Africa’s economic paradox.

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Africa is home to more than 1.2 B people, with 54 recognized states and thousands of ethnic groups. Endowed with promising potential and growth opportunities and in possession of nearly 30 Percent of the earths remaining resources yet its masses remain poor despite the large mineral deposits , enough to run the wheels of global industry.

It is necessary that this awareness raises global consciousness and necessitate the need for Africa to speak with one voice for change, changing the lives of its long suffering population.

Africa needs to fix it’s predicament of exploited resources and place itself on the isles of prosperity and dynamic membership of the world community.

The biggest paradox is that the continent with the most natural resources as compared to any other ranks among the poorest of them all, speak of wealth and poverty in the same sentence to define a single subject.

With an economy of amounts flowing out of Africa being about 10 times the amounts of aid coming in and with seven of the world’s fastest growing economies, minerals and resource exploration serving those whose hunger for resources only seem greater than that of benefiting the continent.

Thus redefining modern day form of recolonization to economically paralyze and make dependent and reliant on conditional charity and handouts to run economies, many years after all the 54 countries in the continent secured their independence, which seem to have excluded economic freedom necessitating a rethinking to redefine the place of Africa.

Apparently, all the 20 countries at the bottom of the list offer the world some of the highest mineral deposits; that sounds a little absurd and difficult to comprehend right?

100,000 USD per year, the average income of an average citizen in the countries classified as wealthy while 1,000 USD per year being the average figure of income of a citizen in the poor countries, if I may bring that closer home, this means living on averagely 3 USD a day.

In my article this week I seek to focus to highlight on some common problems we share, the reasons as to why other countries manage to prosper while those at the bottom stagnate and tie them together are some of the reasons we need to come together.

We need to rethink of different rules of engagement and realign beginning right from where we are to where we wish to go, beginning from the national level, regional as well as continental. Strategize on how we can position Africa as an equal partner in wealth economy and redistribution, what is it that these top countries do right in facing the same challenges the poor seem to be struggling and stuck on and what we can do to get a better grip of the challenges and huddles we commonly face.

I begin with three most basic factors that sit on the scale of checking whether a country is rich or poor.

  1. Corruption levels

The correlation between corruption and poverty is directly proportional. The richest countries in the world are also apparently the least corrupt and the most corrupt also the poorest.

When countries are corrupt, they cannot collect enough revenue to get their institutions the funding they need to escape the poverty trap. Loss of revenues in these countries summing to between 20 and 50 billion shillings a year. Meanwhile, with a perforated tax base they become unable to invest in the most basic namely food, water, shelter, health, security, education, Power and infrastructure. Let us look at a very common arm of corruption we term as Clan based thinking, say you want to employ someone, you employ them based on the merits scored by the candidates, picking on the best one irrespective of any personal connection, but that’s not what happens in poor countries under the sway of “clan based” thinking. That approach in itself would be seen as corrupt. Back to the interview example, it’s your duty to disregard the so called best candidate from an anonymous bunch in order to pick someone from your own, could be tribesman, friend, relative or even 3rd cousin. The problem with this is the poor countries don’t allow themselves access to the intelligence and talent of the whole population.

  1. Infrastructure

Infrastructure development is a means to an end, the end in this case being better trade within member states, reduced cost of doing business and easy movement of people, goods and services. Poor road networks hinder economic growth, something some of Africa’s leading economies have realized and are working to upgrade to maximize on the advantages of current world technologies, up from the old dilapidated colonial rails to the current standard gauge. These leading states have committed to developing efficient infrastructure with intentions to elevate their economies to the next level income economies within the next 10 to 15 years.

Countries with high transit transportation costs arising from multiple border stoppages and crossings, high cost of transport charges, illegal road blocks, transport bonds and high insurance charges among others should increase the cost of trade and are best standardized to facilitate cross border trade by making cheaper the costs involved in transport.

Construction of modern weigh bridges to ensure adherence to weight limits supported with stern laws with high penalties for defiance of this. Weigh in motion technologies, a technology that weighs trucks while on the move can reduce pileups at the weigh bridges helping decongest the roads for other motorists.

Delays at border points, a single border post concept can be employed to further ease paper work and delays at the main crossing border points. The idea is to combine two stops into one therefore consolidating functions in a shared work space for both exit and entry procedures.

These ideas, working together will strengthen the continent’s trade and economies as well as anchor it on a firm foundation of efficient transport and trade. This should spur rapid industrialization of the communities and catapult them to working their way to raise their economy status.

  1. Mindset and culture, whatever goes on in peoples’ minds, their outlooks and beliefs, go a long way into shaping their lives. Allow me to make a generalization to religion, the less people believe they can change their lives and destiny, the less chance they stand at getting rich, this is simply because they realize the power within them to do something positive no matter how small to change their living conditions. This is opposed to waiting and blaming the government on what it’s not doing, then stopping at offering prayers for a better tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in prayers, I just don’t believe at stopping there but going further and doing that single thing I can do to change a situation, no matter how small it is. Belief and faith are what you need to understand the next step clearly, the poorest of countries in the world happen to be those of extreme believes. Why would belief be a factor in wealth creation? This is because religiosity, if there is a word like that, is connected to the idea here and now that can’t be improved. So you focus on the next world and hope for best instead, the rich world on the other hand, people are great believers in their capacity to alter their destination through effort, talent and hard work. In America for example, people have managed to balance this within them and believe that the new Jerusalem is to be built here and now and not in the next life and believe that no amount of suffering on earth will guarantee comfort in the afterlife. In a nutshell, prayers are not replacements for discipline, hard work or action towards working to change one’s own life condition, allow God to play his role, but don’t be lazy at working towards it, he blesses you in your path of commitment.

We thus need to realize our individual roles in revitalizing our economies, there are some good allies out there doing better than others but this here today is a singular challenge for the African continent, if we don’t take part in the solutions, we shall be deemed for failures for not understanding two facts, one, that no one else will do it for us because the solutions lie within us, and two, our knowledge and ability to work together, understand one another as well as dialogue. Not anyone else is going to make these solutions for us, nobody outside of ourselves is going to come up with a magic wand and create the Africa we need.

A family, society, country or continent whose young people are in a slumber will never realize its potential

Whatever traumas we have experienced as a continent, we need to focus in the future and begin to act in the present. Use the past as learning experiences we’ve had and move to the future we want.

Whatever you do, your continent needs you, whatever your passion is, however little or small keep pulsating it, keep your art going and seek to elevate it every single day.

Africa is wealthy and has outstanding resources, it needs to be prosperous to change the lives of its people and become dynamic members of the world community, no one else can build it like we can. The many advises we can receive from well-wishers, investors, former colonial masters and many other suitors often come packaged to conceal what’s in for them, but we have to get to the level of waking up to consciousness and realize our potential and go further to actualize it.

We have to reclaim the power of who we, the sleeping giant needs to sleep no more, reconcile our books and renegotiate with our neighboring continents, there’s nothing shameful about being African, even when branded as slow and sleeping or uneducated, you best define yourself and not assume the mindset formed of you by others.

Natural resources in Africa like oil, gases, precious stones or metals and minerals alike can on the other hand be real trouble and paradoxically, poor countries tend to have them in plenty, that seem to have some unseen forces linking directly to corruption rankings, that’s because they rank highest in corruption as well, these natural resources are what economist call intensifiers, they will help a country with good institutions and good management richer while those with bad institutions even more poorer, precipitating what is called the resource trap.

The DRC holds some of the world’s number one most commonly used mineral “coltan” which every mobile phone in the world requires to function, put that does not seem to translate to the wealth it receives as a nation, natural resource wealth helps the greedy gab money without requiring the cooperation of the whole system and society but only a few individuals with machinery and small armies, a cheap labor force and airstrips long enough to ferry out the unprocessed minerals trading with guns and ammunition, that specific small market remains well supplied while the rest of the society languishes in poverty.

Coltan-mineral

These situations exacerbate unemployment rates and raise inflation as well as contribute to challenges towards provision and access to healthcare, nutrition, clean water, security, education and clothing, all contributing to deteriorating economies and impediments to economic stability. More areas we need focus on to improve trade among African countries as well as neighboring continents include but not limited to;

  1. Entry visas rules.

Visas controls the movement of people between countries, and in the same way affect business which translates directly to proportions of business and culture exposure ratios. For ease of business among countries, review on visa requirements go a long way to facilitate the processes involved in enabling business. Low or no visa fees between countries yields different outcomes as compared to those higher and hefty ones.

  1. Power supplies and energy systems

It is necessary to realize need for efficient energy generation, distribution and acceleration. A power pool systems with cross boarder transmission lines to open up the market and accommodate both the big and small players alike can enhance ability for engagement for the private sector contribution, If this is actualized, Africa, with its vast power sources from water, wind, geothermal, methane, coal and other available natural gasses coupled with involvement of investor interest and government support is enough to drive the cost of power within Africa to the lowest among the rest of the world, making it possible to industrialize at a cheaper rates, give the continent producers more potential to manufacture cheaper items for export, competitive enough in the world market, this as well creates a lucrative and attractive ground for all major players of the world wishing to take advantage of cheaper costs of production and in the process create more jobs within the continent.

  1. Institutions

Institutions are key and very important. While rich countries have good institutions with good support systems, the poor countries have weak and bad ones. In terms of governance, a number of countries have been able to set themselves up as models of institutional strength to safe guard and prevent the numerous miss harps that seem to characterize Africa’s economy.

  1. Food production and security

Africa’s vast lands with round the year steady seasonal rainfall is promising to ensure endless food supplies, economic stagnation not to be associated with its food supplies, ensuring the strong potential youths focus their energies to building the nation rather than in search of jobs, food and other basic needs for their families. A malnourished nation is a nation whose potential has been reduced to fending for survival and thus stripped off its human and time resource.

The idea of insufficient food production in Africa qualifies for a heavenly joke when Israel comes to mind.

The current combination of Modern farming technologies, all year seasonal rainfall, available labor, vast stretches of land and rich soils is just among the necessary and right ingredient for flourishing farms and need to be pursued.

  1. Money laundering

Imagining more than half of the wealth in the poorest countries of the world go to offshore accounts is torturous enough for a country that lacks policies, laws and systems need to be laid to ensure availability of funds to its society, nation and continent.

  1. Health

100% of low income countries are affected by at least 5 tropical diseases simultaneously, therefore wearing out its own labor force. Health being a basic need ought be provided to citizens willing and ready to uplift it’s economy through labor provision, innovation and creation of solutions which lie in the same citizens the countries rely on.

  1. Education

In terms of human capital, there’s no doubt that the most important investment any country can make is to educate it’s members, it’s major work force comprising of young men and women require they be uplifted and provided with the skills they need to compete fairly in our current highly technological world economy. A country that fails to do so shall have an uphill task in staying abreast with the world economy, especially with the current levels of technological advancement.

A country with high illiteracy rates is as well susceptible to low productions, high dependencies and crime rates, translating to relying on imports and external resources to balance what the country requires. Beginning with early childhood education, particularly where true molding occurs as well as raising the standards of the citizens’ knowledge and skills by training the teaching force and having more training institutions and universities to make access to learning and education easier.

  1. Security and crime

In as much as I put this item last in my list, it is one of the most important as it forms a foundation for all the rest mentioned in the article, every of the above mentioned elements require secure environments and regions for them to flourish, there can never be education, nor agriculture or tourism without security. Countries on high insecurity alerts lack the opportunities enjoyed by the rest and can therefore never compete fairly.

A country that does not provide appropriate security and care for its people has only itself to blame for its own cognitive dissonance.

Africa’s systems have been victimized by unknown forces presumably courtesy of former colonial masters or new colonialists. With aid to African countries in the so called foreign debts which present with unseen ties that fail to understand or serve the nations as well. We need to wake up, pull up our socks and find African solutions for African problems. Most of which aren’t doable in the slumber we currently are in.

Once we attained independence and we opt remain vigilant not to find ourselves back in the same shoes, recolonized in the new fashion of recolonization without a way for second redemption.

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And with that, I leave you with this usual section of quotes to keep your mind and thoughts stirred into action you can always take to contribute to the greater good in service to your family, society, nation and continent at large.

  1. Where there’s no vision, there is no leadership and there, people perish.

  2. Strive for a day Africa say no to corruption, no to ethnicity, no to brothers engaging in religious wars, no to nepotism, no to insecurity and no to exploitation with a single voice.

  3. Africa needs to exhibit the accountability of democracy, free it’s people from the mindset of charity and handouts and bring stability to the continent beyond aid to positively change the lives of its long suffering citizens

  4. When young citizens of a nation are displaced and are without education and without a prospects and hope, the possibilities of them being recruited into terrorist organizations is increased – former Potus Hussein Obama

  5. We require more not less dialogue, more not less togetherness, more and not less multilateralism.- Ghanian President Nana Addo Akufo

  6. Offer maximum support for people who can see further down the road as to what other possibilities we have for this planet.

  7. May God bless my beautiful motherland Africa – African Citizens

  8. When we come together great things happen

A special thanks and credit to

1. Concepts, brands and ideas

2. Africa leadership dialogues President Uhuru’s interview– Julie Gichuru

If you like this article, share with a group or a friend.

Frank

Frank Odhiambo

Mind grid perspectives

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