Workshop: Give Africa the capacities it needs to be a full-fledged actor in globalisation and seize its opportunities

  • Preparatory summary
  • Participants
  • Minutes of the workshop

Despite immense natural assets - 30% of the world’s mineral deposits, 15% of its arable land and 20% of its hydro-electrical potential - Africa is still unable to create enough wealth to provide for the basic well-being of its population, much less attain an honourable rank on the world stage. After several decades of independence and despite constant flows of financial and technical aid, the African continent is still marginalised in a world where flexibility, adaptability, attractiveness and knowledge are still the high road to insertion. For European, Asian and American States and operators, Africa is nothing more than a source of raw materials and a market for their products—and often for their waste as well. For the social actors in these same countries, Africa is worthy only of compassion and charity. This attitude, like a beggar expecting everything from others, carelessly selling his resources and buying what he could have produced for himself, cannot continue.

To escape from this trap, Africa must produce its own view of globalisation, with its own priorities: accelerate growth, create employment and eliminate poverty. Thus Africa must ask itself a number of questions: Can it distance itself from the changes disrupting the world economy? If the answer is “no”, how can it limit the risks that are part and parcel of globalisation? To what extent is Africa already integrated in the world economy and how can it improve its competitiveness on international markets?What can African countries do to profit from globalisation as fully as possible? When formulating answers to these questions, several points merit consideration: first, globalisation is not a panacea. Integration in the world economy is a condition required for growth, but integration alone is insufficient. Stable growth and a decline in poverty also require macroeconomic stability, a high level of investment with respect to GDP, trustworthy legal and accounting systems, and responsible government institutions. Second, quality growth is required for the volume of trade outside of Africa to progress; measures to liberalise trade are not sufficient in themselves. Third, to truly profit from globalisation, Africa absolutely must improve its competitiveness and invest in new fields, such as the digital economy. Fourth, the experience of Asian countries has shown the importance of human investment in successful integration in the world economy.

At the dawn of the third millennium, the African continent must retake the initiative. Africa will be able to make its voice heard only if it manages to construct its own project and retake control of its destiny. To continue to exist and be important in world affairs, Africa absolutely must make a clean break with its current means of insertion in the world economy and reconnect with more advantageous modes based on optimum valorization of its resources, in order to guarantee its development in an ever more uncertain world.

Africa should be respected, listened to, and free; it should be able to sit down at the ‘table of giving and receiving’ that symbolises globalisation and have a place there worthy of its greatness. This is the least of its pretensions. The goal is to contribute to the advent of an Africa that is the master of its future and of its contribution to the world. With this in mind, Africa must meet the difficult economic challenge of its insertion in the new world value chains, with the formidable potential for productive transformation they offer. This also means extensive work must be done on African production systems. African countries have long stagnated in an economy based on rents from the export of raw materials; now they must industrialise to transform the structures of their economies. They must also become part of world flows and capital movements, to form partnerships and industrial alliances. Finally, regionalisation and globalisation must be coordinated: for Africa to become a world power, geographic realities must be transformed into political and economic realities with stronger capacities for negotiation and credible leadership. The challenge lies in integrating Africa in the world’s current march forward; Africa must be able to understand challenges, take them on, express its will and develop its own ways of knowing, doing and being. What is at stake is Africa’s passage from its current status as a subject of international negotiations to the status of an actor influencing globalisation.