Africa: Data-Driven Development Or Populism?

By Uche Nnadi

“Africa is the battlefield of this century’s struggle for the soul of capitalism. The African continent remains underdeveloped and underexploited. It is vast. It is relatively unpopulated and has large stocks of natural resources. There are more inhabitants in India than in the whole of Africa. Africa has to be rescued. It is a battle over what form of capitalism will prevail. It is the battle for the soul of capitalism,” Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort

Public governance is usually guided by the leaders’ Manifesto and Budget. Thus, from the principal leadership room of the society emerges Manifesto and Budget to lead its society from one level of existence to another. In the developed and undeveloped societies, Manifesto and Budget are artfully or artisanry made by leaders to guide them in attaining their vision.

Among many, there is a principal outstanding difference between public governance Budget made in developed and undeveloped societies. Budget made in developed societies is usually data-driven, while that made in undeveloped societies is populism-driven. The cheering audience being foreign donors and creditors or what John Perkins named Economic Hitmen – “and women”.

In undeveloped societies, Budget is designed to attract acclaim from international creditors, foreign investors, donor agencies, and their agents. Thus, the focus or the Why is how can the budget be so formulated to attract acclaim from these external stakeholders and internal sycophants rather than why and how to move the society from one developmental level to the next one?

Education, healthcare, water and sanitation are primary public goods that any thriving society has to adequately provide. And they are linked to the rest of the other things. For instance, you cannot educate unhealthy people in poor sanitary and insecure environment, nor educate people without a thought of industries for employment and self-employment. Nor can a people without sufficient nutrition (food) be healthy, that is food security. There is no food security without underlying infrastructures and institutional arrangements, such as access roads, energy supply, agro research institutes, improved agro inputs and infrastructures, functional extension services, access to credit and enabling policy environment.

However, going through the budgets of the local governments, state governors and Presidents/Head of States in Africa, one is left with the impression that provisions for education, healthcare, water and sanitation are meant to merely tick the boxes rather than based on data for real measurable development attainment. As an example, the budget for education at all the levels of governments are not driven by the enrolment and pass out rates in the primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in terms of quantity and quality, in line with the desired or agreed targets with institutionalized transparent monitoring, evaluation and feedback schemes. The President, Governors and Chairpersons may excite the public including foreign stakeholders with education, health, etc. budget figures of say “10%, 20% to 40%” of the budget or of GDP.

But what next after such figures are budgeted? Sadly, these figures go into uncoordinated-not-well-planned projects, that would be abandoned, then down the drain in what we usually call corruption without any real development. Chap-in-hand we merry-go-round another cycle of humiliating foreign aids and imprisoning loans.

Now that the National Assembly (NASS) members in Nigeria are also saddled with constituency projects running into billions of Naira, should we consider individual NASS members to be subject to formally presenting their annual budget to their constituencies and actual tracked just like the President and Governors?

If Africa, nay, Nigeria finally refuses to develop, then two options stare us:
1. Full economic recolonization and/or

2. Brutal exploitation of the resources of Africa by resources-starved foreigners amidst ubiquitous violence throughout Africa. The hustle in Congo and Zamfara State of Nigeria are test cases.

Nothing has changed about human beings from the times of slave trade to today, only the forms have changed. As the global need for resources increases together with the heightening climate challenges, the global vulnerability of Africa increases just as the excuses for denuding Africa increases, as it once happened during the Atlantic slave trade. The only safeguard is for Africa, nay, Nigeria to develop!

Africa can and should develop its Agricultural and Industrial outputs to sustainable and self-sufficiency levels, and bridge the global gaps. The human and material resources are available, and examples to motivate, inspire and guide Africa through the multitude of development challenges are plentiful. Yes, Africa should supply the world with chocolate, milk, phones and so on in a more sustainable way than as it is today.

“Africa’s share of the world exports have fallen from 8 percent to 2 percent in the last four decades. A shortage of fertilizer has made African soil lose many of its nutrients at a rate of between one billion and three billion dollars per year. HIV/AIDS is cutting the agricultural workforce by half (Haggblade, Hazell, et al., 2004).”

May we develop!

Uchenna Nnadị, an economist, wrote from Nsukka.

Adadainfo is an online newspaper reporting Nigerian news. Email: Phone: 08071790941

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