This perspective calls for full development of the spatial support and anchoring point of all the potential and all types of resources that make up the territory, which should be the ‘basic building block’ on which the continent defines its development vision, decides on strategy, mobilises resources and procures most of the means required to carry out its project of economic and social modernity. It makes the territory the fundamental pillar of governance in Africa and introduces the paradigm of endogenous development.

The genesis of the development of rich and emerging countries clearly shows that they were able to develop their ‘true being’ and real advantages because they opted for endogenous development. These successful experiments have shown that development paths are necessarily delimited by the principles of rootedness and openness. These principles show in turn the dialectical links between ‘endogenous’, ‘territory’ and ‘development’.

Fundamentally, one of the continent’s keys to success is its consciousness of and commitment to defining the meaning and direction of its development project on the basis of its endogenous realities and in particular its ‘capacity to develop itself’ (potential) and its ‘capacity for development’ (immediately available resources and the strategy that leads to the fulfilment of its potential). At the same time, it should set up interdependencies with the outside world in the framework of fruitful, just and selective relations. Africa must open up—globalisation demands it—by encouraging forms of cooperation and partnership that are based on balanced interests and equity. If African States are to envision and implement development, endogeneity must necessarily be their conceptual and operational tool, for “African development will be endogenous or it will not be at all”.

To engineer and coordinate policies and interventions on the territorial level, States—and the continent—must first collectively agree on the place and role of the territory in their modernity project—and more precisely on the economic development model they desire and define by and for themselves. This engineering and coordination also requires the harmonious and pertinent articulation of actors, resources and the environment at the various territorial levels. As a result, new practical modes must be invented to link and harmonise visions and interventions within territories and also between the various territorial levels. The main question is simply how to come together, unite energies and pool resources in the territory—and between territories—to attain shared development objectives, and in particular shared economic development objectives.

Poverty is multidimensional in Africa, but it is particularly important to look at monetary poverty. Populations still find it difficult to access the financing they need to activate or acquire knowledge and know-how. At the same time, the development of promising economic activities, and the resulting increase in revenues, is absolutely necessary if populations are to at last enjoy decent living conditions.

Money is a real stumbling block to this development because conventional financing systems are simply inaccessible to most economic actors and potential entrepreneurs. Moreover, conventional modes of financing development have in the past been the source of even more problems for Africa. Debt and official development assistance have unknowingly set a trap in which Africa now finds itself captive: the trap of dependency and its corollary, the vicious circle of poverty.

Yet financial resources are essential in starting up the territorial development process. Their consistency is necessarily linked to the role of the territory, and consequently to the amplitude of its ambitions. To encourage local economic development, for example, a policy to provide territories with structuring equipment must be set up, along with support for investments and for the creation and consolidation of a private sector firmly rooted in the territory. It is also important to support and encourage productivity in the various sectors and the exploitation of resources, as well as people or organisations with projects. All these steps are likely to be blocked by conventional financing systems. Finally, work and the circulation of goods must be encouraged on the level of communities smaller than States.

This is why we now need to invent—or consolidate—innovative modes for financing territorial development, such as local currencies, micro-finance, a social or solidarity-based economy to take on the enormous long-term investment needs without compromising the development of territories’ potential or related economic activities.

The popular economy highlights certain dimensions unique to the crises in Southern countries, and in particular Latin America and Africa: precarious condition of populations, a sluggish modern sector, deficient public services, lack of competitiveness in the public sector, mixed results of development strategies, economic extroversion, dependence on the outside world, urbanisation without development, etc.

In Africa this multiform crisis demonstrates the obsolescence of the regulation modes that have hitherto guided development options. It indicates the gap that exists between the reference framework of public institutions and societal choices supported by populations. The crisis has, however, helped liberate a public space formerly dominated by an all-powerful State, and has encouraged other actors to affirm themselves, in particular social actors involved in various initiatives to improve their living conditions.

These emancipating initiatives have shown that the popular economy, deployed from inside communities, is a promising dynamic that can complement an official economy entirely subjugated to market logic. The popular economy helps improve living conditions of local populations and reduces poverty through a multitude of revenue-generating micro-activities. In doing so, it demonstrates an endogenous appropriation of the economy that is certainly not new, but whose rediscovery demonstrates, at one and the same time, a response to the apathy of the modern and formal sector, the disconnection between official standards and popular practices, and the uncontrollable proliferation of the informal sector. The popular economy turns the territory into a social construct.

In such a framework, the popular economy cannot be assimilated with a major contemporary innovation, nor with the simple survival of traditional practices. It constitutes, in fact, an economic production mode that is perfectly mastered by traditional African society. It is one place for the reconstruction of an ‘African modernity’ that has broken with the extroverted practices of public institutions, local elites and donors. As such, it must integrate new reflections on community and territorial development. So the gap between the popular economy’s contribution to the revitalisation of struggling communities and territories and its current socio-political marginalisation must be reduced.

In Africa, fifty years after many countries won their independence, we are forced to admit that the supply of public services is still characterised by chronic insufficiencies, and that social and territorial imbalances continue to grow. The inefficiency and inadequacy of current modes of regulating the offer of basic public services is a very serious issue at present. Yet the major challenge of development is the well-being of populations; one response to this challenge would be governments’ capacity to provide populations with basic public services in sufficient quantities and of acceptable quality.

The crisis in governance—which is at the heart of underdevelopment in Africa—is a determining factor in the crisis in public services. Thus it is illusory to imagine that change in the way public services are delivered to populations can be produced simply by expert intervention, changes in organisational charts and procedures or administrative face-lifts. On the contrary, changes must be grounded, among other factors, in the meaning and end of public action, the intelligibility of collective appropriation of public services, the respective roles of the various actors, interdependencies to be assumed and articulations to be constructed. In short, these much-needed changes require that we look closely at the governance of public services.

Thus to respond to the aspirations of all populations, we need to develop true territorial projects to structure the visions, resources and cooperative actions of actors on all levels—international, regional, national and local.

Setting up territorial projects based on the notion of joint interest and active involvement of all actors would allow us to move beyond lines of division that often seem like ‘borders’. In addition, inhabitants would as a group appropriate the territory and public service dynamically, as it became apparent to them through actions carried out in keeping with the Yaoundé principles.