Sunday, May 24, 2015

Major challenges facing Africa in the 21st century:

Major challenges facing Africa in the 21st century:

A few provocative remarks

Ibrahim Farah, Sylvia Kiamba and Kesegofetse Mazongo

At the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in Africa
Strategies to confront the Challenges of the 21st Century:
Does Africa have what is required?
Berlin, 14th – 17th July, 2011

Western civilization and culture began to creep into Africa when foreigners,--mainly Europeans --quest were aimed at imposing imperial ideologies and pilfering African resources. Since then, African scholars argued that this practice continued even after independence in the continent.  A number of challenges face the continent in the 21st century.  These include colonial legacy; foreign aid; foreign direct investment (FDI); the climate change debate, Africa and the challenge of the MDGs; and cultural diplomacy as a new tool.
This paper attempts to make a few provocative remarks on some of the key debates forming these issues. The paper argues that whether the continent is up on its tasks or not, there is lack of visionary leadership on the African side while Europe has been honest about its interests more than a mutually-agreed partnership with the continent.

Colonial legacy
Colonization distorted and retarded the pace and tempo of cultural growth and the trend of civilisation in Africa.  The consequences  of colonization have resulted  in political of the colonies which led to an  unbridgeable cultural gap between  the beneficiary  nations  and victims  of  the  practice.  The era of colonization pillage and plunder led to the relative stagnation and often decline of traditional cultural pursuits in the colonies.

Mimiko asserts that:
The social fabric was completely devastated and a new culture of violence was implanted.  Traditional African systems of conflict resolution were destroyed and, in their places, nothing was given. The democratic process, rudimentary though it was, but with great potential as  accompanies every human institution, was brutally uprooted  and  replaced by the authoritarianism of colonialism.  A new crop of elites was created, nurtured, and weaned on  the  altar of violence and colonialism armed with the structures of the modern state to continue to  carry out the art and act of subjugation of the mass of the people in the service of colonialism.

i. The above assertion  was supported  by  Kasongo  who argues “one could infer that while westernization  was imported  to African countries, the hidden side of modernism  was materialistic interest.
ii. To  Kazonog, civilization was just another concept of domination, imposition of incoming new culture  over  traditional  values.
iii. Standage, on the other hand, posits that the historical context of westernization in Africa with  Europe was through the Atlantic slave trade, missionary and imperialism.  The forced acceleration of  the black populations  into the new world represented the sustained assimilation of western culture by Africans.
iv. Not that was all bad, however.  Arowolo states that the colonial factor was essential in the understanding of the process of westernization in Africa. As a result, the effectiveness of colonization  in  changing the sphere of life in African societies is not hard to establish.
v. Its political effects include western civilization being submerged and with the dismantling of indigenous institutions and cultures by instilling foreign rule. There was also the introduction of liberal democracy that did not necessarily work in Africa, not because Africa did not have its own pattern of democracy before the imposition of liberal democracy, but the typical democracy in Africa and its processes were also submerged by westernization.
vi. Mimiko insisted on the same argument by stating that:
But the point is that the so - called Kabiyesi syndrome, which has been accorded as unexplanation  for  the shortage of democracy in contemporary Africa is actually a betrayal  of inadequate  understanding  of the workings of the African traditional political systems.  I strongly dispute this proposition as unhistorical and therefore invalid in the context of Africa.
Our hypothesis is that in the epoch before contact between Europe and Africa, the latter not only developed relatively advanced state structures, but that emergent pre-colonial African states also had “sophisticated systems of political rule” with strong democratic foundations. I argue that the basis of the  advertised inability of these societies to sustain democracy in contemporary (postcolonial) times could  not have consisted in the absence of a democratic culture on their part.  Rather, it is the residue of constraints that were attendant upon imperialism, which has been the dominant experience of the African peoples since the fourteenth  century – defined  most profoundly  by  slavery,  colonialism, neo-colonialism, and their handmaiden, military governance.
vii. Economic effects of colonialism
The economic effects of colonialism can be viewed as a progressive integration of Africa into the world capitalist system within which Africa functioned primarily as a source of raw materials for western industrial production. The colonial economy also caused agriculture to be diverted towards the production of primary products and cash crops, a situation that contributed to hunger and starvation in Africa. Africa concentrated on producing more of what was needed less and produced less of what was needed most. Africa was perpetually turned to the production of raw materials, a situation that caused unequal exchange in -- and balance of -- trade.
Rodney suggests that the plunder age and systemically corrupt enterprises established in the colonies to expropriate natural resources in Africa to Europe have facilitated under-development of Africa while it engendered the development of Europe.
viii. Alkali argues that colonization demanded a total re-organization of the African economy.  Even in its current situation, life as an economic plan altered the way people produce, create and consume.
ix. Neo-liberalism also cropped up in African societies which was just an economic process that distrusts the state as a factor in development.  It can be seen just as a philosophy that can be re-packaged  over  the  years  with the aim being to make  people  believe  that  the market  mechanism  is  the  most  efficient  allocator  of  production  resources  and  therefore  to have  an  efficient  and  effective  economy, forces of demand  and supply must be allowed to play a leading role.  This  has  also changed   economies of African countries from communalism to capitalism and then to neo-liberalism.
Social effects
The social effects of colonialism led to many  challenges that included individualism of families in an otherwise close knit-family structures, fragmentation of family/social relations and rapid urbanization that has resulted into rural exodus and displacement of large segments of  the  population.  Proficiency  in African  languages is declining in the continent because people are compelled to embrace western culture and civilization. This has caused alienation for people who cannot speak foreign languages as  language has been used as a vehicle of culture which has l literally created a dichotomy between the elite and the masses.
Obadina argues that alien models imposed by colonialism laid seeds for a political crisis in Africa....... By redrawing the map of Africa and grouping diverse people together,  ethnic conflicts were created that are now destabilizing the continent.
x.  Some have argued that it was the allure of modernity with its promise of greater material  benefit  that  subverted African  societies  during  colonialism.  It is impossible to imagine what would have  been  the shape of contemporary African history had colonial rule never had taken place. Some western historians have argued that less developed regions of the world, particularly Africa lacked the social and economic organization to transform themselves into modern states able to develop onto advanced economies. 

Foreign Aid

The nature of inter - independence of nations makes it necessary for the granting of aid to needy countries.  Neo-Marxists have always argued that the advancement of developed countries’ economies have also facilitated the same measure as the under-development of the third world through colonialism, slave trade and unequal exchange of trade. The third world has acquired substantial  amount of both internal  and external debt, partly caused by  foreign aid from  countries in the West.  The  aid  relationship  has  created  a  condition  of  economic subservience and of  a master-servant  relationship that could generate persistent seeking and lobbying for foreign aid through borrowing.
Moyo argues that aid was not  working  in Africa because it interfered with development as the money always ended up in the hands of a small chosen few, making aid a form of taxing the poor in the west to enrich the new elites in former colonies.
xi. Peter Bauer, one  of  the  earliest  critics of aid argued most strongly that aid-based  theories  and  policies were  wholly  inconsistent  with sound  economic reasoning and indeed  with reality.
xii. The author and former World Bank economist Bill Easterly has provided numerous case studies on the failures of aid policies across the developing world. Paul Collier criticizes the blanket one-size-fits-all  aid approach as paying no heed to the unique circumstances of individual countries, and thus proposes  a  more nuanced approach to aid driven proposals, and only where they are needed.
Moyo argues that the mistake the west made was giving something for nothing. The secret of china’s success is that the foray into Africa is all business. The west sent aid to Africa and ultimately did not care about the outcome, with aid excluding the majority of the people  from  wealth, leading to political  instability.  China on the other hand, sends cash to Africa and demands returns. With returns, Africans gets jobs, roads, food, making them better off and the promise for some semblance of political stability. Places like Singapore have shown that  even  in the absence of democracy, peace prevails when  the   median citizen is economically better off.
Calderisi posits that few  aid initiatives are well  thought  out and the  money  rarely reaches its intended target.
xiii.  He points out that the frequent theme of international has been how to measure the impact of aid more effectively, a disguised complaint that suggests that current yardsticks are not giving the right results.
xiv.  Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
Average annual inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Africa doubled in the 1980s compared with the 1970s. It also increased significantly in the 1990s and in the period 2000–2003.  Comparisons  with global flows and those of other regions may be more  useful, however. In the mid 1970s, Africa’s share of global FDI was about 6 percent , a level that fell to the current 2–3 percent.  Among developing countries, Africa’s share of FDI in 1976 was about 28 percent; it is now less than 9 percent.
xv.  Also in comparison with all other developing regions,  Africa  has  remained  aid  dependent,  with  FDI lagging behind official development assistance (ODA).  Between  1970 and 2003, FDI accounted for  just one fifth of all capital flows to Africa. It is well known that FDI is one of the most dynamic international resource flows to developing countries.
FDI is particularly important because it is a package of tangible and intangible assets and  because  firms  deploying them  are important players in the  global economy.  There is considerable  evidence  that  FDI  can  affect  growth  and  development  by  complementing domestic  investment  and  by  facilitating  trade  and  transfer  of  knowledge  and  technology.
xvi. The importance of FDI is envisioned in the New Partnership for  Africa’s Development (NEPAD),  as  it  is  perceived  to  be  a  key  resource  for  the  translation NEPAD’s vision of growth  and  development  into reality.  This is because  Africa,  like many other  developing regions  of  the  world, needs a substantial inflow of external  resources  in  order to fill the saving and foreign exchange gaps and leapfrogs itself to sustainable growth levels in order to eliminate its current pervasive poverty.

The Climate change debate, Africa and the MDGs

Climate change has raised a debate among African countries, the main concern being how to balance   between  economic development and environmental  sustainability.   Developing countries have argued in many environmental summits that developed countries reached their level  of  development  at  the  expense  of developing  countries in what was called  the  brown way  of  economic  growth.  Developing  countries have argued  that they need to follow the same path for them to industrialize and reach desired levels of development. 

With  the  debate  on  reducing  emissions,  developing  countries  have  demanded  four aspects to be met for them to comply with the demands of the West. First they want financing for  adaptation,  mitigation,  capacity  building  and  technology  transfer, demands  that  the west have been reluctant to finance. With the emerging economies, the BRICS, there is likely to be no deal on climate change negotiations unless they can compromise and reach an agreement, so the momentum is with developing countries, to use forums as the G77 and China to push for a more favourable deal when it comes to climate change negotiations.
With  the  green  economy  concept  likely  to  dominate  the  sustainable  development agenda  in  future,  developing  countries  need  to  rally  together  for  them  to  influence  the outcome of the negotiations. It should be noted that developing countries pollute less than the developed countries. The  emerging picture  of Africa in the MDG report.

xviii. portrays a continent that has secured  progress  in  key  areas  such  as  net  primary  enrolment,  gender  parity  in  primary education, political empowerment of women, access to safe drinking water, and stemming the spread  of  HIV/AIDS.  Antiretroviral  treatment  is  becoming  available  in  a  large  number of countries and maternal mortality rates are falling in some places. 

The report draws attention to policy innovations in Africa that are facilitating progress toward attainment of the MDGs.  These  innovations  include  new  and  expanded  social protection programs, which were once thought to be unaffordable to most poor countries but are  now  embraced  as important additional  interventions  to  secure  progress  on  key  human development  indicators.  In  addition,  countries  have  used  the  MDGs  as  a  framework  for development planning, strengthening coordination and cascading the MDGs to lower tiers of government.

Cultural diplomacy
In the period of European domination of the world, non-European countries acquired a great deal of European  culture, values  and  technology.  Now  that the European  hegemony  has declined,  previously  existing  cultures,  traditions  will  manifest  themselves  again  to  some extent,  adapted  and  hybridized  with  European  ones;  the  question  to  ask  is  to  what  extent?
Watson has indicate that Thinkers like Toynbee, Spengler and Bozeman have argued that the deep seated traditions and thought patterns of cultures and civilization are not easily modified at  all,  and  remain  substantially  intact  even  when  they  adopt  techniques  and  ideas  from others.
xix. Chandra has argued that in the beginning, globalization was supposed to bring about peace  and harmony  and  basically lead to cultural diffusion,  but  instead, it has imposed American values and culture and a way of life on everyone everywhere

xx. Thomas Friedman has observed that globalization has its own dominant culture,  which is why it  tends to be homogenizing.  Niall Ferguson  has indicated that globalization is a fancy word for imperialism, imposing values and institutions on others.

Instead of conclusions
Many challenges remain, especially in the worst areas like that of health. This sector has been difficult to achieve. It is still not “for all” but rather characterized by glaring inequities among socio-economic groups and classes.
Similarly, from the above, the adverse impact of climate change  poses a  further threat to the issue of sustainability and to the achievement of the MDGs.  This also presents a significant policy challenge for a continent that faces huge energy  needs  to  power  its  development  and  industrialization.
As a result, access to technology and  financing become  a must.  These all call for a genuine  partnership  with Europe and with other actors; partnership that is not based on colonial history or competition over resources:  maybe a plan like that  of the Marshall  plan for Europe and  in a way that is consistent –to the extent possible –with the African way.

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