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African economic outlook and its serious miscalculations

There is a say that success is about being smart. How smart is Africa in the 21st Century? The African Economic Outlook 2016 presents the continent’s current state of affairs and forecasts its situation for the coming two years. This annual report examines Africa’s performance in crucial areas: macroeconomics, financing, trade policies and regional integration, human development, and governance. For its 15th edition, the African Economic Outlook takes a hard look at urbanization and structural transformation in Africa and proposes practical steps to foster sustainable cities. This Report is from Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. This blog story is more interested in priorities based on threats and weaknesses before strength and opportunities.
It is ridiculous that human development and governance appear at the bottom of the list in the African Economic Outlook 2016. Is there any focus on sustainable human development? How about Governance? According to me Governance and Human Development should have come first.
We are now talking in terms of booms and bursts in primary commodities, markets, finances,oil and gas sectors, trade policies and regional integration. Lets assume that the main revenue to the African Development Bank is from the same Africans and the boom is seen in the sustainable human development, what will happen to other sectors such as social injustice, inequalities, and failure to come up with inclusive development framework? Still there is high corruption perception in many African countries while governance is underlies all the backwardness in the African economy. Lets not forget that some African countries have very weak institutions and fragile national politics.
Among the weakest institutions, I would start with arms of government. The executive, legislature and the judiciary are the main arms of government that must be impeccably strong and functioning. This is not the case in many states as politics generally overpower the proper functionality of such institutions. Another fear is on public administration. Still there is lack of focus within the management of public administration in most of the African states due to lack of democracy, accountability, mistrust, transparency and respect for the rule of law. There is tendency of introducing presidency for life, something that compromises democracy and denies people chance to develop.
Lets not forget that the elephant in the room is our plurality and diversities that have never been tamed. Africans still have too many divisions among themselves and national ideologies are fragmented among interests of groups that do not allow others to access national opportunities. Still there is negative ethnicity, a feeling that one or two ethnic groups dominate over others when it comes to sharing out of resources. There is fear that some African states may precipitate into divisive politics that would not make such economic growths tenable in the near future.
Human Development is not only considered in terms of chartering many universities expecting some magic to happen but the quality is a concern also. African states repeat same mistakes severally hoping that the outcome should be a better life for all. Still there is no proper administrative system that will guarantee equality and equal opportunities. Right fellows do miss out when it comes to who is who in Africa. This has nothing to do with illiteracy but ethnicity. Africans must overcome ethnic inequality, division and marginalization of the minorities in order to develop. There must be equal rights for all to access the national benefits. There is no secure development with one part of the population so poor while the other so rich. Such imbalance will yield into perpetual conflict that will devastate the gains people have made.
Concerning human development it is important to consider the capacity of most African people. I really doubt if some African countries will turn their population into the gurus such as China and India? Africans are learning very fast the short-cuts to wealth. What do people usually do with such wealth? Wastage and consumption. Many members of the middle-class in Kenya put their money in Japanese cars and acquiring real estate. This is not bad but it fails the taste of sustainable development.
Now that economists and strategists predict a massive urbanization in traditionally known rural Africa, there is a big problem in this. It is a fact that masses of those who are at the age of work move to the urban sectors and join the population there due to change in economic paradigms. But where are the industries? Will all masses of people be absorbed in the sectors of commodities such as trades and services? Not even a quarter of that.
Normally towns and cities come from industries since there are workers who earn wages and spend such wages for their survival and pay taxes. In Africa, towns and cities are technically created thinking that means of production shall follow. For example, the techno cities such as Konza and Tetu Projects are white elephants. The sustainability of such development initiatives call for more questions than answers. Whom do you expect to live in such cities? Where will they work? How will you accommodate the rest of the population? What will you do with food supply in the cities? Who is the food producer in this matrix if almost the majority shall prefer urban life? With poor human development record how do you expect such cities to be managed? Let me tell you, there are more questions than answers in the African economic outlook. Climate change and adaptation are also posing new serious concerns that should not be wished away.
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About Peter Onyango

Dr. Peter Onyango O. is one of our main contributors. He is a senior law lecturer, a writer, a consultant, peace ambassador, and a researcher. He assists so many professionals, legal minds, and debaters with his skills and scholarly wealth! He supports children and village community as a way of giving back to community. He edits, proof reads, and publishes various articles for our page!


  1. Africa has the highest borrowing rate and its economy is seen in terms of borrowed money from industrialized countries. The international debts are very high while still African countries continue borrowing. Is this sustainable development really sustainable? Imagine you have borrowed money in your wallet and you want to show your friends that you are very rich! When you fail to pay back the loan then all your property might be auctioned and you may end up locked up in jail.

    • Thanks for this comment Peter. In the economics borrowing is a long time tradition. Countries do borrow from others in order to spur their economic growth. USA had some times to borrow from Great Britain, Soviet Union had to borrow from Great Britain, China had to borrow from USA, many European States had to borrow from the United States of America. There is nothing wrong with African states borrowing from other states. What is important is what do you do with the borrowed money? If it goes into personal pockets then this is not good for the economy. It is also true that governance is a big issue that Africa must give priority to before expecting so much to happen. You are right that the rule is, the debt must be paid back and the most indebted person is a captive.

  2. African policy makers like listening more to their political advisers than technical consultants. Political advisers are more concerned with power other than technical suggestions. It is the leadership to change the strategy and listen more to technical experts other than political advisers.

    • It is true that African political leadership still relies so much on power and whatever can make them convince their electorates is always received well. Remember that there are many lobby groups around every leader. Such groups often put their demand on whoever is in power for their own gains. It is not easy for an individual leader to ignore them for this may lead to political death bed. But it is necessary to balance the two – politics and economic interests.

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