Ideas & Debate

Africa needs level negotiating table for development funding

euro

Most governments rely on external capacity and financing to deliver on their goals. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Africa is presented with an interesting conundrum. On one hand there is an acknowledged need that it cannot finance the development needs.

The infrastructure deficit alone cannot be financed by governments, let alone its urgent healthcare, education, job creation and sustained development needs. Yet there are niche vehicles being deployed by the development partners, development finance and even private sector that speak to the development-financing needs of governments and peoples.

The question is, what does Africa have to do to get this money? Do we have to unrealistically twist ourselves into shapes and commit to unrealistic goals to secure this “development-oriented’ financing? In my mind, three issues have to be considered.

First is the reality that African governments don’t use their own financing effectively. Governments are generally not well resourced—that’s an open fact. But due to both capacity and corruption issues, most governments cannot deploy their limited resources optimally.

Whether the issue is the inability to attract and retain African professionals, or the open theft of public funds, governments have a serious problem with leveraging own-financing towards development objectives. The reality is that most governments rely on external capacity and financing to deliver on their own objectives.

Secondly, is the question of whether a true marriage exists between real African development needs and often complex donor, development, private sector financing vehicle objectives. When an external player presents financing options to the continent, the issue of motivation is important. Why are external players deploying significant capital towards Africa’s development objectives? The answer is complex. Some financing decisions are informed by foreign policy objectives, or corporate brand positioning, or the need to “demonstrate impact”.

The issue is whether all this financing being made available, is actually informed by an authentic pro-African development perspective. And the reality is that the negotiating table is not level.

When a poorly resourced state party comes to negotiate financing from entities that are not only well financially resourced, but also well-staffed, serious questions arise as to whether the deal outcome will genuinely be informed by considerations of the recipient. Thus, does a genuine marriage exist authentic desires to develop Africa from an African perspective, and competing interests from other parties?

Finally, is the issue of the voice of the African people. Are any of the parties that claim to represent the interests of the African people actually doing so? There is no simple answer to this question.

There is no consolidated “voice of the African (or even Kenyan) public”. But is there even an objective effort to truly understand the aggregated concerns of Africans at national and continental levels?

In short, due to the concerns elucidated above, African players are often forced to twist themselves into development financing goals that are neither realistic nor focused on what we actually need and want. Will the conundrum described above deliver development dividends to Africans?