Africa ripe for firmer global partnershipsThursday September 01 2022
The 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) summit closed last Sunday in Tunisia. The gathering noted that despite the global challenges of climate change and the pandemic, the continent witnessed remarkable economic and human development growth.
Leaders at the conference were upbeat that more than half of African countries are categorised as high- or middle-income.
Middle-income country (MIC) status, however, does not mean the absence of poverty. On the contrary, MICs are home to 62 percent of the world's poor. However, most African countries still face the challenges posed by inequalities.
As aware of the challenges, Ticad's primary objective of the conference, as in the past, is to achieve sustainability in three key pillars, including inclusive growth with reduced economic inequalities, a resilient society based on human security and building peace and stability through supporting Africa's efforts.
What makes Ticad unique is the principles of African ownership and international partnership in African development. It offers an open forum in which not only African countries would come together to discuss economic issues but also international organisations, the private sector, and civil society to engage in Africa's development.
Through these interactions, Ticad came up with the Tokyo Declaration on African Development "Towards the 21st Century" during the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s.
The declaration sought to strengthen political and economic reforms, particularly democratisation. It also advocated for less foreign aid, which merely serves as a supplemental and catalyst role, and emphasised the importance of practical and feasible government and private sector co-operation as a fundamental driver of growth.
Ticad also sought to support Africa's vision and aspiration for the ultimate regional co-operation and integration goals embodied in the Abuja Treaty creating the African Economic Community. The desire came to fruition through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). However, there is more work to be done.
Other pertinent recommendations from earlier summits included embracing research and innovation, especially in agriculture, investment in education, market friendly and export led policies, stimulating domestic savings and capital formation, and implementation of land reforms. It emphasised the private sector as an engine of growth and development.
These affirmations were good then and today. But there is a lack of proper strategies in place to implement them. Several prescriptions have failed because of relying too much on theoretical assumptions. As a result, the growing number of unemployed youth indicates that if economic take-off fails in the next 10 years, Africa will explode and even reverse some of the gains made.
It is time for Africa to reflect on the past and ask some hard questions, such as: How did successive countries industrialise? Why is Africa taking so long to realise economic growth? What must we do to see change if previous strategies have not worked?
The path taken in virtually all the countries that industrialised within the last century is almost the same. Maintaining political stability has been crucial to British, American, Japanese, Korean and Chinese models of the path to industrialisation.
They all started with rural industrialisation (starting with value addition in agriculture). Then, mass production, especially textiles, moved up the ladder from light to heavy industries and eventually became a welfare State.
In Kenya's vision for 2030, we had a similar path to industrialisation, but unfortunately, we did not sustain the momentum. That notwithstanding, I believe Kenya needs less than 10 years to become Africa's leading manufacturer.
There are initiatives within the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) that promises to support inclusive industries, particularly agro-industries, for job creation and poverty reduction.
Through partnerships like Ticad and OACPS, Africa has an opportunity to strike a balance between human development goals and maintaining the capacity of natural systems.