Africa is endowed with plenty of natural resources, a pleasant climate, cultural diversity, and a rich historical past, yet it remains marginalized in the economic development process and global political scene. Although Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to developing countries has been increasing in the last decade, Africa accounted for only about one percent of that investment in 1998. Africa presents a paradox. Recent positive changes in Africa have brought hope for an African renaissance, evidenced by impressive real growth rates in some countries. Examples of recent positive developments include the end of the civil war and a turn-around in economic development in Mozambique, the promise of a democratically elected government in Nigeria after a long period of military rule, and growing regional cooperation and integration of African economies. On the other hand, there are still major issues threatening this African renaissance. Internal and border conflicts in several countries and regions, heavy debt burdens, and low levels of private investment are still issues of major concern. What must be done to unlock Africa’s potential and put it on an irreversible path of economic development?
The answer to this question may be found in the interplay of various factors, including the experiences that Africa has undergone over the years and lessons learned from other countries. More important, however, is the ability and resolve of individual African states to forge ahead and the willingness of the international community to support this effort.
As the next century approaches, a number of African countries have already undergone or are completing structural adjustment. Despite this, sub-Saharan Africa’s share of global investment has remained comparatively low. Meanwhile, new problems have emerged that threaten to stall the economic gains already made or possibly hamper growth. Some of these problems include the following: (a) the HIV/ AIDS epidemic; (b) political strife, ethnic conflict, and refugees; (c) heavy indebtedness; (d) rapid population growth and widespread poverty; and (e) environmental degradation and desertification.
Bilateral aid and development assistance programs have helped Africa in several important ways, such as the provision of health services and infrastructure, stabilization of budgets and education.
However, it is obvious that many years of aid to Africa have failed to achieve sustainable development. Neither recipient governments nor the donor community are to blame for this state of affairs. Often the ineffectiveness of aid has been due to misidentification of needs and poor project design. This means that governments must institute measures supplementary to existing multilateral technical assistance and aid policies.
It is necessary for the beneficiaries of aid, the governments, and the donor community to work together to design an effective policy. This policy should include capacity-building, self-sustainability and the provision for recipient ownership of internal policies under which the aid is administered. Timely and proper project implementation is also components of efficient aid utilization. Therefore, this process should also encourage training in project management.
Thus if all goes well, we could very well see what Shakeera
“This Time For Africa”…
Stephen Nyamuzinga is a student of Development Studies in Zimbabwe. he is an avid cricket player and has played for the Easterns in the domestic circuit in Zimbabwe.
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