Sunday, 2 October 2011

Pathway to African development...

Africa are visibly the least developed continent on the globe and, collectively with regards to development ( = the process of social and economic advancements that leads to improvements in peoples quality of life and general wellbeing), are far behind Europe, the forever growing Asia and rapidly developing South America. Groups of countries (not necessarily confined to continents) have developed differently. The Rostow Model of Development represents quite well the stages taken by Europe and the other most developed countries in the world, all of which focused on developing agriculture and then implementing import substitution. On the other hand, the Four Asian Tigers exploited the growing materlistic attitude in the west to allow for a export-driven model of industralisation, and thus development, to be followed. China has been the most recemt recipient of large scale TNC investment due to its abundant and cheap work force and, combined with the resources it has to offer (especially rare earth metals) has continued to grow at, arguably, a worrying rate. South American nations have grouped together, favouring preferential trade, which has worked out really well for them so far as indicated by the 8% grow experienced for the last 5 years. All these groups of countries have adopted fundamentally different paths to the same end goal, some with more success and speed than others.

So, if Africa are to develop, how do you think they will achieve it? Will they follow the path taken by Europe, would it be easier for them to try and replicate the journey undertaken by the Four Asian Tigers, are they likely to recieve sufficient FDI and interest from TNCs to provoke cumulative causation or should they copy what South America are trying (and arguably succeeding ) to do?

I realise that this is a really big, open ended question and is one that I am probably never going to get a definite answer to until it actually happens (thus something that is probably going to annoy/frustrate me for a while - I am still trying to figure out what a stage 6 of the DTM would look like!!!) but I have been trying to do a bit of reading on the subject and get some peoples opinions - let me know if you have any thoughts!

Normally when I ask questions, especially ones like this, I get some rather strange looks and asked why excatly do I want to know the answer or why can't I just accept things and not think to much. So, I didn't really get that far on my quest to find out what people think. However, Millie is often more than willing to entertain my inquisitive nature and consequent questions, so what did she think about future African development.......

"My personal opinion is that they will need to find a way that takes the lessons from previous efforts at development and personalises it to the unique challenges of Africa. I feel that we need to take into account that the world has changed since we developed, and since the Asian Tiger Policy, and that currently lessons could be learnt from the preferential trade taking place in South America which has seen 8% growth for the last 5 years, and that this could be more easily replicated in Africa. The problem will be the complicating factor of peace, in that the cultural differences that are now inherent in many African nations have not been seen to such a degree in other developing countries, and of course the environment is unique to Africa, and we cannot attempt to understand what all this means for the development process without lengthy consultation, and some fairly significant independence for African nations to identify their best option."

Do you agree? I think that I am inclined to agree with some of the things Millie said but perhaps not all and to be honest the more I think about it, the more questions I have!

I read this the other day; 'Africa looks to learn from east Asia's development experiences'; and it presents quite an interesting idea. Although it doesn't touch on South American development as a model for Africa, it explains why countries like Kenya and Ethiopia have started to look at how countries like China have developed/developing and are trying to find ways to adapt that policy to conditions in Africa as a way of developing. It is debateable whether this is as a direct result of the forever increasing Chinese investment across Africa due to the availabilty and oppurtunity to exploit and utilise the abundant raw materials in this money-poor resource-rich continent but there is no right or wrong way to develop.

So, what do I think....... well for a while now I have been struggling to get my head around the idea of a world existing where development is equal amongst all countries and in reflection I think that the main reason for this is because I have taken a 'one-size fits all' approach and attitude to development - an attitude than I immediately, without thinking, presumed would also apply to future African development. With regards to this idea, I felt that perhaps we could never live in a world with equal development as, probably a bit skeptically, I viewed exploitation of a resource (whether that be people, environment, markets etc) as intrinsic to the way in which we developed and that in the present day, exploitation of the same amplitude, especially of people, was incredibly unlikely to happen. I have started to realise that the 'one-size fits all' approach to development is not suitable, appropriate or indeed helpful when trying to determine the future of this continual process and thus is a dangerous trap to fall into - one that I am guilty of tumbling into. Also, remembering that development is in fact a continual process means that, as time passes and the world changes, development will accorrdingly evole with regards to how it occurs, timescales and possibly even how we view it. Instead, I now understand the importance of locality-specific solutions to the development problem as no two locations are the same and, for example, no matter how long you try you could not get any African nation to fit the Rostow Model of Development perfectly. Therefore I agree with Millie when she said that instead of trying to determine which model of development Africa could mirror, it should be about learning lessons from the differing journeys taken in the past. The world is a changed place and previous paths are no longer applicable in the contemporary world that faces numerous different challenges, challenges that are not evenly distributed around the globe. No one can dispute that Africa is a troubled continent and whilst, idealistically, preferential trade like that used in South America could work, at present I am struggling to see how it would perform in reality due to the inherent cultural differences and absence of lasting peace. Peace is arguably the largest complicating factor that is preventing development (although by no means the only obstacle just perhaps the most prevalent in the present day that could be remedied), a factor sadly linked to European colonialism, and this needs to be achieved before Africa is ready to develop. I think this is in actual fact the biggest question with reference to development in Africa..... Are they actually ready to develop? And, if not, when will they be? The conditions in Africa are unique and not found anywhere else on the globe and the shear number of interconnected, complicated, entangled issues preventing and stunting development are making it so difficult to solve - not aided by the fact that, like Millie said, we cannot even start to pretend to understand African development without lengthy consultation. Thus I believe that it is potentially detrimental for African nations to look at models of development with more than the purpose of  trying to learn from the mistakes and successes made by countries who have embarked on the journey of development. Thus, independence is key...... forcing a country to develop in a certain way is not going work or be sustainable and neither is allowing them to build development upon the foundations of dependency, whether that be on one resource, another country or a certain model of development. It is going to be a huge step for African nations to take full independence and be focused and stable enough to identify their best option, without being influenced by extrinsic factors. Whilst this independence is key, so will be the guidance and support of other countries to allow them to do this and offering a supporting hand on the way. Development for African nations is not going to be easy, they have their history, the present and the future stacked up against them but development is going to be a necessity if they hope to be able to adapt to and mitigate the appending impacts of global climate change which, as the science suggests, they will experience the full force of.

Let me know what you think - remember there is no right or wrong way for Africa to develop........

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