Saturday, December 24, 2011

As Africa is Rising, so Should its Status in the World Stage

It’s been argued that globalization per se does not produce poverty and inequality. The main obstacles that entwined with globalization are the rules and regulations that govern it. These rules are fundamentally unjust since the rich-states’ interests can not be reconciled with those of the poor and weaker developing countries. Hence, this is why many in Africa believe the current world order is nothing more than new form of colonization. As Africa is rising, particularly in the economic and technological sectors, its its power and influence should grow alongside.

It is true that most of African nations are run by undemocratic, incompetent, and self-serving tyrants, which consequently resulted, in part, Africa’s exclusion from discussions of the key global issues. But, the West’s denial of Africa’s rightful democratic representation in the decision-making process within the international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), all of which are the cornerstones of the current trend of the globalization, are seen more of a rejection of Africa then cooperation with the continent as some suggest.

This negative feelings among Africans is confirmed by a recent survey done by UNECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) that shows majority of respondents (57%) believe the current economic governance structures as not fulfilling their effective participation in the global economy. According to the study, African Least Developed Countries are even more skeptical, with staggering two-third of respondents expressing the view of the current global governance does not allow for their effective participation in norm setting in the key financial, monetary and multilateral institutions.

For instance, almost a quarter of the IMF’s member states come from sub-Saharan Africa (45 countries), yet the total voting power of this bloc is estimated to only 4.4%. Even in the decisions that directly affect them, Africans lack the power to sway votes toward their direction; instead, they rely on other developing countries to help them secure sufficient support for their position. Such humiliating treatment of the African states is, in part, why Africans believe the developed world are keeping them to be reliant on them, rather than see a self-reliant Africa.

Considering Africa’s growth in economic and technological areas, the continent should be rewarded its rightful seat on the table—global leadership stage. The main reason that Africa should be an important stakeholder, not just important follower, of the world affairs is its impressive economic growth. This is evident in the finding of The Economist that over the ten years to 2010, the top six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. The Western African nation of Angola, a country devastated by civil war and violence against women in the 1990s, now tops the list, while Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, was forth fastest growing economy. Even more impressive, during the same period, the African countries outpaced economically their Asian counterpart—a trend that will continue at least through 2015.

Moreover, Africa‘s economic outlook is even better than its current trend of economic growth. On IMF forecasts “Africa will grab seven of the top ten places over the next five years”. This phenomenon was taking hold in the continent while most of the global markets, particularly those in the developed world, were contracting below 4 to 8 percent in 2008 and 2009; Africa was enjoying a modest economic growth. According to the African Economic Outlook 2008, a collaborative project between the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Center and the UNECA, the continent continues to economic growth with the rate of GDP growth averaging about 5.7 in 2007 and 5.9 in 2008 and 2009.

Therefore, the alienation of Africa – a continent with abundance of both natural and human resources – from discussions of key global issues is indicative of how much the developed world would rather cling to their traditional leadership role than to embrace a new world order of which the decision-makers are diverse and representative of the twenty-first century’s world, not the Cold War’s “first, second and third worlds”.

Despite Africa’s exclusion from global institutions as a decision-making stakeholder, something wonderful is underway across the continent in the technological front. For instance, in Africa, the utilization of the modern technologies such as the mobile phones and the broadband internet is going at a speed faster than any other time in the history. According to recent report by GSM, Africa is the second largest user of mobile phones after Asia; Over 650, 000,000, or 50 percent of Africans, are subscribed to mobile phone services.

On the other hand, the growth in Africa’s internet and broadband sector has accelerated in recent years due to improved infrastructure coupled with the arrival of wireless access technologies and less regulations, which resulted lower tariffs. In an effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, for example, broadband internet is rapidly replacing dial-up as preferred access method, according to a recent report by the Internet World Stats, an organization that tracks the usage of the internet globally. The reason of the growth of the internet usage that is taking place in Africa is because many Africans have gained access to international fibre bandwidth for the first time via submarine cable in 2009 and 2010. Though the growth in this sector is slow, almost 15% of Africans (118 million) do have internet access; 30 million of them are on facebook. Nigeria, with more than 40 million users, leads the way.

In conclusion, while Africa's shortcomings -- lack of good governance, corruption, incompetent head figures, etc -- can not be ignored, yet the continent's dynamic and fast paced economic growth must be taken into account as basis of elevating Africa’ world status from the current subservient to an active participant of the debates regarding the international key issues: economic, technology, peace and security, poverty, climate change, and other important issues borne out of the current trend of globalization. Africa is not asking for a century of its own. But all Africans want is their fair share in the 21st century. Is that too much to ask?

Abdirahman Takhal
atakhal@aol.com

Bibliography:
International Monterey Fund Governing Document
“Can Globalization Work for Africa” by Carin Norberg, Director, and Fantu Cheru Ph.D. Research Driector, The Nordic Africa Institute, March 2011

“ Africa—Internet, Broadband and Digital Media Statistics” by Peter Lange, February 2011(9th edition)

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Progress Report, March 2011

“Africa’s Impressive Growth” The Economist January 06, 2011(Online version)

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