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Dear African Child (iv): the inevitable Economic evolution.

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

This Saturday marks the last appearance of the Dear African Child series.  This day marks the last Saturday of June –the extra ordinary Youth month. This series was orchestrated with clear and precise two pronged objectives; -it was meant to commemorate and pay homage to the courageous heroes and heroines of the 1976 generation. Simultaneously, it was meant to provoke thought and inspire constructive Youth activism in key development issues at continental and national level. Based on feedback from readers, I’m glad to say this series has achieved its objectives.

Dear African Child (i) called on young Africans to introspection and answer the following questions: -Is our generation deserving of the esteemed title ‘African Child’? -Is our generation an embodiment of the continent’s bright inclusive prospects?  -Will future generations have a solid and strong narrative to celebrate and recall our generation? -Will they have great stories to tell about how our generation courageously, fearlessly and selflessly demolished prosperity barriers years ago for their future benefit? Dear African Child (ii) focused on the impending and inevitable Youth led higher education evolution. Citing contemporary education challenges it encouraged student leaders and student movements at large to intensify and unite in advancing better education delivery and student welfare. It also reminded the general public that our continued ‘conspiracy of silence’ on education matters is tantamount to betrayal of future and current generations; this ultimately means we are betraying our own future as well.

Dear African Child (iii) focused on the severity and subterranean implications of Youth landlessness in particular and landlessness in general. It explored the explicit and implicit role ‘the Land issue’ played in most African wars and unrests throughout the continent. It also zoomed into Botswana’s bothersome Land state of affairs. It called on Youth leaders and Youth movements at large to consider jointly constructively tackling and providing recommendations on ‘the Land issue’ before our internationally acclaimed republic reaches the undesirable ‘tipping point’. This author strongly believes "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

He believes the pen is timeless, boundless and mightier than the sword. Furthermore, this author earnestly hopes this series will inspire subterranean Youth activism, advocacy and policy reforms, or at least spark necessary constructive debate towards better and more organized Youth activism and advocacy in our lifetime and beyond.  More imperative, he hopes it will inspire, guide and back future generations even in our absence.

Today’s installment focuses on the issue of ‘Economic Growth’ and ‘Economic Development’ in the African continent. Sachs (2012) makes it clear that it is vital for any economic development related debate or commentary to draw fundamental distinction between Economic Growth and Economic Development. He (Sachs) made this recommendation following the observation that most scholars and commentators habitually repeat the common mistake of confusing and sometimes interchanging the two. In light of Sachs’s guidance we will start by defining and drawing fundamental distinction between the technical jargons. Economic Growth can be defined as a phenomenon of market productivity and rise in GDP (Mbeki, 2014).

While Economic Development can be defined as a policy intervention endeavor with aims of economic and social well-being of people (Ramaphela, 2013). Consequently, economist Amartya Sen points out, "Economic Growth is one aspect of the process of Economic Development".  Having drawn the fundamental distinction between the two, we can now focus on our continent’s Economic Growth and Economic Development conundrum.

Africa has been hailed for doing very well in terms of Economic Growth. Seasoned economists, think tanks and development syndicates alike agree that Africa has done exceptionally well in this regard. For instance, between 2000 and 2010, six of the ten fastest growing economies world-wide were African namely; Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Chad and Rwanda (Herbst and Mills 2012).  Growth in the continent is reported to have averaged approximately five to six percent across the continent and prospects for many countries are improving, especially given the demand for African commodities from India and China (Mills, 2014). 

Similarly, Africa is also an essential part of the world record on poverty reduction over the past fifty years, through the just ended MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) framework. Furthermore, in Africa HIV/AIDS is no longer a defining and central development issue. African countries have also largely moved towards freer political systems, though at different speeds (Vadi, 2015). Conflict is on the decline in the African continent this is a positive indicator, because peace is likely to lead to increased growth as highlighted in the 2011 World Bank Report. Improved telecommunications have enabled new connections with the world, communities, citizens and states.

The number of telecommunication subscribers in our continent grew by almost 20 percent each year between 2006-2011 (Business Report South Africa, 2012). Most African countries no-longer depend on donors to drive their development programmes, heeding to Dambisa Moyo’s recommendations in her renowned and widely cited book – “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. 

Natural gas and renewable energy sources, such as sun, water and wind are also a huge opportunity, not a risk, in Africa (Machel, 2016). Noticeable Infrastructure Development and Technological Innovations also offer Africa huge possibilities. Clearly there has been much progress across Africa in the past decade.
However despite this glossy outlook the African continent is far from being an ideal continent. There is a lot that still needs to be done.  It is not yet ‘Uhuru’. Our impressive background and the bright prospects are under siege. 

There are many key decisions that should have been taken but have not been taken. There are many short-term political patronage decisions that were taken that shouldn’t have been taken. Consequently we now resided in a continent with appalling gaps between the haves and have-nots. It has been established that a very small fraction of our continent’s population owns a very huge fraction of our continent’s wealth. It is also established that those with the wealth are close or related to the elites in the corridors of power.

In this regard, Vusi Thembekwayo -a self-made African businessmen, strongly argues that we live in a continent with two economies; the connected economy and everyone else. To further justify his case, Thembekwayo states that it does not come as a surprise that the wealthiest lady in the continent happens to be the daughter of the president of Angola. We also reside in a continent were the gains made in poverty eradication over the past decades seem to be slowly regressing.

We reside in a continent were unemployment, underemployment and labour exploitation is the order of the day and somewhat unmanageable. Joblessness is endemic in Africa, especially among the young (Herbst and Mills 2012). Youth un- and underemployment is as high as 80 percent in some African countries. We reside in a continent were exportation of raw materials at the expense of value addition and local job creation is still a normal practice.

We reside in a continent were Sub-Saharan Africa’s total electricity production is equivalent to that of Spain, even though Sub-Saharan Africa has 20 times as many people. To make matters worse half of the total electricity is produced by one country, South Africa  (Herbst and Mills 2012). Our continent is also faced with rapid urban migration because of deliberate heavy centralization of key resources and services.

The trend shows that by the 1950s on 15 percent of the Sub-Saharan Africa population lived in cities, today is about 40 percent, it is also estimated that by 2025 the figure will be at 50 percent. This reality brings about the issue of slums, associated diseases and pollution. We should also note that without the right environment and opportunities, Africa’s Youth will most likely become a powerful destabilizing force for Africa at large and African countries in particular.   
Notes from the ‘Asian Drama’ to the ‘Asian Miracle’  

In 1968 Swedish economist and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal, published his three volume work Asian Drama. At the time Myrdal published his work instability, corruption, and poverty were widespread and development seemed a long way off (Morris, 2010).   For instance: -Singapore was just emerging under Lee Kuan Yew, -Malaysia was a year away from the race riots that sparked mahathir’s reforms, -Vietnam was in the midst of a very hot with its neighbors, -Indonesia had just suffered a palace coup as General Suharto took over from Sukarno, -South Korea seemed caught between student unrest and the ruthless of a military dictator, -Taiwan was still in the iron grip of chiang kai-shek, economic growth in China and India was at a standstill.

Myrdal’s book argued that the only way for Asia to develop was to control its population, redistribute agricultural land and invest in health care and education. In 1993, a quarter-century after Myrdal’s book, the World Bank published ‘the East Asian Miracle’ -a commentary on a region that in now a byword for development. The bank concluded that the reasons for the miracle lay in massive deployment of capital and human resources coupled with market-oriented reforms.

Therefore, at this economic development crossroads it is vital for Africans as individuals, communities and nations to draw fundamental focus and inspiration from the ‘East Asian Miracle’ case study.  It is however great, inspiring and worth noting that many young Africans across the continent have taken it upon themselves to become the economic development change they wish to see.

Young Africans are now becoming catalysts of what is popularly termed ‘The Coming Revolution’ or ‘Africa’s Third Liberation’. The most notable collective of such young Africans will be EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) in RSA (Republic of South Africa). EFF is youthful movement that has drastically redefined and amplified the modern-day Economic Growth and Economic Development narrative in RSA and the continent. Whether EFF has the right policies or not is a subject for another edition, but their regard for the future and standing for the voiceless is one of their commendable, admirable and celebrated attributes in Africa’s development.  

The next series is Co-Operatives 101. Co-Operatives 101 will be a four part series intended to; -honor the annual international Co-Op day and, -build capacity on fundamental Co-Operative info. It intends to stimulate establishment of Co-operatives as viable socio-economic development avenues for; job creation, economic diversification, wealth creation, poverty reduction and natural resource management.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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