Navigating the post-2015 debate in Africa

Development Policy03 Jul 2013Chudi Ukpabi

Tackling issues like poverty, inequality, food security, water security and environmental degradation will remain necessary for international development after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. It is my contention that – in the upcoming decades – African countries will need to define and bring their own priorities in terms of social, economic, cultural and political issues, into the debate. For the post-2015 era, the following core issues come to mind.

Inclusive economic growth?

Global economic and financial institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the IMF, as well as leading economists and business leaders, are now all in full agreement that there is significant economic growth – ranging from 5% to over 10% – in a variety of African countries. However, this has not coincided with balance in inclusive economic growth, poverty reduction, livelihoods improvement and job creation for youth. Therefore, inclusive economic growth should become a core issue in national policy in African countries.

Human resources costs for Africa

According to available data, on an annual basis, every African country receives an exorbitant number of external donors’ missions from bilateral and multilateral agencies. During my recent visits to ministries in Khartoum and Juba, I noticed that there were less than four senior and junior office officials receiving, facilitating and reporting on average ten to fifteen international development missions in a period of a month. This would be the same for any other African recipient country. In addition, I noticed that officials spent the majority of their time on these international projects, instead of on other work. Each external donor project produces monthly financial reports, progress reports, yearly midterm reports and final evaluations. As these reports have to be written in different models, frameworks and formats, this entire process is rather complicated, fragmented and time-consuming. In short, the huge costs of human resources dedicated to these projects have not made a valid contribution to development results on the African continent. In terms of post-2015, this should thus be a priority issue as well.

Investing in African Diaspora Remittances

Reports from the African Development Bank tell us that African Diaspora Remittances (ADR) were more than US$40 billion in 2010 and currently account for over 2.6% of GDP – exceeding both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and international development aid in African countries in general. In other words, ADR structurally contributes to African households, food security, health care, agriculture, education, poverty reduction and youth livelihoods development. Hence, in formulating the post-2015 development agenda, it is key to investigate how ADR can be effectively channeled into Africa’s national economies for the development of effective policy tools and strategies within government policies.

Leadership and Governance

Militant conflicts in countries like Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and Liberia, as well as recent political protests in North African countries, can be viewed as Africa’s most dangerous internal enemy, obstructing long-term economic and social development. As African civil wars and conflicts have coincided with the recruitment of ‘lost youth’ into militias, the issue of creating economic opportunities for young people must become another top priority. Related to this issue is the disconnection between modern and traditional elites and leaders, which has also fueled ineffective governance in Africa. As this is an internal African sovereignty issue, international development funds should not become involved in these power relations.

Hence, for the upcoming post-2015 era, I would say that Africa should be given a new opportunity to define its own priorities in a way that goes beyond aid and trade with international development actors. The debate for Africa should also focus on priorities such as good governance, inclusive economic growth, livelihoods-building for youth, and strong institutions for well-functioning African states.