By Olakunle Agboola
THE POTENTIAL OF AFRICA FOR FUTURE ECONOMIC GROWTH
Africa will be a powerful force in global economy having effective leadership, governance and policy to manage Africa resources. The most valuable asset Africa has is her human capital and even that is not been maximised to develop the continent.
Africa innovation will depend on investment in infrastructures development, boosting entrepreneurial spirit with government funding for start-up businesses and applying research to solve problems.
In recent years, economists have used the terms “developed countries” to denote First World and “emerging markets” to refer to Third World countries. We believe that the use of these terms camouflages the extent of underdevelopment and challenges faced by the poorest. The terms are also viewed as a means of excusing First World responsibility to provide material support and solidarity.
It is a common notion that Third World countries are characterised by a big agrarian sector and a huge proportion of the population are poor. Also, that they are marked by low productivity, disease, high infant mortality, lack of potable water and poor infrastructure. First World countries is believed to be highly urbanized, while citizens enjoy universal access to health, education and housing. They also exhibit high productivity, strong service sectors and great political structure that works.
It has been generally argued by scholars that Africa can be the world’s leading economy in the next 25 years if there is readiness to draw from the wisdom that took many Asian countries from Third World status to First World status. Africa is blessed with both human and natural resources to take a lead with major countries such as, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa. These countries can emulate the “Asian miracle”, but only if governments take decisive steps to achieve certain outcomes.
East Asia experienced a notable record of high and sustained economic growth from 1965 to 1990. The 23 economies of East Asia grew faster than those of all other regions of the world. The idea behind their growth was improve in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita or improve in the average household income. Also, a robust national leadership was at the fulcrum of sustaining human development. There is a direct correlation between leadership and development of a nation and this is one of the major areas East Africa has explored for a sustainable growth. Africa will have to wake up and raise new generation of leaders who will be committed to foster development and democracy. Also, the new generation leaders must be committed to tackle corruption, dictatorship and conflict to build the new Africa.
Late Lee Kwan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore and largely considered the founding father of that nation will not be easily forgotten by his propagated idea of moving from Third World to First World in one generation. He recognized Singapore needed a strong economy in order to survive as an independent country, and he launched a program to industrialize Singapore and transform it into a major exporter of finished goods. The economic trajectory of Africa to build a strong economy is possible but Africa might need a man like late Lee Kwan Yew who bought his country efficient administration and spectacular prosperity at the cost of a mildly authoritarian style of government that infringed on civil liberties.
Taiwan and South Korea had been in the position of many African countries who are today called a developing nation. In 1960, Taiwan had GDP per capita and human development levels that placed it among the least developed countries in the world. Taiwan and South Korea had no mineral wealth like that of many African countries. What they had, instead, were national systems of innovation and, critically, they invested in human capital. They copied technologies from First World economies until they were on par and even overtook the First World countries. In many cases they started off equal or lower in GDP per capita but they made serious economic progress focused on growing the average income of their citizens. For example, Japan focused on this between 1950 and 1972 and doubled its GDP per capita. It is sad that no African leader has pursued with single-minded determination the improvement of household incomes. Instead their focus has generally been on economic growth with trickle down being viewed as a panacea for higher GDP per capita.
It is a difficult task for a nation to prosper without well-organized institutions that can sustain itself through strategic planning, hard work and sacrifice. The focus must be on the citizen to improve their standard of living and in turn give back to the society as we have seen with most developed nations of the world. Leadership is the key and it is a critical factor hampering Africa to take a lead and reach her destination as a potential power house for the world’s largest economy.