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Opinions of Thursday, 30 July 2020

Columnist: Abdul-Razak Lukman

Africa holds the key to its own development

For Africa to develop, we need to create a development strategy rooted in teamwork towards national development. We need to build a system of inclusiveness of purpose and competence and not of political affiliations without competence.

Most of our national development woes are borne out of political-affiliated-incompetence with purpose. We have a feeling that Mr. ‘A’ wasn’t part of the struggle for political power, s/he didn’t contribute monetarily or in kind during the struggle, s/he do not deserve to serve in Mr. “K’s” government for the simple fact that his/her loyalty is not guaranteed because of his/her political ideology.

However, it could be that the person whose loyalty has been questioned but competent enough to handle organization ‘G’ is the only person perfectly fit enough to materialize long term development goals into short term. If we overlook such a person base on partisan lines, we will continue to put round pegs in square holes which will only yield huge financial loss to the state.

It is very common that leaders use their status and power for personal benefits (e.g., 'exploitative paternalism'). For instance, high level managers clearly favor their in-group members in personnel decisions such as staffing. Leaders are highly status conscious. They may resist change not to lose power or relinquish authority.

They want to remain in power to maintain their families' status in society. It is also very common that leaders will appoint diehard party members to serve at entrenched positions so that such people will continue to do their bidding when the head is no more in office. This is clearly seen in the governance structure of African political parties. With this attitude, it will be very difficult for African governments to set a benchmark for the rest of the countries in the world to emulate. We need to acknowledge our past, take pride in the present and view the future optimistically without bias from which political stock one is coming from. We need to identify each and everyone as an African, first, before any other considerations.

As Africans, we need to identify our priorities, define and implement them without a lame excuse of “We don’t have the financial and technological mussel”. We must learn to face challenges with the clear intent of overcoming same. It is on record that Africa accounts for about 20 per cent of US aid, with Egypt, Kenya and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. I hold the view that the West need to cut the spendings in a form of aids, grants or loans to African countries.

When that is done, it will awaken the African spirit of thinking outside the box just like we are doing in science and technology(even though not enough) in this COVID-19 pandemic. When African countries are made aware of a significant cut in aids, they will rise to take the bull by the horn. As developing African countries, we need to know that government’s priorities must, in someway, be the priorities of the people.

We need to know that education in science and technology has an enormous benefit to the nation in both short, medium and long term periods. We need to again have in mind that developing the human resource base is what holds the key to our own development. If we start from this angle, then we are highly likely to make a positive impact in the lives of our people in the long-term.

Let’s take a look at how an African island-nation of Mauritius transformed within a spade of time. This is a country which depended heavily on growing sugar-cane, this country was seen as a nation poorer than the whole of Africa. With hardwork, patriotism and dedication with commitment without inducement, Mauritius transformed itself into a diversified manufacturing and tourism centre.

This attracts foreign investors and provide more people with incomes. Ghana, like most African countries are facing the same problem that Mauritius was in. Ghana has been exporting raw cocoa and unprocessed gold as a major source of revenue to the country. What Ghana and other African countries need to do to shore up revenue and foreign exchange is to build up their manufacturing industries. Ghana, for instance, has taken up the challenge with the government’s ambitious policy of One-District-One-Factory initiative(1D1F). If this vision materializes, it will serve as a record breaking journey to ending our economic woes internationally.

At a base level, developing nations need a smaller percentage of their populations working in sustenance farming and embracing technology as a core factor to the overall growth and development of their countries. This could be achieved by increases in farming productivity which would allow other people to specialize in making other goods and providing other services. Technology in farming is essential just like technology in other fields. With technology, we can cultivate thousands of acres within the shortest time and then using the remaining time for other meaningful activities and as well, some for resting. We can only do the above if we are patriotic without inducement.

For instance, a lot of African countries are still miles away from sustainable energy generation for their industrial development, a focus intervention in this area will ultimately makes a huge impact in the ease of starting businesses and running ventures. Power is the bedrock of any nation development project.

Narrowing it down to Ghana, we have uncountable communities without electricity, however, a lot of potential business(es) drive could be seen in such communities but the need for electricity as a bedrock to the establishment of industries is lacking. Surprisingly, communities and towns which can boast of availability of power can’t boast of reliability and sustainability.

What is worrying and keeping African countries always at the bottom of the ladder is that, for instance, Nigeria doesn't refine its crude oil, Ghana doesn't refine its gold, Ivory Coast doesn't refine her cocoa and same as Ghana. We sell our raw produce to the developed countries, they (developed countries) process it and add value to it and then sell it to Africans as end consumables at a higher cost. Africa cannot develop if we remain mere raw producers. Our patriotism is what would ignite the flame of development for us to see what lies ahead of us and not our individual gains.

One of the major problems of African developing countries to that of developed countries is that developed countries have political and economic systems that are inclusive and offer opportunities for most people to create wealth. For Africans, ours are extractive that rather have appetite to hold on to political power and then channel economic resources to one’s parochial benefit, friends and family associates.

How then can we develop with such mentality. It is even sad to see how African governments misuse aids from donors meant to alleviate the suffering of the poor. They (African leaders) do this by illegally sharing the funds and some used to buy houses abroad meant to be their retirement homes. This is why Africa is finding it difficult to make it big on the roadmap to development.

Fellow Africans, the time to believe in ourselves and take a move is now! We know our continent better than anyone living anywhere in the world, we don’t need to sit aloof waiting for an external body to tell us how we can develop ourselves. If we are looking to the rest of the world to show faith in the African growth story, then as Africans ourselves, we must demonstrate our own commitment.

A collaborative approach to Africa’s own growth story driven by the continent itself will make it a stronger contender globally. We have the raw materials, the men; what we need now is getting the right leadership to think outside the box, leadership that would invest heavily in science and technology and leadership that would outlaw corruption, both in books and in practical terms.

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