Today, things are not functioning optimally, not with the economic downturn. Even at the best of times, Africa scarcely functions to its full potentials. Although, rich in natural resources, the continent is largely crippled by poverty, unending conflicts and crises and at other times beset by dysfunctional governments in most of the countries. Hunger and diseases are also rampant. In fact, it is choked by underdevelopment, the result of the legacies of long years of colonialism and post-independence bad governance, leaving most of the continents over 600 million citizens poor, sick and worse still hapless and hopeless.
It is estimated that of the 53 million people worldwide that have been thrown into poverty as a result of the global economic meltdown, 16 million of them are from Africa, representing almost a third of the total global new poor. Considering that Africa’s share of the world’s total population of 6 billion is just about 12 per cent and most crucially, is the fact that it is the least developed continent, then it is apparent Africa is bearing a disproportionate burden of any global economic crisis.
This situation will undoubtedly compound its many woes and slowdown or even halt any prospect for meaningful development, especially in the critical areas of infrastructure, such as transport and power supply and human capital. Therefore, Africa urgently needs to find an effective way of checking the growing scale of unemployment, especially among the youth that is largely responsible for throwing millions of its citizens into poverty and despair. It needs to come to terms with this serious challenge and the larger issue of holistic strategy for development.
The continent however, is by no means poor, but what is lacking is its ability to exploit and utilise the vast resources, which is not only poor, but inefficient. Instead of creating job opportunities through the manufacture of goods and the creation of services out of these natural resources, it is losing millions of jobs by remaining a primary exporter of raw resources. While more and more countries of the world, particularly in South East Asia, are increasing their share of manufacturing to their overall Gross Domestic Product, GDP, in the Africa case, even the little that manufacturing is contributing to its GDP, is on the decline due to a combination of factors, such as poor power supply, high cost of borrowing, poor transport facilities and cheap imports. This thus accounts for the decline of manufacturing and other productive activities, which in turn aggravate the unemployment situation on the continent and thus pushing more and more poor into new poverty.
However, Africa can get itself out of this quagmire of poverty and general underdevelopment and speed up its development to enable it provide meaningful life for millions of its citizens and function successfully in a competitive 21st century global market by first developing its infrastructure, especially the road, railways, the seaports and especially, power supply. Since modern and efficient transport facilities and adequate energy are crucial for any sound and accelerated economic development, Africa can therefore not be seen to be left behind in the race for development.
Secondly, the importance of human capital, that is skilled manpower to meet the manpower needs of industry and business remain a challenge. There also has to be an investment friendly environment to retain existing business and attract other investors who desire to come to the continent and tap the vast economic opportunities it offers.
Aside this, Africa needs to tackle the many crises and conflicts affecting a wider part of the continent, some of which have lasted for decades such as Sudan, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, etc. Not only are these crises diverting scare resources from the much needed areas of infrastructural development, creating destitution and hunger, the conflicts are exacting high cost on the continent in terms of the millions of lives being lost, the largest number being women and children.
Above all, what Africa must therefore do to save itself from this continued state of underdevelopment and begin the onerous but steady process of true development is by addressing the question of governance. Africa has largely remained poor because it has so far been poorly governed. So, in order to avoid going further the ruinous route, Africa must resolve to put its house in order, that is, it must urgently put in place a clean and genuinely functioning governments. Only transparent, accountable and competent governments with vision and focus for total change and transformation of the existing sorry state of affairs on the continent will be in a position and have the capacity to formulate policies and programmes that can successfully address both the short and long term challenges and needs of Africa and its citizenry.