African Perspectives on the Continent’s Development
This year the Berlin Economic Forum 2019 organized by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy had a special focus on AfricaMarch 21st, 2019
This article presents the output of three interviews conducted with African academicians at the Berlin economic Forum 2019: Dr. Moncef Bakail, Dr. Kasahun Woldemariam, and Dr. Kpossi Marius. They point out different current obstacles to the development of Africa such as corruption, inequalities and poor education. However, they positively believe in the new generation of accountable political leaders, democratically elected by a population that is more informed and react.
The first speaker, Professor Dr. Moncef Bakail from University of Algiers, believes that good governance is essential for the continent’s development. According to him, many African countries do not adapt to globalization because governments keep a tight control over their economies. For instance, in Algeria, the rule of 49/51 means that the government controls at 51% all the strategic economic sectors, which makes foreign investors run away. The government, who is benefiting from the income generated by these important economic sectors -mainly oil and others natural resources - is strongly corrupt, resulting in under-development for the rest of the society. However, Dr. Moncek Bakail keeps faith in a new generation of political leaders, democratically elected with a limited number of terms, accountable to their constituencies, thus acting for the public good.
Dr. Kasahun Woldemariam, professor of political science at Spelman College in Atlanta and council on foreign relations at the United States mission to the African Union, also acknowledges that the recently elected political leaders are less repressive and more responsive to the people, such as in Tunisia, Nigeria, or Ghana. Elsewhere, people seem to react and launch peaceful democratic transitions. However, he is afraid about the increasing inequalities. He affirms that in most African countries the income gap has widen: incomes of the poor have shrunk while the rich elite, well-connected to the State apparatus, keeps gaining from resources.
Dr. Kpossi Marius, Lecturer on Health Politics, declared that “the change must come from the political leaders who understand the issues and educate the population.” He pointed the fact that some politicians talk about democracy but don’t even know what the concept truly means. Their campaign speeches are demagogic but once elected, nothing is done. Their strategy is successful because the populations are not enough educated on these issues. Therefore, he suggests to educate the politicians and citizens, inform them so that they can make the right choices. The priority is to reform the educational system, which Kpossi Marius currently describes as “an offense to the real development issues.” The curriculum should be more adapted to the African realities. Then, the rest of the population should receive information in their own local language, and not only in French or English, so that they understand their problems and react.
Therefore, each academician had diverse opinions on what constitutes the current obstacles to the continent’s development – corruption, inequalities, or lack of knowledge. However, they are optimistic about the future thanks to a new generation of accountable political leaders, democratically elected in some countries.