Poverty in the land of plenty

A recent report appearing on allAfrica.com indicates that in spite of the seeming economic growth in Africa, people on the continent continue to be at the bottom of the global economic ladder (“Africa isn’t Rising”, allAfrica.com, 10/2/2013). A survey directed by Afrobarometer in a project coordinated by independent institutions in Ghana, Kenya, Benin and South Africa with partners in 31 other African countries shows that one in five Africans goes without food, clean water or medical care. And responses from 53 percent of Africans indicate that their countries’ economies are ‘fairly bad’ or ‘very bad.’ This is troubling and it raises critical questions.
While it is true that the issue of economic malaise in Africa is hydra-headed, much of what is happening can be alleviated or even prevented. The presumption of economic growth in Africa is premised on increase in foreign direct investment. High prices for such extractive products as gold and oil, and the increased demand by China and India have made Africa the destination of choice of investors in that sector. Another product that is fast attracting investors to Africa is farm lands and some countries in East and West Africa have become places of interest.
While foreign direct investment is always welcome because of the benefits it accrues for host countries, Africa and its peoples are surely not enjoying any positive effects. People in countries like Ghana, Nigeria among a host of others are among those complaining bitterly about their economic plight.
A former Ghanaian minister once said that he would rather the country’s minerals remained in the ground unexploited. Many Africans share the same sentiment. The continent’s wealth has become its curse. And that is largely because investors are given too many incentives making them almost free from any form of taxation. But as often said by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, it is important for investors to consider host countries as partners for development.
The marriage of corruption and lack of expertise breed underdevelopment and African governments have and continue to bear the brunt. Agreements and contracts usually favor the wealthy investor conglomerates owing to inadequate and unqualified professional representation. Inexperience and lack of expertise coupled with corruption as well as profligacy and unnecessary expenditure are rife in governance. It is estimated that about $600 million has been paid so far as judgment debts to individuals and companies in Ghana, an exercise described by a judge as loot-and-share by government officials. And this is a country that relies on donor countries for its budget shortfalls.
Africa has always been rich but its people have always been poor. It is illogical that several years after independence, Africa continues to lag behind the rest of the world. In the 21st century most African nations live a 19th century existence largely because of factors both internal and external. The continent has some of the fastest growing economies in the world but not much has changed.
A lot needs to change and it must be now. The people can no longer wait.

Posted by on Dec 16 2013. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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