A Nigerian senator, Shehu Sani, has said the quest for sustainable economic growth and development remains Africa’s foremost challenge.
He said what was required to surmount this challenge is a creative combination of trade and regional integration in, ”ways which are very innovative rather than perfunctory.”
Mr. Sani said this at the European Union, EU Parliament during the Africa Week on Tuesday. The senator had led a delegation of other legislators to the European Parliament in Belgium.
Speaking on the topic “Africa: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st century,” Mr. Sani African said countries failed in experimenting development paradigms because of their inability to fashion such models along challenges facing the continent.
“Most times development paradigm and policies in fact fail to engage with the fundamental issues at stake for Africa. To make matters worse, development policies have been known to be unpopular and lacking in legitimacy and acceptance across board,” he said.
“Even in those rare cases where there had emerged popular, widely used clichés like ‘economic diversification’, ‘structural adjustment’, ‘agricultural transformation’, ‘good governance’, etc., correlating consensus scarcely ever accompanied their technical connotations let alone the concomitant policy framework that should guide the actualisation of targeted outcomes.
“When this fact is taken together with the reality of the vicissitudes of African politics, it becomes immediately clear why development policies and programs in Africa have been known to lack consistency in form and content.”
The lawmaker, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, said the greatest challenge facing Africa in the 21st century is the task of governing the development process and not the policy frameworks.
He opined that authorities at the regional and continental levels must build a consensus around the critical question of what the engines of development must be and the most appropriate institutional framework to drive the process.
He added that understanding and support of Africa’s major trading and regional institutional partners, especially the EU, is of crucial importance in building a robust and mutually beneficial trade relations.
The lawmaker said that low intra-African trade and non-existence of universal and coherent trading agreements among African nations limit their bargaining power with foreign partners.
“As we all know, Africa’s economies are generally extraverted. Consequently, intra-African trade is very low. There are many reasons for this principally among which is the lack of complementarity of the economic sectors: almost without exception they are all primary commodity producers, vying for the same markets. The resulting competition, not just for international market shares but for capital, investment and technology as well, has engendered a race for the bottom, and left them vulnerable to exploitation and the divisive strategies of extra continental economic powers.
“As the record will show, these factors combined have significantly vitiated the collective resolve of Africa to integrate and develop the continent’s regional economies.”
He said that “structural transformations in the commanding heights of African economies,” will solve the problems.
He also called on African trading partners, especially the EU, to make deliberate efforts at addressing issues which are currently impeding sustainable trade for African countries.
“Africa’s recent major trading partnership aspirations, especially the attempt at forging an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, are yet to be consummated with the resounding successes they were envisioned at conception.
“While this is not the place to delve into the nitty- gritty of the EPA and other ongoing trade negotiations between the various regions of Africa and the rest of the world, especially the developed countries of the world, let me say here, ladies and gentlemen, that for as long as these trade talks remain inconclusive, for so long will Africa’s developmental efforts remain fettered.
”Consequently, any genuine commitment to African progress demands that Africa’s Development Partners must, among other things, be more sensitive to some of the salient trade issues which are currently the bane of these negotiations including market access, technology transfer and issues of patents and patent rights, strategic and direct investment and capital flows, etc”, Mr. Sani said.