12 August 2020
Leadership - to turn Africa to Hi-Speed development
Africa discussion paper #2
By: Karsten Riise
In my previous Africa discussion paper (#1 from 27 July 2020), I presented figures which demonstrate the enormous developmental Challenge which Africa faces from Asia - indeed, from all the rest of the world.
Accepting that Africa has this Challenge is key. Only by Africa taking the Challenge, can we set in motion African solutions. African solutions ARE achievable - but what is needed?
The last 10 years, Ethiopia increased real GDP per person by 7.7% - every year. In just 10 years, Ethiopia's soon-to-be 100 mio. people have simply doubled their income. All of Africa must do it - every decade more than doubling the material level of living.
Ethiopia proves that Africa CAN implement an African version of the "Asian" model - with decade-upon-decade of constant export oriented growth. Ethiopia has no raw materials. Instead, Ethiopia walked an arduous, but promising road with lots of hard work, profitable, business-minded investments with external cooperations - but quite few prestige buildings and public jobs with glamour. Ethiopia's success has gone on-and-on for 25 years, since the 1990'ies. This is very much down to one visionary and daunting African leader - Meles Zenawi - whose policies are still continued in Ethiopia. Meles' policies set-on this deep transformation of Ethiopia, from a starving, war-torn "failed-state" to a great symbol. Yes - Africa CAN and will do it!
We must strive even higher - for around 10% multi-decade yearly growth - per person. Like China. This high, that is the sustained speed, we must aim at. And no part, country, region or population segment of Africa must be allowed to stay behind. Too many Africans have become poorer the past 60 years. Too many decades lost on disruption - not only wars, but also waste and failed policies. Big countries like Nigeria, South Africa and even Egypt still tend to stagnate, 60 years after 1960, the great year of African independence. Countries like Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda were too long moving too slow, and even now with 3½- 4½% growth per capita the last decade, these more successful African countries still need to grow quite a lot faster.
Unite and act upon the fact, that thy neighbor in Africa needs success too, also for you to succeed. Unite for much more African collective action, also in security with co-development (making western and UN "support" superfluous).
Why does Africa, as I argue, need to move SO extremely fast? First, because Africa CAN do it - and second, because Africa simply has little choice.
Doubling the size of poor African populations every 20 years was only "possible" in the past, because overall, Africa used to be thinly populated with lots of unused fertile land and small cities. Not so anymore. African population pressures for good living have already become near unsustainable in many places, and will become enormous the next 10 years. And from outside, an unrelenting international pressure may build up against Africa: As Asia grows, Africa is falling more and more behind in a stronger-and-stronger armed, powerful and fiercely competitive world.
Despite often hypocritical words about "solidarity" with Africa, an often ruthless world has an insatiable desire to put hands on Africa's resources. Handing out pebbles like a few wells and remote schools to keep Africans were they were, preaching a gospel of ever-happy "pro-poor" and "sustainability" while keeping Africans rural and poor. There will be unbearably more intervention in African affairs from outside, and more African families failing to see their children prosper, if Africa lingers on too low a growth-speed.
ALL depends on Africa's WILL to GROW.
This was already pointed out by legendary Afro-Caribbean economist Arthur Lewis. No-one in Africa listened to Arthur Lewis in the 1960-ies - time to listen now. The will to grow is simply the real "secret" behind the astonishing growth success all over Asia. The will to outgrow the west started with Japan (read Chalmers Johnson's definition of the "Developmental State"), it spread to Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Thailand and later India. Today, nobody in Asia wants not to grow fast. All Asia WANTS to grow - and therefore they do it. Simply.
Africa must take on the WILL to grow fast - for at least the next 50 years.
Looking at Asia, I posit that the following constitutes important practical keys for Africa to work on:
- Ambitious leaders, competing for Africa's success.
- An élite which is capable of guiding strongly, and not of stealing.
- Small public employment (!)
- Export driven (private and private-public) business (incl. agriculture!)
- High savings (=delayed consumption) ---> high investments.
- Unrelenting drive for ever more education. Illiteracy is a shame for Africa and must be outlawed now - put 100 pupils in the classes, if necessary. Copy foreign university books and knowledge sources, if necessary (all others do it !!).
- Constant, never ending upgrade of quality and knowhow. Low emphasis on boasting empty prestige. Demonstrate results.
- Low import of consumption goods - high import of know-how for investments.
- A "managerial attitude" of the state-élite towards all sectors, including private agriculture and business. All Asia has that. All the West too, in spite of their preaching of "free private initiative", is centrally guided.
- Don't squeeze farmers in order to let them pay for city-dwellers - develop all stages around farming as a productive resource - and connect farmers and village business to well-paying markets in cities and overseas.
- Work with those business leaders in Africa, which succeed. Fix it, when any business sector in Africa doesn't move fast enough. If needed, merge or split up private businesses - change the hands on slow-moving business, control finance, and strengthen business achievers big and small, also in farm and village businesses.
- Actively develop and manage (!) city & business zones. Learn from how Chinese provinces skillfully manage their Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
- Invest in connecting infrastructure - transport, tele, banking, airports, ports, logistic hubs - everything. African coast countries must exhibit solidarity and strengthen African peace & happiness by connecting landlocked neighbors with links to their own harbors.
- Not only ports, but also airports are vital, for successful international business. Successful Africans have been neglected. Africans who successfullly earn their way up are a resource - they carry symbols, they give Africa national and international prestige of achievement, they have education, and they are a test market for advanced African export-products.
- Be careful to avoid the potential destructiveness from all the common-sense macro-economical imbalances (debt, inflation, trade-minus, too strong currency). The success of North-East Asia was driven by public managers and engineers - not by western educated economists. Do NOT to buy into all western economic "truths" - it preaches too much bogus. Regulate international financial flows (hot money).
Last but not least - remember that high-growth has historically ALWAYS has carried a destructive force on the web of societies everywhere. Culture and environmental heritage are not a museum - they are sources of energy, stamina and true happiness. Therefore, as growth changes Africa, put extra efforts into nursing Africa's families, historic values, handcraft, cooking, housemaking and living traditions, religions, languages (of which many are threatened by extinction), tales, stories and music - and protect Africa's environment while doing all this.
Manage expectations. Tunisia was actually prospering, when the "Arab Spring" disrupted a lot of positive developments. Because "more wants more", and people's expectations (also non-economic) began to grow faster than delivery. The same happened all over Europe in the revolutionary years of 1848 and 1968. Upheavals due to success is a possibility also in Africa, so always look in advance how to match this process. The more people are removed from hunger, the more they on one hand often sadly forget about basic religious truths, but on the other hand also strive for other ideal needs.
Never play the game of the west - in no area. Counterplay their game and fight for your own populations' needs.
Africa can do all this a LOT better. Also Ethiopia - Africa's current best-achiever - can do it even better, incl. the management of land-rights, city planning and workers' and farmers' needs for a full life. Be ever careful about the needs of every population group (groups defined no matter how, be it religious, tribal, regional or however). This is not "just" an ideal human requirement, it is also a practical necessity to safeguard the sustainability of success.
Be even more ambitious on fast upgrading know-how and value-added services and products - incl. unique African culture elements to the world, like music, African food, patterns, clothing, consumer goods - and spirituality.
Be obsessed with upgrading African knowhow, skills, capabilities and achievements. Sweat-shop factories with low-wage labor "Asian-style" must be accepted as a lesser evil compared to poverty - but reduce reliance on low-value-adding sweat-shops by investing in a focused way to turn valuable African design, tech knowhow etc. into exports.
Legitimacy of leadership is not a simple question about elections (often manipulated).
African leadership now needs to start demonstrating RESULTS.
Above just a quick draft - I have much more to deliver.
Partner & Editor
CHANGE NEWS &