Taurai Changwa Business Forum
THERE are a lot of contrived statistics and research that seek to cast Africa as an economic backwater, a continent that remains stubbornly mired in poverty.
Well, while this might be understandable, it is definitely not justifiable. The New York-headquartered Global Finance Magazine, for example, claims that 19 out of the 23 poorest countries in the world are found in Africa.
Whilst it might be fashionable to say this – acceptable, even, in some quarters – the indices that are used to come up with such conclusions have to be subjected to empirical tests and scrutiny.
To a greater extent, such an outcome might be possible through using the human development index, but in terms of resources per capita – the total value of precious resources vis-a-vis the population – African countries can be counted among the richest.
One trait that continues to taint the image of African countries is over-reliance on foreign aid. For a continent that is richly endowed with natural mineral resources, it is inconceivable how it remains trapped in a vicious circle where it remains a predominant supplier of raw materials on the one hand and a big consumer of finished products on the other.
Africa is now not only begging from the West but from the East as well, especially after the rise of China in the past three decades. Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty.
Cutting off the flow would be far more beneficial. African countries, however, are increasingly working towards unlearning the culture of begging, and pushing towards self-sustenance.
This is the message that President Mugabe has been preaching in the region and beyond.
But, most importantly, the overriding narrative that is being promoted in most countries is that of growth with equity.
And the economic well-being of countries should be measured in this way. Some argue that the economies of African countries were fairly robust during the colonial era.
However, such references only considered the well-being of the minority whites who were the agencies of colonialism.
It is important to note that during these supposedly golden economic times, blacks remained in desperate circumstances. Clearly, the aim of colonialism was, and still is, to exploit the physical, human, and economic resources of an area to benefit the coloniser.
But by binding the economic conditions and circumstances of African countries to imperial powers, an inseparable link was created.
It is this link that still makes African countries bound and dependent on their erstwhile colonisers. Unfortunately, this syndrome continues to shape the opinion of those who think foreign aid is key to the revival of the local economy. Why does a country that has so much fertile land and natural resources have to rely on begging?
We only need to apply our minds correctly. Happily, visionary African leaders are beginning to aggressively chart a new way forward for the continent. The gospel of self-reliance is gradually taking hold.
Development is borne out of a positive psyche. It seems the greatest challenge that African youth have is to reset the current mindset and strive to compete in the world.
It is not only dependence on aid that needs to be shunned, but dependence on freebies as well as this naturally erodes enterprise. The high default rate on the well-meaning Youth Fund that was arranged by Government with the help of Old Mutual is quite worrying.
The perception that Government funds are for free has to be changed.
Encouragingly, there are a lot of successful young entrepreneurs who never got any loans from anyone but are doing so well in business.
The challenge that remains is to grow the economy and promote policies that are favourable to economic growth.
Local businesses need to be given space to grow. And this is exactly what Government seems to be doing.
The current rhetoric only needs to be translated into real action on the ground. It is the responsibility of Zimbabweans to see Zimbabwe grow and the responsibility of Africans to see Africa grow.
Americans will work for America, Chinese will work for China and hence Zimbabweans should work for Zimbabwe. It must be noted that whatever these nationalities do, they always remit back to their countries.
It is high time we stop begging and start working. Africa, Zimbabwe included, has no option but to target for sustainable economic growth.
- Taurai Changwa is a member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe and an Estate Administrator. He has vast experience on tax, accounting, audit and corporate governance issues. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted at [email protected] or whatsapp on 0772374784.
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