OPEN ECONOMY: Why are Africans paranoid?

When you are paranoid, you are constantly in a mental battle with oneself.

A battle ascribed to the supposed hostility of others; mistrust of their intentions towards you.

Of course, considering our African history as a continent, it is understandable that we remain wary of imperialist impulses and extractive economic mechanisms.

In terms of dominant economic discourse, Africans in general, remain with questions like: are we being colonised?

If Africa is indeed rising, in whose perspective is it rising? These are fair questions.

Moreover, Africans are often faced with many inconsistencies in their fright.

The word “debt” raises fear, yet well-placed economies like Australia are happy with foreigners owning up to 67 percent of its government debt.

Africans prefer owning equity in our own firms, yet a country such as Japan thrives with foreigners owning more than US$3 billion worth of Japanese stock.

Zimbabweans share these similar concerns with fellow Africans. Hence, we pursue indigenisation laws and natural resource reforms. Some amongst us, whether right or wrong, are uneasy at the announcement of mega deals with Russia and China.

Truthfully, we are a paranoid bunch just as the rest of the continent.

Yet, have we ever asked ourselves why this paranoia is so predominant?

Why it is ever prevalent in our political, social and, specifically, our economic perspectives?

I have maintained a suggestion for quite some time.

You see, assurance and confidence are a result of control.

When one understands what is trying to be achieved, what parameters are to be measured, and, more importantly, how to go about achieving economic goals, then one is in full control.

Africans are not yet in control. We are still students of our own economic purpose.

Our understanding of our own economies and potential development is dependent on external influence.

I say this for three reasons.

First, I am not convinced that most African countries have taken the time to define and understand for themselves what economic development is.

Sure, we have an idea, but it is an adopted understanding and in many instances lacks clarity within our respective countries.

Second, we do not have our own parameters to measure economic development.

In searching for this economic advancement, many African countries, including Zimbabwe, lack definitive and credible economic parameters.

For instance, in 2000, the United Nations came up with what are called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce poverty, disease and deprivation.

The sad irony of these efforts is that while these MDGs are mainly targeted towards African countries, the majority of sub-Saharan nations have data gaps and lack qualitative information pertaining to measuring progress towards achieving these MDGs.

Internally for ourselves, how are we measuring our strides towards our economic ideals?

As Africans, I find that we tend to be loyalists to the Gross Domestic Product. If GDP simply measures the market value of goods produced in an economy, yet we as Africans have a history of economic marginalisation, why place such emphasis on a measure that does not reflect our strides towards inclusion and empowerment?

I would imagine that our history alone would influence us to stress the need for other metrics that cater to our unique focus on widespread inclusion into economic activity.

Third, we have not set our own paths towards achieving economic development.

Because many African countries have not bothered to define and understand their own economic growth, let alone create measurable parameters for their own developmental appraisal, we end up being imitators of foreign growth models.

Westerners have always made it a discipline to study economic growth models that combine labour, capital, and other factors of production, in correspondence with economic impulses from both the supplier and consumer on a micro-economic level.

Frustrated by Western economic models which led to over-dependence on sovereign debt and hefty loans, East Asians took time to design their own economic growth models that worked in their favour.

Notice, however, in both cases, growth models were devised, and continue to be devised on the competencies of respective economies. Not all regions have similar factors of production, technological and natural resources, cultures or other relevant economic competencies.

So, while East Asians could rely on industrial production because they have large supplies of relatively low-cost skilled labour and economies of scale, many African countries do not have such labour and production resources.

Western nations benefited greatly from value-addition because their comparatively higher income level markets with a unique consumerism culture could sustain such enterprise within their borders.

Such markets do not yet exist in Africa.

As Africans, we have not conceptualised our own growth models away from how our economies were set up in pre-independence years. For instance, almost 70 percent of listed companies on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange were founded before 1980.

Likewise, it is widely accepted that state enterprises are still the greatest contributors to our national output, contributing up to around 40 percent of GDP. What do these figures say about our ability to create new economic industry and growth models?

Anyhow, my underlying assumption is that the African paranoia is a subconscious acknowledgement that we are yet to control the fundamentals of our own economic development.

It seems impossible to find assurance and confidence in our economic development when our own understanding of it is derived from external influence.

We are not in control of our own fate, and until we are, we will always have this paranoia.

The truth is, we have not reached a level of economic understanding that gives us the maturity to strive towards economic development alone, hence we retain suspicion of external parties, which, up to this day, define our own economic purpose for us.

I concede that this topic gets much more in depth than my presentation, but yet we are not talking about it.

Such discourse is non-existent continentwide.

We, as Africans, Zimbabweans as well, need to explore this matter seriously.

If, indeed, economic self-determination is our unifying African ethos, then is such discourse not an essential step towards our economic development?

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