Why Africa Fails:The Case of Growth Before Democracy
I heartly send to all Ugandans in general, Parliament of Uganda and the family of the late Cerinah Nebanda, MP my condolences for the shocking loss of the latter. As young legislator from Tanzania the death of Cerinah reminds us the death, in unexplained circumstances, of an outspoken young MP Ms. Amina Chifupa in 2007. Amina and Cerinah shared one fundamental principle, telling the truth as it is. As Amina, Cerinah has died very young. Uganda has lost one of its future leaders. But the struggle must continue. The struggle for a transparent and accountable government shall be the cause all legislators in the region must carry. It is not an option. It is a duty.
On the 7th of December 2012, I landed at O R Tambo International Airport. As it is my routine, I went around bookshops and saw a book titled Why Africa Fails. I smiled, picked it and turned to its back. I quickly glanced at it. The Author was an African from East Africa. I bought it immediately. When I started reading it I could never stop. The next day I was travelling to Germany and there, I met the author. I didn’t hide my happiness.
It is unfortunate that Africa has been struggling with economic, political, and social issues. The continent is extremely rich in natural resources and potential for competent human resources. However, this richness has only remained on paper and inside the pockets of some few individuals connected to the powers. The continent, as we all know, has been experiencing poverty, civil wars, epidemic diseases, corruption, dictatorships, and coups. All these have led to the labelling of Africa as a ‘poor continent’ ‘black/dark continent’ and ‘a scar on the conscience of the world’ among many other negative phrases. The continent forms largest part of what Prof. Paul Collier calls The Bottom Billion.
Since late 1960s there have been many scholarly and political attempts to explain the poor state of Africa. These include academic theories such as the World System Theory (which blames Capitalism and the Western World - as responsible for Africa’s poverty). Walter Rodney, for example, published a masterpiece titled ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, which analysed the adverse impact of slavery, colonialism, and other European intervention on Africa. Other explanations focus on inward problems including corruption, undemocratic regimes, and failing states. The World Bank and IMF, for example, link the problems of Africa with ‘poor’ policies that do not comply with the market economy and democratic ideals. Of late, Prof. Acemoglu and Prof. Robinson published a book ‘Why Nations Fail’ which attributes success and failure to the type of institutions a state has in place. Thus, from their arguments, Africa fails because of African states have institutions that are extractive and exploitative to its people. By and large, the kind of policies that Acemoglu and Robinson recommend are those that conform to the market economy or in modern times, we can call them neo-liberal policies- These, according to them, are inclusive institutions.
All these explanations for the failure of Africa are apportioning the blame to different actors.
The attempts to explain the failure of Africa are often attached with recommended policies that often come with strings attached- which, at best, perpetuate the same issues. The World Bank and IMF, for example, came up with the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs), which, by and large, did not work. Efforts to solve African problems have been numerous and most of them do not result in sustainable improvements. Thus the question remains - Why Africa Fails?
This is why Dr. Kamugisha’s book is timely and of extreme importance to the development of our continent. This is especially so because Dr. Kamugisha is an African, full of insight into what the African problems are, hence he is equipped with all rounded knowledge to recommend relevant and sustainable solutions. As a result of his education, research, and experience as an economic adviser, Dr. Kamugisha brings us an analytical book that, if taken seriously, can help Africa to change its status from ‘a scar’ to ‘a beacon of hope.’
Dr. Kamugisha stops the syndrome of ‘apportioning the blame’ and call upon Africans (ourselves) to deal with their problems. He argues that African malaise is due to our own blunders. Indeed there are a number of mistakes made by African governments that cannot be attributed or blamed to external factors. These are: corruption, illicit money transfers, unfair contracts, and brain drain.
Many a times, as a Member of Parliament and a Shadow Finance Minister, I have moved private motions in Parliament as an attempt to deal with issues that are stagnating our economies. The latest motion I moved was on the illicit money transfer. This issue, for example, has nothing to do with external intervention, and so we cannot blame anyone apart from ourselves. Millions of money are transferred from the government/country to private accounts abroad by our fellow Africans. Such malaise actions are facilitated by poor policies and corruption that is rampant in our governments. We can correct this ourselves through right legislations and policies.
Studies have shown that billions of US dollars are illicitly transferred from Africa annually. Recent study published by Global Integrity Report shows that around USD 560 billions are transferred from Africa annually. If we compare this figure with the total amount of foreign Aid as well as Foreign Direct Investments flowing to Africa it a factor of 1:7! UNCTAD reports that Africa receives an average of USD 37 billions every year as FDI. Similarly around USD 37 billions flows into Africa annually as foreign aid. Therefore, in every one US dollar coming to Africa, seven US dollars illicitly leaves Africa.
It is our duty as Africans to end this through strengthening institutions that oversee our economic sectors especially extractive sectors like minerals and Oil and Gas.
I have learnt that in Uganda, the Parliament has just passed a legislation to govern its Oil wealth. It is very disappointing that Ugandan Parliament has vested the management of the sector to an individual in the name of the Minister. In Tanzania, the move is towards establishing an Authority to regulate licencing and the whole upstream and midstream as well as downstream sections of the hydrocarbons.
The sub-title of the book ‘The Case for Growth Before Democracy’ is the catchiest. I asked Dr. Kamugisha if he advocates growth before democracy as I didn’t find this argument in the book. The sub tittle is supposedly a question mark rather than an argument. Democracy and economic development have to go together. Most of the African countries tried dictatorship for almost three decades and it didn’t bring people out of poverty. I always tell my colleagues in Tanzania that our country is poor out of choice. We have chosen to be poor. Africa’s is Optional Poverty.
In light of the above, Dr. Kamugisha challenges us all to look inward and come up with the right policies that will make Africa a success story. The meagre state of Africa is not natural, it’s optional and we can change it. Again, I am grateful for such a timely book. I urge everyone to read it so as we can be a change we want in our continent.
By Zitto Kabwe at the Official launch of Kamugisha’s Book “Why Africa Fails: The Case of Growth Before Democracy.”
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