Africa is doing well as a continent, and has the capacity to address the problems facing it, Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), has said.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ghanabusinessnews.com Managing Editor, Emmanuel K. Dogbevi in Accra, Prof. Nnadozie said Africa has made significant progress in many areas, and that, he says, demonstrates the continent’s readiness to address its own problems.
“Africa is at a point where if you compare 20 years ago, there are more democracies than dictatorships. And if you look at it from a conflict standpoint, there is significant reduction in conflicts, especially inter-state conflicts, although you still have insecurity and terrorism bedeviling some countries,” he said, adding; “But one can confidently say that things have improved significantly.”
Prof. Nnadozie noted that if one looks at it from an economic standpoint, apart from these few years of slow growth, the continent was growing significantly faster and higher than many regions of the world, apart from Asia. And from a social standpoint, if you take school enrollment, improvement in health, development of human capital, the continent is far from where it was post-independence, he said.
“Having said that let me also say the challenges facing the continent are quite significant – whether it’s in youth unemployment, in terms of climate change and in terms of the pandemic that we are facing today – coronavirus (COVID-19), low intensity conflicts, terrorism and insecurity,” he said.
However, Prof. Nnadozie is confident that with the kind of political leadership and continental approach to things, there will be progress.
Asked if he still believes that Africa is rising just as it was said before the global economic crisis and other challenges that the continent faced, he said: “In my view Africa is still rising. As I have always said development is not a straight line. There is going to be ups and downs in the trajectory of development, the most important thing is, so long as the trend is moving upwards. There could be some bumps on the road, and that has happened everywhere in the world, so Africa will not be an exception, if you look at the records, the economic records, just more than a few years ago, the continent was growing faster and higher than almost any other region, except Asia.”
He indicated that if one looks at the other metrics or measurement of development – whether it is social development or political transformation, one will see that the continent has recorded a lot of progress and success.
“Wars are a thing of the past, democratization has really increased. You don’t have the low levels of human development that you used to have in the past,” he said.
Considering the progress made so far, Prof. Nnandozie acknowledged that there are still significant challenges lying ahead that must be tackled strongly and urgently.
“In particular youth unemployment, as well as the impacts of climate change and dealing with the terrorism and insecurity that is ravaging the continent,” he said. He is also optimistic that the pandemic crisis staring the continent can be contained.
Africa is at a point where if you compare 20 years ago, there are more democracies than dictatorships. And if you look at it from a conflict standpoint, there is significant reduction in conflicts, especially inter-state conflicts, although you still have insecurity and terrorism bedeviling some countries.
Asked if he thinks African leaders have the political will to do what they have to do to bring about transformation, he indicated that what he had described couldn’t have happened without the political will, except that it is not uniform across the 54 countries on the continent.
“There are countries that are doing very, very well, because of the good leadership that they have, and others that are facing significant challenges, not just because of leadership but because of the initial conditions that they were dealt with. You know the fragmentation of the continent into small states that are having difficulties staying independent, and economically speaking, there is an element of history and current situations where Africa doesn’t have good representation and voice on the international scene, and issues of continuous dependence on the export of primary products where prices are not determined on the continent,” he said.
Prof. Nnadozie however believes that with bold initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa is on the path of solving its own problems, emphasising the role that African leaders have played to make the AfCFTA a reality.
“African leaders are showing the will to make things work, in the same way that they have been facing corruption head-on, something that you’ve never heard of before – making it the theme of the African Union (AU) for 2018 to talk about fighting corruption to bring about transformation. We need to recognize that those are steps in the right direction to bring about transformation,” he pointed out.
African leaders are showing the will to make things work, in the same way that they have been facing corruption head-on, something that you’ve never heard of before.
When asked if he didn’t think the AU’s theme was only a slogan. Prof. Nnadozie responded saying, even if it was a slogan, African leaders didn’t talk about corruption in the past, it used to be a taboo, but now they are.
“The fact that they are willing to bring it center-stage is commendable,” he said.
Prof. Nnadozie among other things spoke about how much work African countries are doing in stemming illicit financial flows out of the continent with the establishment of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows headed by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki. Africa loses several billion dollars every year to illicit financial flows.
In 2017 African Heads of State designated the ACBF as a specialized agency of the African Union Commission (AUC) to support the AUC’s agenda for capacity development in Africa.
The Foundation was started in 1991 and it has since led and coordinated capacity development programmes worth some $700 million across 48 countries and eight regional economic communities in Africa.
With the designation, the ACBF started participating at the highest level of decision-making of the AUC. The designation, Prof. Nnadozie said, also enables the Agency to work directly with member-countries, and give it the political weight to mobilize resources for capacity development.
“To address the continent’s lack of adequate capacity, the first thing we did was to begin to systematically diagnose the capacity challenges of the continent,” he said.
There are countries that are doing very, very well, because of the good leadership that they have, and others that are facing significant challenges, not just because of leadership but because of the initial conditions that they were dealt with.
He noted that after the diagnoses what they found wasn’t good news. The continent, they found has huge human, and institutional capacity deficits.
“The continent now has Agenda 2063. Let’s take one of the 10-year plan and look at the flagship programmes that are there. Assuming the continent has the resources to do these things, does it really have the capacity to do it?” He asked.
Lack of adequate capacity he said led to people feeling that the Lagos Plan of Action, Abuja Treaty, NEPAD and so on, didn’t quite achieve the desired goals.
Prof. Nnadozie also pointed out that even the SDGs can’t be achieved without the right capacity.
“We said that capacity is the missing link,” he added. There were significant deficits – engineers, agriculture experts and trade specialists.
“The high levels of deficits we discovered was disheartening. We are making it clear that unless this is addressed, it will be difficult for this Agenda to be realized,” he said.
On developing capacity for agriculture in Africa, Prof. Nnadozie said the ACBF is looking at all the levels of capacity development – in policy, incentive, production and marketing dimensions.
He noted that in approaching the developing of capacity in agriculture, the ACBF is looking at it holistically. One important aspect of the programme is supporting women farmers on how they can take advantage of market access.
“Remember, however,” he said, “even if you train all the agriculture scientists in the world, and the animal husbandry experts, or soil scientists, even those who are agriculture economists, and those who know how to do the business, if you don’t have the right set of policies and the environment that is conducive, you are not going to have agriculture move from this smallholder dimension to a real enterprise,” he said.
The high levels of deficits we discovered was disheartening. We are making it clear that unless this is addressed, it will be difficult for this Agenda to be realized.
Prof. Nnadozie cited cases where some African countries found oil and then they focused on the revenue from oil and abandoned agriculture. Some countries also adopted wrong policies, he said.
“For example, abolishing the marketing boards, which was said by the Washington consensus, but we now know that was why agriculture was doing well. Because at least it provided some stability for farm prices and farmers could be guaranteed a market,” he said.
Prof. Nnadozie pointed out that the abandoning of the extension services for agriculture in Africa also affected the sector.
“Anywhere agriculture has developed in the world you have strong extension services,” he stated.
Prof. Nnadozie urged African countries to build capacity, but as they do, they should also retain and utilize capacity to be able to transform their economies.
Watch the video for the full interview.
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