Running an import-driven economy, now we face the consequences

Christian Okyere INKUM

Blessed with almost every natural resource that one can think of, Africa has an unenviable record of heavily depending on foreign goods. It has become chronic from governments to governments, and dictators who have been in power for generations have not even the slightest idea of ending it.

For decades, it has been a subject of discussion and gained enough time on our airwaves. Ideas from professionals to the street people have been shared, but all these have been in vain. Today, we face the wrathful consequences.

In this season of a health crisis, Africa is in the red zone for another potential crisis. Food-stocks are likely to run out, medical essentials are already suffering, and PPEs are already in shortage. This is an unfortunate reality for a continent with the most arable land that can feed the entire world, but it is expected as we have outsourced our stomachs to foreigners and decided that our brains must be on break from thinking how to provide basic necessities which we can easily manufacture for ourselves.

Medical staff need to get PPE, and as usual we are waiting for donations and emergency loans to purchase some (it’s heartwarming to know that Ghana is producing its own); and as for medical essentials, let me be silent about that. We know the story already.

Everyone is a victim of this pandemic, but it brings to bear how Africa has not been ready for any uncertainty – because our investment into research and development summarises our unpreparedness toward uncertainty.  I would be right to say that the leaders of almost all African countries have no plan – and even if they do, winning votes is their plan.

It’s unfortunate that our population keep increasing but we are not putting enough plans in place.

We are presented with another starting point for Africa’s development. Arguably, unlike the other parts of the world which have had to confront catastrophes like the black plague diseases, wars, Spanish flu etc. which led to massive intentional planning and development, Africa has wasted all its opportunities for massive change (probably excluding Rwanda).

However, I believe this should not pass and become business as usual. We must build on our competitive advantage, expand agricultural infrastructure; invest heavily into research and development, education, health and technology; change our political understanding and bring us to the realization that Africa is the only continent we own; and also that “The Black man is capable of managing his own affairs” – but only with the right set of leaders who will not want to visit hospitals abroad but be buried on African soil.

In a sense, we are presented with another opportunity to start all over. We must consciously and aggressively build our industries; and every invention, whether it exists already or is new, must be promoted for our own use. We must acknowledge that industrialisation is a conscious strategy to prevent our teeming youth from becoming jobless and causing social unrest in the future.

Like India deliberately investing in its pharmaceutical industry, Estonia in technology, Africa must begin to invest heavily to prevent brain-drain on the continent. In simple terms, we must use this pandemic to start the fifth industrialization processd.

>>>The author is a triple Masters’ degree student in Financial Intermediaries, Economics and Finance and Law at the University of Macerata, Italy; Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland; and University of Angers, France. He has a special interest in Public Finance and International Trade. He can be reached [email protected]

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