Many times we have seen photos on the internet portraying Africa as a “deadbeat” continent racked by poverty and conflict. Images of hungry children are used to depict the picture one anticipates to see once they set foot into what Leopold Senghor called Natte. Maybe it’s because as much as the narrators of the African story has changed, the script remains the same. When it comes to diseases, we do harbour the world’s worst, when it comes to inequality, we are representing, hunger is still a persistent problem in a fast-growing continent and the irony is that we are still wasting food.
Look at how we cut our trees and harvest sand not to mention how we have embraced corruption all up our sleeves. The Mediterranean sea has become a graveyard for Africa’s youth, thanks to unemployment. Yet, Africa has 11 out of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world. Africa has enormous resources and almost half of the world’s uncultivated land that is suitable for crops. So why are people so desperate to seek green cards and apply for jobs in Canada? Why do we leave behind a land of such opportunities?
Part of the answer is that the vast wealth of Africa is often not being translated into development. Often it only benefits a few or is squandered altogether. Illicit flows from Africa were estimated at 50 billion dollars in 2018. So often the focus on Africa’s challenges is a call for more resources. But to achieve development and sustainability we need much more than money. Certainly, money can address some of the deficits that trap millions of people- especially rural people- in poverty. They need infrastructure, starting with the roads that will take them to school or the market, as well as electrification, water, and sanitation systems. We cannot deny that they need education, healthcare, decent wages and access to finance among others for sustainable development.
But there are things that money cannot buy if we are so considering every aspect of development. Leadership, Good governance, commitment to sustainability and an enabling environment to attract investments. The social responsibility to pay fair and decent wages and create decent employment. Many different conferences have been held and strategies implemented on eliminating extreme poverty and hunger. Without a solid consensus over the financing and resources needed, goals simply remain wishes. Unfortunately it’s not just about the money, still less about Aid in the conventional sense. The key to a sustainable future free of poverty and hunger is people. The world leaders should look no further for solutions to these problems.
Africa is rich. Its extractive industries have provided revenues in hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet, Africa’s resource-rich countries have some of the world’s highest child mortality rates, and a dozen have over 100 child deaths for every 1000 live births. This travesty illustrated that there are other resources besides money that are important for development, starting with leadership, accountability, and commitment.
It also points to the importance and needs for developing the potential of Africa’s smallholder farmers. Three-quarters of the world’s poor and chronically hungry people live in rural areas and are also mainly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs could contribute much more to producing food, job creation, economic growth and the preservation of natural resources. Yet, they lack the tools to do so. And many of those who are producers of food go hungry themselves.
Investment in rural development is key to delivering a host of development objectives, including adequate food, water, and biodiversity. And growth in the agricultural sector had been estimated to be at least 3 times more effective in reducing poverty and accelerating growth in any other area. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is 11 times.
Change must come from within. Most institutions like the United Nations are committed partners in rural transformation and investments. But one thing remains clear, no donor institution can transform countries unless they are willing to transform themselves.
Take the case of Ethiopia, a country once synonymous with famine is now among Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the introduction of sound macro-economic policies, strong leadership, and a robust agricultural transformation agenda have done what no amount of aid alone could have. Ethiopia is Africa’s number one exporter of honey and has the second-largest horticulture industry.
So let us remember that commitments must not be measured in dollars alone, true to save ourselves, our future and our planet, we need major resources, both public and private. But we also need the commitment of responsible governors, legislators, investors, business people and partners who put sustainable development at the core of their daily routine. This will see investments just and inclusive. The Ethiopia accord provides a chance not just to count the money, but to make sure the money counts.