Please note this excerpt from a recent story on Economonitor.com:
WEF Davos: Sub-Saharan Africa – Next Growth Hub?
Author: Maya Senussi · January 26th, 2012
“…At the current, early stage of development, Africa is missing the elements needed to boost its growth potential: investment in education and technology (agriculture and manufacturing), more inclusive employment, leadership and innovation. Instead of supportive productive investment, African countries have largely used their resource wealth to support consumption…”
“Africa: To do for itself”
At the 2012 World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, the author of the attached article noted, “Africa is missing the elements needed to boost its growth potential…”, a topic discussed at the event. After years of similar discussions, there still is not a shelf ready plan to implement, to attain a lasting solution for sustainable development and poverty eradication. In sub-Saharan Africa most of the people struggle to survive, even in the resource rich countries.
In Africa there are leaders who just want our aid to continue, while others are more practical in stating, “We need to start by walking before we can run. It starts with one step at a time. We need to learn how to compete on the global economic stage.”
In April 2005, I attended a meeting of the African Presidential Roundtable, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. Key figures attending the conference were twelve former sub-Saharan Africa country heads of state, who had been democratically elected. The theme of the roundtable included: economic development, the need to open market access, democratic governance, freedom of the press, poverty eradication, and healthcare issues in sub-Saharan Africa.
Each of the presidents had a turn to speak. President Karl Offmann of Mauritius hit the nail on the head by saying he wanted Africa “to do for itself”, and not look for charity. His advice to those attending was to start small, take one step at a time, and build the country’s economy, as Mauritius had done, relying on its people as their country’s resource. “Many small projects would together build into bigger ones”, he noted. “Africa’s nations should not look to others to solve the continent’s problems”, he proffered.
I couldn’t agree more with President Offmann’s comments. Charity and humanitarian band-aids have been short-term solutions for the past fifty years. These are not investments in the future of the sub-Saharan African countries most agreed. The discussion led to each leader sharing his thoughts on the agenda issues: sustainable economic development, poverty eradication, open market access, better governance, and healthcare solutions.
During the roundtable discussion one of the invited academic speakers emphasized Africa was a global concern, and needed more attention from the G-8 powers. He pointed out that trade was the equalizer; aid was not a solution. Further noting that the removal of European and U.S. subsidies on products, and access to those markets by Africans was worth five times the amount of aid given to the continent. Another speaker noted, there is a need to help jump start the countries economies by providing agriculture resource mentoring, direct foreign investments for local business ventures, and open markets to spur much-needed economic growth.
It should be a concern to the WEF world leaders that the same issues of expanding trade opportunities for the sub-Saharan African countries is still just conversation. Africa has 15 percent of the world’s population, but represented only 2.5% of the total GDP of the world in 2009, and slightly higher at 2.7% in 2010. Five countries in sub-Saharan Africa (out of forty-nine) represent 44% of the total GDP. South Africa and Nigeria garner over 33% of the economic market, yet most of the people in these countries still live at the poverty-level, not sharing in the country’s rich natural resources.
The sub-Saharan African countries, for the most part, are at great risk today. The next World Economic Forum in 2013, would be well served to convene in one of the less luxurious parts of the world, such as in one of the many villages in sub-Saharan Africa, to get a first hand picture of the reality of life there.