Africa is the only continent in the world that has not benefited from the last forty years of significant global growth. It is unacceptable that the average citizen in sub-Saharan Africa has not experienced a real increase in his or her well-being since independence.
They call the Third World the lazy man’s purview; the sluggishly slothful and languorous prefecture. In this realm people are sleepy, dreamy, torpid, lethargic, and therefore indigent—totally penniless, needy, destitute, poverty-stricken, disfavored, and impoverished. In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Africa is the trailblazer. Some still call it “the dark continent” for the light that flickers under the tunnel is not that of hope, but an approaching train. And because countless keep waiting in the way of the train, millions die and many more remain decapitated by the day.
By far, the biggest bottleneck to achieving growth and stability in sub-Saharan Africa has been poor government and poor leadership within Africa itself. The governance record of Africa’s leaders has, in many cases, been unacceptable and pernicious. Ordinary African citizens have paid the highest price for these failures, but have continued to demonstrate remarkable tenacity in continuing to work for a better life in the face of such adversity. International development assistance is not the long-term answer for Africa. Vibrant economies and good governance are the answer for Africa. These are conditions that can only be generated and sustained from within African countries, not from without.
African governments must undertake concerted measures to build economies that work, which generate jobs and investment, and provide a future for their people. Governments must lower the cost of doing business and create environments that are attractive for private-sector growth and investment. Governments must streamline and reduce regulation of the private sector, improve access to credit and financing, particularly for the rural poor. Improve communications and transportation infrastructure, and increase access to energy so as to lower business costs and facilitate economic activity. African governments must unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of their people and avoid policies that stifle the energies and ambitions of their citizens. They must also implement effective agricultural policies to boost agricultural productivity and performance.
In addition, many countries in Africa are losing the most productive members of their societies to infectious diseases and brain-drain to better-paying economies in the west and east. African governments must take the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria seriously, focusing greater attention on disease prevention and investing in their health systems, particularly in rural areas.
It also bears noting that investment cannot occur and businesses cannot flourish unless peace and stability are ensured. Therefore, African leaders must strengthen continental peace and security architecture, particularly the peace-keeping capacity of the African Union, and hold governments that engage in violent conflict to account.
In sum, African governments must provide good political and economic governance. They must aggressively tackle corruption and strengthen the institutions necessary for long-term economic growth and political stability. Good governance, which means the absolute rule of law, sound and professional financial and political management, accountable, effective, and transparent public institutions and public spending, must be a constant provision. Without good governance, it is difficult to envision progress in other areas or the effective use of international assistance.