New thinking seems to be emerging among Western development institutions that Africa should take the lead its own development. And the million-dollar question is: Are the African leaders listening?
Since independence only a few African countries have attempted to generate their own development policies that are independent of Western or global policies.
Last year during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit, US President Obama told world leaders that his country does not and will not take responsibility for countries that fail to achieve their development goals, no matter the reasons. Obama encouraged developing countries to take responsibility of their own development.
“We want you to prosper and succeed—it’s in your interest,” he told leaders during the MDG Summit.
The same message has once again emerged in a report released by Overseas Development Initiative last week. The report entitled, Mapping Progress challenges African leaders to take the lead in the development of their countries.
The report, based on case studies from different African countries, argues that tremendous progress in some African and Third World countries happened best when it was led by African states and citizens.
It identifies the crucial role of effective leadership, smart policies, proper institutional foundations and international partnerships in driving development and calls for a new outlook on development.
Leadership is seen as an important driver of reforms, promoting national cohesion, protecting public interests and facilitating local initiatives and entrepreneurship.
In Ghana, for example, government-led reforms of the domestic cocoa market are behind the tremendous record of agricultural growth which now stands at an average of over 5% in the last 25 years. And today Ghana is one of the few self-sufficient countries in terms of staple foods in Africa.
Contrary to the current obsession with elections in Zimbabwe, the report suggests the ability of leaders to rule effectively for sustained periods benefits significantly from processes of consultation and cooperation that take into account the varied needs and views of the citizens.
Electoral democracies in India and Mauritius, for example, played an important role in holding the leadership to account in delivering on promises to improve conditions for the poor.
Important to note in these examples is that leaders responded pragmatically to the views of the people by creating need-based development policies which conflate and adapt imported and home-grown policy solutions to function within specific national contexts and political environments. This has seen rapid growth in agriculture, healthcare, education and sanitation in some Africa countries.
The report further suggest that these effective conditions tend to persist during political and economic shocks as they are built on citizen participation.
Instead of whining over Western interference “in our internal political affairs” perhaps it is time as Zimbabwe we asked ourselves if we have a people-driven development policy.
Zimbabwe has to move away from economy-centric and globally-oriented policies. The existing national development plans tend to focus more on national economic development policies which tend to favour the business community and less on national development and poverty reduction, while those that aim to reduce poverty are more of appendages of global policies, which expose our countries to Western interference and manipulation.
Despite a growing sense of dictatorship, Malawi has shown potential in economic growth, a prerequisite to deliver its people out of hunger and poverty.
The country’s recent progress in providing economic stability has begun to have a positive effect on development indicators, placing Malawi in the top 20 performers on several of the MDGs.
While many analysts prefer to view this development in the context of global development goals, it is vital to note that the success of the agriculture sector is a result of a locally-driven policy which faced huge resistance from Western donors who later jumped in when they realised that it was bearing fruits.
Locally-driven policies are one of the ways we can change the world’s perception of Africa.
This report, though authored by a Western institution, is pointing towards the right direction for the continent and all the African leaders need to do now is just wake up and do the right thing.