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close this bookThe Courier N° 134 - July - Aug 1992 - Dossier A fresh look at Africa? - Country Reports Grenada- Seychelles (EC Courier, 1992, 104 p.)
close this folderDossier: A fresh look at Africa?
View the documentA fresh look at Africa?
View the documentAn ECA point of view
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An ECA point of view

Africans are waking up to the fact that Africa has to develop, not just survive with outside help

This is a summary of what Issa B.Y.Diallo, UN deputy secretary-general and interim executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, told the 18th meeting of the Conference of African Development and Economic Planning Ministers in Addis Ababa on 20-24 April earlier this year.

Change and challenge

'The world is changing and Africa particularly is changing with it. The most obvious signs of change there at the moment are, basically, that many conflicts in and between States are being settled, notwithstanding the resurgence of others, that a move is being made towards democratic systems of government, largely thanks to the will of the people themselves, and that there is increasing awareness that better inter African cooperation will speed up economic integration - witness the signing of the charter setting up the African Economic Community at Abuja (Nigeria) on 3 June 1991.

But alas, alongside these changes for the better, Africa as a whole still has a range of (in many cases more acute) internal and external economic problems, which have prevented this region of ours from making any substantial progress. ECA members' GDP only improved by 2.3% overall in 1991, although their populations grew by about 3%. Poor domestic savings combined with dwindling export revenue, the stagnation or decline of net flows of external resources and the burden of debt servicing left very little over to finance development.'

The big challenge for the 1990s, Diallo maintained, is in encouraging economic and social change and promoting regional cooperation in a political, economic and social situation which is constantly changing - and already having noticeable effects in the countries of Africa.

'First of all, these countries are now going to find it much more difficult to get the financial help they need. For a start, the end of the cold war means that economic aid will be granted less in the hight of political or ideological affinity than of sound economic management, including the implementation of political and economic reform. And the attention of Africa's main development partners is being drawn increasingly to other parts of the world, especially Eastern Europe since the Warsaw Pact was dismantled and the countries there began moving towards a market economy.

Secondly, the African countries, rightly, are increasingly aware that subregional and regional economic integration is the safest, if not the only way of speeding up the growth and transformation of their economies and, not least, of saving the regions from long-term marginalisation by the trading blocs emerging in other parts of the world.

Thirdly, after three decades during which the UN adopted international development strategies, Africa has looked at its disappointing economic results and realised that it has itself to do most of the work required to meet its growth targets.

The settling of the various political conflicts is an opportunity to channel financial resources away from the military and into development and the recovery and transformation of the socioeconomic system.'

A more pertinent framework

The ECA suggests concentrating on:

- helping promote the economic cooperation and integration which are essential if Africa is to make its way in a world economy with powerful economic blocs in other regions;

- making the public sector more efficient at promoting economic development. This is vital, particularly when it comes to economic and social programmes, which are very much the responsibility of the public sector in many countries;

- promoting private initiative and enterprise;

- ensuring the growth and dissemination of science and technology and seeing that they are applied to development;

- striking a balance between food production, demographic growth, human establishments and the environment - an essential contribution to handling the critical economic situation which has been Africa's lot since the early 1980s;

- continuing development focused on man, not just to contribute to the development of human resources in the various sectors, but to meet the essential requirements of the African populations as well;

- transforming and diversifying the socio-economic structures - by definition the key to economic development;

- promoting the role of women in development.

Keep hoping and encourage cooperation

'The speed of what has often been positive change in Africa and the disappointment of poor economic results in the 1980s have combined with military conflict to plunge our region into uncertainty. Can anything in fact be hoped for Africa? It is as well to ask. Take the fighting first of all. Although things are calming down, refugees, drought and the continent's enormous debt suggest the situation is desperate, although it may in fact well not be, given the vast potential of all the human and natural resources, the African Governments' increasingly firm commitment to economic and political reform and the resolute determination of business and people in general to play their part in development to the full.

We are careful not to indulge in what is often called Afropessimism. Our hopes are founded on the whole range of positive changes - and I mentioned them earlier - which Africa has made in its promotion of development policies which ensure growth and equity. Our hopes are founded on the dynamic work of the local NGOs which are doing more and more in the economic, social and political fields. They are founded on the fact that the countries of Africa now realise that democratic policy and rational economic management have to go hand in hand. And they are founded on the Africans' new-found awareness that their continent has to make a success of development and not just survive on hand-outs from the rest of the world. Some of these trends are still in their infancy, obviously, and have to be given time to develop. The responsibility for ensuring that the positive developments fulfil all their promise lies first and foremost with the African people and their leaders, although the international community wants to see things in Africa change and has to do its bit towards that end.

There is an increasing tendency for Africa's development partners to tie their economic assistance to the existence of proper administration - good governance, as they sometimes call it. But the force of the wind of political change is such that the people have turned their hands to it far faster than any donor ever imagined. There is unanimous agreement on the need for democratic systems of government in many African countries. But success, in fact, means that reforms, be they economic or political, have to last, and ensuring that they do means setting up, maintaining and providing proper financing for national institutions.'