IN RETROSPECT: How Africa Performed In 2016

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By Kenneth Nkemnacho/ Writer at Large

For any vision-minded person, leader, institution, nation or continent, every year must begin with goals, targets and projections for the twelve months ahead. As the year also winds up, every end of the twelve months forecasts and plans must punctuate with analysis in order to see what was achieved, what wasn’t achieved, the variation from set targets, and what should have been done to minimize the standard deviations from set targets. By doing this, it will be easier to set fresh goals for the coming year. Apart from setting fresh goals, it reflects accountability, responsibility and the discipline to make things work the way they should be. Having the facts and figures are necessary and helpful in making you know where you stand, the direction you go, and where you would like to end up. Making assumptions without true statistical evidences is deception and delusion. As we all know, delusion builds nothing – it isn’t a tool of development. To know the progress made each year, each branch of the project must present unbiased proof of how the plans panned out and worked out. With this, an honest assessment is done and a proper vaticination carried out.

The complete data for the performances of 2016 on all fronts in Africa aren’t out yet, and may probably never be out until some international bodies request for them, but from what is on ground, it is obvious that the status quo isn’t different from the previous – there are still a bit of political issues in various regions of the continent, economic situations are becoming more deplorable, developments are either non-existent or moving at snail-speed, corruption is becoming more and more updated in a negative trend, and so on and so forth. Looking back to 2016 doesn’t really bring any good news but heartbreaks, but in order to put the certitude before our leaders, we must continue to make them see the prevalent; perhaps, they will know what is at stake, and up their games.

The Economic Position in 2016

To understand Africa’s economic position in 2016, one must first realize that all economies are measured in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – I will take you through a few explanations on GDP so that this write-up will make sense. According to the UK National Archives, GDP is a measure of the economic activities which captures the values of goods and services produced during a given period. Wikipedia says it is the monetary measure of the market value of all final goods and services in a period.

There are two types of GDP – the nominal and the real. For the nominal, the prices of the goods and services at the time of production is used in the calculation, while for the real, price changes due to inflation or deflation are put into consideration. It is the real GDP that has a direct impact on the standard of living of the people. In addition, there are three approaches to calculating GDP; any of them can be used, but most, if not all nations, use all three approaches and statistically reconcile their disparities. All things being equal, the three approaches should give the same result, but they don’t.

GDP is calculated using production estimates, expenditure estimates or income estimates.  Production estimate is the final production outputs take away the production inputs. Expenditure estimate according to the UK National Archives reflects the value of spending by corporations, consumers, overseas purchasers and government on goods and services, while income estimate measures the incomes earned by individuals and corporations directly from the production of outputs. GDP therefore, is the sum of consumption, investment, government spending and net exports; net exports are gross exports minus gross imports. So, the more you export, and the less you import, the higher your GDP.

It is apparent that Africa is more of a consumption economy, but what we consume, we hardly produce, because most of them, we import. According to Africa Development Bank, Africa spends $35.4B on food importation annually, and Nigeria accounts for $12B of that amount. In 2016, nothing less than that amount was spent importing food. Africa has more than enough lands for agriculture, but if she can import and spend so much on what she can produce, how about what she can’t? The amounts that were spent in 2016 importing technologies, medicines and its appliances, educational materials, and all that we don’t have and don’t make are inundating. These importations limited our GDP and reduced our quality of life because we ended up paying more for what other continents pay less. We enhanced the economy of other continents since we didn’t have the wherewithal to design and manufacture most of the things we needed. This was what happened in 2016, and this is what has been happening for long.

During the 5th 2016 Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Ministerial Conference, Africa Development Bank emphasized the urgent need for private sector investments in Africa. If this does not happen, Africa is in serious trouble because according to World Bank, the “economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to decelerate in 2016, to the lowest level in years, and below population growth. The sharp decline in aggregate growth reflects the challenging economic conditions in the region’s largest economies and commodity exporters—Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa—as they continue to face headwinds from lower commodity prices, tighter financing conditions, and droughts.” Factually, in 2016, there has been decline; the Nigeria currency has been battered beyond recognition – the value of her currency has been on a steep slope, plummeting to its basest in history.

2016 hasn’t been economically buoyant for Africa – investments have been reduced to mere promises as foreign investors watch until they see a glimmer of hope – government spending went down because earnings also went down, but at the same time, imports went up. Good conscience wasn’t enough to do some African nations good because what was needed was beyond nice promises.

The only economic good news for 2016 is potentialities and promises. Why it is good news is because Africa, if the environment is made convenient through the provision of basic infrastructures, is a breeding ground of wealth as she has the natural resources, human capitals, the market and the motivation to thrive, emerge and succeed.

The Political Position in 2016

The 2016 Africa Election Calendar shows that this year, there were/are elections on local and national levels, and referendums in 29 countries of Africa. This upholds the fact that democracy has come to stay in the continent, in spite of its numerous challenges. And believe it, it is good news for Africa for so many reasons. First, it indicates stability in leadership and structured system of government. Smooth democratic transitions are positive perceptions for those with genuine interest in the continent. Where there is stability and rule of law, foreign investments are naturally encouraged. In addition to foreign investments, peace within a nation or continent give rise to innovation, vision and productive goals – Africa need innovation and all that come with it to make her more independent. Martin Luther King Junior said, “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.” Permanent peace will birth permanent progress, and if the peace of 2016 is maintained, we will be more trusted by the world as a place where seeds that are planted grow into viable fruits.

Africa is the closest continent to nature; the world loves nature and would like to constantly visit where it exists. Political peace and stability in Africa will grow the tourism industry. Africa has lots of tourist attractions that can become sources of income. Visit the Table Mountain in Cape Town and you will know. How about Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Go to Maasai Mara National Park and get stunned, or Victoria Falls in Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. We can go on and on.

A stable political environment creates a positive perception in the minds of people; within and without. It is one quintessential key in growth and productivity. It is one of the biggest gains of democracy, and the western world rides on its back to develop their nations and all sectors that project excrescence. Africa must build on the peace and stability that ruled its continent in 2016, and by that, we will show the world that we are not all known for civil wars and intertribal conflicts, but we admire greatly, the true essence of life – peace and harmony.

Another enormous benefit of the political stability in 2016 is that it helped governments of different African nations make long term decisions. Countries like China have a long term plan for Africa, and I think we should take that seriously. China has put aside international politics in its true sense, and ignored what the western world give too much credence to, that is, incursion into local politics – they haven’t slaughtered the corrupt leaders – they have turned a blind eye to kleptocracy, and focused more on stability in order to help erect much needed infrastructures, while at the same time, making their own gains. Africa doesn’t need the west to keep telling her how to run her government; stability is what we need, and that will help our continent develop. Libya was stable, in spite of kleptocracy. Its stability built one of Africa’s biggest and most developed economies until the west entered with their nosy foolishness and destabilized the nation. Today, the story is pathetic.

The Developmental Position in 2016

Africa’s development in 2016 may have been perceived to be slow, but I don’t fully think it was, because development isn’t only based on infrastructures – personal development, holistic human capital development, housing development, and many more, are all part of it. I am one person that believes that the world and its main players haven’t been fair in calculating Africa’s development and putting us where we truly belong. In spite of the wars and all the odds against us, there are pockets of developments taking place all over the continent, and in a while, the collective strength of all the advancements will become visible to the kinetic world.

Having said that, there are lots of areas the continent must pay closest attention to, and these are; technology, health and agriculture. The foremost development that will give the continent a breakthrough is technology. Technology dictates the pace of other sectors of the economy and society. With technological advancements, we can confidently manage our health system, provide food for ourselves and even export some, construct good road networks, provide clean running water, and do a lot more for ourselves.  Bill Clinton said, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.” We need new jobs; we need new wealth. And we shouldn’t also forget the popular saying that health is wealth.

Of recent, many African citizens, especially from the upper middle class and above have been visiting India frequently for medical treatments. And as a UK resident with proximity to the National Health Service, I will make you know that most wealthy Indians come to the UK for medical treatments. So, where does that leave us? We run to India and India runs to the UK.

The health sector in 2016 has been abysmal – we must do better than where we are. Doing better means investing in modern day standard equipment, research and development, and encouraging in all ways the young ones to embrace medical education in order to provide the labor force needed in that sector. We can’t continue to run our health sectors the way we currently do. If our leaders can’t use our hospitals, then it isn’t fit for purpose.

The emergence of digital technologies and the social media have massively improved communications in 2016. Many digital and internet companies have found huge opportunities in Africa as the west has become jam-packed. These opportunities for this industry is also a privilege for the continent to solve her long-age problem; communication. With internet connectivity and a Smartphone, the world is at your beck and call. If you can’t afford to pay a phone company, you can at least receive calls, or use Facebook Messenger, Skype, and recently, Whatsapp. What the continent need to do now is to teach her people how to leverage these opportunities because many think the social media is all about socializing alone – not a handful have looked at the business benefits of it.

2016 had its ups and downs, but life must go on. We mustn’t procrastinate in setting the goals for 2017. Marcus Aurelius said, “Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.”