Growth vs People: The Quest for Greener Pastures

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 By Ogunleye Dele Victor

 

In 2016, African migrants’ death reached a record level of 3,800 people crossing the Mediterranean Sea destined for Europe as reported by William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This was just a little more than the 3,771 migrants who lost their lives 2015, and every year these figures is only certain to increase. Every year pose itself as the deadliest chance for youths to cross over to a ‘greener pasture’ and they take this risk and die in their thousands irrespective of the threat it poses. The concern is this, for every youth that dies there is a concealed future of innovation, growth and development unrevealed. This ‘future’ could have been a glorious one in trade and commerce, telecommunication, manufacturing and the likes; but how can we find out what impacts they would have made when they are already dead? These deaths have enriched the sea-grave instead of the continent of Africa. The sea has become the graveyard for Africa’s future, because the youth is the leader of tomorrow. Africa has lost more productive youths to the Mediterranean Sea than it has to poverty and unemployment. In just 7 months in 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported the death of nearly 1,000 migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe, while the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) records show that no fewer than 2,000 migrants have died. How many deaths of youths in Africa do we need to witness before we translate the growth of Africa business to positively impact on the youth?

With the increasingly growing economic vibrancy in Africa, worldfinace.com (2017) records that Ethiopia, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are amongst the world’s five fastest-growing economies in the world. Apart from this, Africa has enormous resources-human, material and natural, and over 60% of the world’s uncultivated/arable land that is suitable for agriculture rest in this continent. This begs the question, why are so many people desperate to leave behind a land of such opportunity for a nation that have less of this resources and blessings? What has made Africa as a blessed continent to be racked by conflict and poverty, with future leaders risking and often losing their lives in an attempt to flee as if they flee from a plague? This may be as a result of the fact that the vast wealth of Africa is often not being translated into development in Africa.  The wealth in Africa seems to be exported to benefit other nations of the world, benefit a few individuals in the society or squandered completely. More often, the focus on Africa’s challenges is a call for more resources which lead to the enrichment of the elite class and not the entire continent. When challenges of poverty, insecurity, healthcare and unemployment intensify, instead of utilizing the resources available, we inquire more resources through loans and grants, resources that will never be used to build up the continent. Resources that will sweep the masses down the drain of deprivation and vulnerability. We need to know that as a continent, to achieve growth and development in every facet, we need much more than ‘asking and begging’ money.

There are many things we can address with money if it is effectively utilized. Money can certainly change the livelihood of millions of Africans who are living in abject poverty, especially does millions living in the rural areas where infrastructures, electrification, water and sanitation systems are still lacking. They need education, health care, decent wages, and access to finance to enable them live a better life and contribute to the development of the continent instead of seeking ways to migrate from it. We must also remember that leadership, responsible and responsive governance, commitment to obey and implement the rule of law, and creating the enabling environment to sustain growth and development and attract investment are things that cannot be monetized. Without a responsible management of Africa’s resources, it will be impossible to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger or promote business growth in Africa. Should the Africa economy remain nonchalant in correlating the change in business to the lives of the people, reaching the height as one of the best economy of the world for any country in Africa in spite of our growing presence amongst the fastest growing economies will remain a wishful thinking. Should this high business growth and low living standard of the people continue in this progressive slide, then Africa could lose her greatest resource which is manpower. This manpower who are the trade and business moguls and leaders of the future Africa are migrating fast to other countries with many of them dying-trying. We must not forget that many Africans have become the engine room of growth in other nations of the world and Richard Drayton claim that ‘The wealth of the west was built on Africa’s exploitation’ (2005) could just be another reality of the future of business growth.

The key to a sustainable economy and business future of Africa is the human resources. For Africa to retain her resources and build a better continent free of poverty and hunger is the human resources (people). We must understand that the ‘expatriate’ we employ to build our continent are not as better than ours if only they were giving the conducive environment to operate. Africa is rich, wealthy and flourishing. Its businesses have provided revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars, yet this resource-rich continent have some of the world’s highest morbidity and mortality rates, poverty, inequality and unemployment. This charade illustrates responsive leadership, accountability and commitment to purpose in every sphere of operations besides money is necessary for sustainable growth and development in Africa. To ensure that the growth in business is visible in the lives of Africans, it must be a deliberate affair. We must put things in place to make Africans utilize their gifts, talents and abilities to develop and sustain the African economy. We must provide food first, so that we can be fed later in future. We must improve the rural communities where over three quarters of the world’s poor and chronically hungry people live and are also mainly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Though it is subsistence farming, they often lack the tools to work and most of them go hungry. To this point we must develop the potential of agriculture in Africa not only to provide immediate food for a single household, but to provide food for the world. This is because the growth in the agricultural sector has been estimated to be at least three times more effective in reducing poverty as growth in any other area. We must endeavour to translate policies to creating useful and needful employment, functional education and healthcare services, national economic growth, proper use of resources for the glorious future of the continent, utilizing investment opportunity, including providing adequate food, housing, safe drinking water, biodiversity, electricity and so much that makes a nation and continent really developed.

We must enable change from within; change that reflects the growth in business to the lives of the people.  This change must listen and offer support for a better future. This change must share knowledge and employ the best practical means out of lack and underdevelopment.  The change must explain our readiness to transform this continent for good; to move from lack to surplus. This change policies must be sound enough to ensure strong leadership and a robust transformation in every milieu of growth and development. This change must underpin the commitment of responsible leaders, legislators, investors, business people and partners and it has to start from Africa with the outcome felt beyond Africa. This change must be strong enough to stop the burial of the future of Africa in the grave of the Mediterranean Sea and still be soft enough to accommodate everyone in the process of growth irrespective of age, qualification and status. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, I am sure you know. So, even if we took a one millimeter step in a road many kilometers long, it is better than doing nothing. Africa’s sustainable growth and development will be determined by how much it translates to the growth of the human capital.

 

 

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