by Ruth Aine - 01 June 2015
Prosperity is that kind of word that you hear once in a while, listen to and nod to, without necessarily taking note. I don’t know why. Maybe because it is associated with things that we think are exaggerations, but we still use them. Its meaning has been abused. A case in point is that of Christmas cards: We wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. That is the standard message across the board – the kind that you never pay attention to. I don’t remember the last time that I actually wrote or sent out a Christmas card. Another example is that of the pastors in Pentecostal churches who overly use the word prosperity, hence their message being called the ‘prosperity gospel’. One more example is elections in Uganda: Yoweri Museveni‘s slogan or tagline for a while contained the word prosperity.
Prosperity though is at the center of research conducted by the Legatum Institute. Africa, according to the 2014 Prosperity Index, is doing well in the personal freedom, economy & entrepreneurship and opportunity indices. Poor performance has been cited in education, health and safety and security. The survey, covering 38 countries, shows that Botswana is leading the pack in regard to overall prosperity, while Central African Republic is at the bottom.
The report shows that Africa in fact is rising, but we all know that the said economic boom Africa is experiencing is not all inclusive and the data collected confirms that. Economic growth and prosperity need to be inclusive. Africans need to experience it and then be able to own it. African entrepreneurship continues to take the lead on the Continent. However, there are visible challenges which include the lack of a supporting eco-system for emerging small businesses, especially those started by women. Women and girls in Africa, even with a lot of support from governments in respective countries, continue to be ‘invisible’. A lot more needs to be done to support them.
Why are we falling short?
It is interesting that we are still grappling with education. And I think it is because we inherited education systems and curriculums that are not African-based. This means that the education we get is not best suited to ‘deliver’ us from poverty. Even then the quality of education, which is a reflection of the quality of trainers, is in question. Even though we have an ‘over-educated’ populace in countries like Zimbabwe, we are still not seeing the effects of this said education.
There is little attention paid to vocational education and training. We still fear the sciences – we have a lot of theory in our learning and very little practical sessions. We know these issues, but I don’t know what it is going to take for us to individually or collectively change the status quo. At a youth meeting recently, everyone and I MEAN EVERYONE was talking bad education curriculum and training in Africa. I am told that countries like South Africa, for example, have no component of African history in their syllabus, apart from their own. I was mandated to study Julius Nyerere and Sundiata Keita of the Mali Empire in 1210 in high school. We need to think of mandatory African subjects for us as a continent.
I don’t know of any country in Africa that comprehensively managed to achieve the MDGs on health. And this is not because we cannot; it is just that our priorities as individual nations and as a continent are elsewhere. The recent Ebola epidemic served its purpose; it showed us how vulnerable our health systems are in some areas. And once again it was health aid that saved the day. While there were efforts at the AU to help Africa support and stand on its own, the interventions could have been timelier. A memorandum of understanding on the African Center for Disease Control was signed early this year by the Chairperson of the African Union and the US Secretary of State. While this is a step in the right direction, it will not solve all our health problems. In Uganda, 42% of maternal deaths occur among young women below the age of 19. Midwives get paid Ugx300,000/- [$98.22] per month and they are expected to be in clinics across the country, saving lives. These are issues that the African CDC will not solve at all. Individual country initiative is needed.
Safety and Security:
These two go hand in hand because it is almost impossible for one to be secure but not safe. The Continent continues to be riddled with civil wars in places like CAR, Mali and DRC. Civil unrest in Burundi has been all over the media for the last couple of days. In early April, terror alerts kept everyone in Uganda at home for about a week. We all mourned the death of the Garissa University students when it happened – a constant reminder that we are not safe at all. Terrorism attacks have kept us on our toes for a while now, with Kenya most affected. We are yet to experience total security in Africa. How safe are we? Who is supposed to protect us?
But now that we know what the issues are, the question is: Can we make it work? Gathered in Dar es Salaam to speak about African prosperity, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, a renowned African economist, gives practical pointers on how we could do this. It is not a mystery, nor rocket science. There just needs to be a collective effort geared towards making these things work for us:
1. It is no longer fashionable for Africans to externalize our failings and weakness. We need to own who we are and take responsibility for our wrongdoings and for the future.
2. We have our own story; let us tell it. The ICT AND the mobile money revolution is our story, among other things.
3. It is time for us citizens to stand up and demand a better environment that would free us.
4. A growing Africa must mean growing Africans. Growing Africans are liberated. The growth of the economy does not necessarily mean the growth of the people.
5. A human capital-centered approach is what we need. African people are Africa’s biggest resource. Putting them at the center of any strategy is what will move the Continent forward.
For more on the 2014 Africa Prosperity Report visit http://www.li.com/activities/publications/2014-africa-prosperity-report