulnerability.  For the next generation to be equipped to tackle the challenges bestowed on Africa, they will require quality education and job creation.

Notwithstanding the abundance of natural resources that Africa has in the continent, there also needs to be a focus on human capital development.  It is no secret that brain drain continues to plague the continent.  Elite doctors, engineers and lawyers receive their high school education on the soils of the continent, but flee to better pastures to complete their graduate studies, often never to return.  African nations need to invest in their human capital by providing competitive quality education, salaries and employment opportunities.  This may encourage less talent from leaving.

The story of Africa is not taught enough in our schools and we have lagged behind Western and Asian countries for far too long.  It is up to us to tell the story and fix the problems associated with a lack of leadership, poor infrastructure, subordinate technological resources and a slow decline of human rights.  The story of Africa, whether told from the slave trade to the confines of colonial rule – to independence and now to today needs to be fed to our children and future generations to come. The unravelling of the continents fabric was exacerbated by poor leadership and lack of talent.  Unless the challenges inhibiting progress are addressed by leaders on the continent, Africa’s prospects of being competitive force in the global economy and markets; a leader in the production of goods and services; and praised for its innovative students and techniques, by 2050, will remain but a reverie and continue to burn.

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