Austria recently commemorated 60 years after George C. Marshall’s speech that tremendously resuscitated Europe’s growth after the devastating World War 11. Marshall, US Secretary of State asked European countries to cooperate and craft their recovery plan before being given US funds.
Africa has a lot she can borrow from the Marshall Plan. It took visionaries to commence the plan-and not just visionaries, but people with an unconstrained vision. People who saw opportunities amidst destruction and despair. Africa needs such visionaries to free the continent from poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy and stagnation.
Most times, education in Africa has produced graduates who cannot solve the continent`s problems. Upon being conferred degrees, their first mentality is to fly to Europe. Such graduates complain that they have no jobs while farmers in their midst lack agricultural extension services. They idle around while Malaria takes toll in their neighborhoods.Africa shall be changed by self driven people with ability to convert problems into opportunities for service. America saw a business opportunity in Europe’s woes and supplied raw materials, used its own ships and provided expertise.Seven out of ten Africans are extremely poor. Two hundred million Africans are chronically hungry. Infant mortality rates are high. Average life expectancies are low. It will take unconstrained visionaries to tackle these issues.
Marshall asked Europeans to cooperate. Africa shall not extricate herself from economic and social stagnation if she doesn’t cooperate. All the 54 nations face each other as individuals. Each country has its own business structures. To do business, one has to comply with 54 different requirements. Africa slaps high tariffs on fellow African nations (33.6 percent) but accords low tariffs to Europe (12.7 percent) and Asia (19 percent). The East African Community is facing myriad obstacles ranging from mistrust to tribalism. Africa must unite and open her boundaries to intra-Africa trade if she has to prosper and receive international respect.
Europe was asked to craft its recovery process. Does Africa have home-grown recovery processes? No wonder then-the IMF, World Bank and international community have come in to fill the void. It is imperative that the continent puts first things first and lays a blueprint for its own future so that when the international community comes in- it simply fits in the master plan.
Europe had solid structures before bombardment and had developed its human capital. Africa is yet to build sound structures. The continent still views its human population as a scourge. President Ismail of Djibouti, who is also the outgoing COMESA Authority Chairperson laments that infrastructure development is the biggest challenge facing the COMESA bloc. Less than 10 percent of the blocs`s roads are paved. Rail network, which is supposed to be a cheap option, accounts for only 20 percent of commercial cargo.
High taxes are levied on business people. Hawkers, out to eke an honest living undergo council and police harassment. The existing education structures are not geared at producing graduates who can solve Africa’s current challenges. A lot of energy is invested in politics as opposed to productivity. A lot needs to be done at infrastructure level.
Europe used the given money prudently, for the intended purpose. There was strict accountability. How many times does project money find its way to Swiss banks in Africa? How many times does it end up financing political parties? How many half finished projects dot Africa in spite of full funding ? Roads are carpeted today- and end up with pot holes tomorrow. Buildings are constructed today but collapse tomorrow. Something is wrong along the way!
Thorvaldur Gylfason, Proffessor of Economics at that University of Iceland and Editor of the European Economic Review observes that to grow or not to grow is a matter of choice. He also says it is a matter of justice, for those who usually pay the highest price for the economic growth that did not take place are the poor. The ball lies in Africa’s court!
By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer
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