Conference, January 27-30,2014: Africa invents its economy

  • Introduction to the conference
  • Press

Africa is definitely the continent of paradoxes! Indeed the most endowed with natural resources on the planet, the continent hosts the poorest populations in the world. Data are stating that over a 25 years period, poverty did decelerate considerably in the world excepted in sub-Saharan Africa where the number of poor people is growing continually. It is the only region in the globe where, in terms of percentage, poverty is in a static situation1. Worst still, it is growing in absolute terms. Today, 562 millions of Africans in Sub Sahara are living with less than 2 dollars a day.

This paradox is explained basically in the continent postcolonial evolution. Since the 60s Africa is continually accumulating counter-performances in terms of development. The economic and social assessment of the first fifty years of independence is globally a disaster for most of African countries. Since 2000 however, the continent is experiencing a relatively strong growth which is still hiding dreadful social realities, basic fragilities and also obvious vulnerabilities regarding infrastructures and energy. As underlined by UNECA in the 2013 report, this growth was not translated into economic diversification, or by enormous jobs creation, much less into a wide social development. In short, this is confirming the chaotic path of African development.

At the economic level, investment ratios have been always lower that the world mean. Even worse, they have been reduced drastically in the 80s while the first two decades of independence were characterized by proactive policies with relatively huge investment efforts. Of course, the growth curve has followed the investment levels and has literally collapsed in the 80s and 90s. However, even though the 2000 era did show economic recovery, one should notice the continent lagging behind Asia regions; above all one should also deplore the economic growth social breakaway. Today with the second stronger growth mean, Africa has an income per inhabitant six times lower than the rest of world.

Africa economic up and downs do contrast with its huge potential, particularly with its natural and demographic resources. Natural resources are subject to bad governance, internal tension and exacerbated concurrence between non African actors while demographic resources, especially young people are the first categories impacted by emigration waves. Above all, economic outcomes are not, until now, able to bring qualitative and substantial changes in African populations living conditions.

In social terms, African economies impacts on Africans well-being are mitigated. Indeed, in a half century, mortality rate has been cut to half in the continent. However, Africans do have the highest mortality rate in the world. Infant-juvenile mortality rate is at an alarming level: among a thousand children born in Africa, 180 died before their fifth birthday, versus 7 in the OECD and 51 south-East Asia. Life expectancy has increased from 45 to 54 between 1965 and 2010 in Subsaharan Africa. In 2010, the continent has a gap of 19 years of life expectancy vis-à-vis worldwide mean. OECD populations are living a half a century more than those in Subsaharan Africa. As far as education at the secondary level is concerned, the rate has been quadrupled in 50 years in the continent, to reach however only 40% in 2011 versus 70% worldwide, 80% and 90% respectively in South-East Asia and Latin America and Caribbean.

In short, the half century economic and social assessment of this half-century is globally below the continent potential. There is an obvious discrepancy with the continent challenges, experiencing the fastest demographic growth worldwide, with 7 to 10 millions of new job seekers every year.

Africa is being a fertile sole for endemic poverty which is creating despair and self-denial among African populations. Unlike the rest of humanity who is thinking in good faith that Africa is “the world future”, Africans continue to desert the continent sometimes at the cost of their lives and dignity, convinced that “the future is “somewhere else”.

Having said that, is Africa being condemned to living in underdevelopment? Is Africa going to be only a simple natural resources reserve whose control and looting will oppose powerful countries, which will, in some circumstances, lean on Africans themselves? Will African wealth be irremediably doomed to be captured and monopolized by a privileged minority, without benefiting at all to the whole population? Do we have to accept this illusory fate?

It is usual to explain African socio-economic misery through the continent systematic depletion for foreign interests. The truth is Africans do share significant responsibilities in the continent situation. It is up to them, therefore to retake the initiative for the continent social and economic renaissance.

In this regard, African successful stories do exist and could be used as levers for African development renewal and relaunching. South Africa economic power, Botswana economic and democratic model especially with resources and mineral rents dedicated to social progress, the Rwanda spectacular economic and social rebuilding in a short period after the genocide, Morocco economic smartness and tremendous progress which positioning the Kingdom as a center of excellence and a core for Europe and Africa development, the Tunisian economic dynamism –despite the ongoing political and economic crisis experienced by the country-, hydrocarbons chemical and industrial valorization in Algeria are so many trajectories which are indicating the African possible and can inspire a continent often tainted by a lack of confidence, pessimism and abandonment.

Such experiences which are so far from being exhaustive do prove that Africa structural crisis paradigm is no more relevant in explaining the continent ongoing dynamics. These experiences are highlighting the fact that beside of the official Africa in crisis, the extroverted one, there is an Africa emerging which is building itself through many state rebuilding/reconstruction spaces, economy, society at its micro and macro level. This provides full sense to innovative initiatives in terms of territories economic development dynamics, local development, entrepreneurship, Small and Medium Enterprises, communities…

Essentially, it is the African economy foundation that is questioned. Holders of disastrous models of natural resources exploitation, extroverted and strongly relying on a worldwide conjuncture upon which the continent has no grip, set on disincarnated calculation method that is not taking into account some huge hubs where wealth is created, in addition African economic dynamic are too partitioned, driven through short-term approaches and without much added values for populations. Therefore, the growth related recent statistics should not nourish any illusions regarding these economic dynamics quality and hide then the imperative need to reconstruct sustainable, strong and endogenous African economies, an African neo-economy aiming to serve the people needs.

The 2013 conference is undertaking to revisit the African economies foundation. It has the ambition to lay the need for Africa to reinvent its economy. Based on concrete experiences, African reflections and the best of international trajectories regarding economic systems evolution, the conference is searching to define an African conception of sustainable development. It is no more about limiting ourselves to imitate the western model of development. This one, based on exploiting energy and natural resources coming from all over the world, is not extendable worldwide and sustainable for itself. It should experience a profound change. Africa should not miss this new historical opportunity.

To reinvent the African economy and achieve its adequate insertion in the world, and beyond the need to back politics and economic management by governance values and principles, the conference will address 15 propositions gathered in 5 workshops.

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