14 May 2012

Africa: 50 Years After

After 50 + years of independence, and despite glowing reports by "international development specialists", most of SubSaharan Africa exists in a state of perpetual tragedy. Africa is only a tragedy in comparison with most of the rest of the world, of course. If more advanced parts of the human world did not exist, Africa would be a shining example of human progress and achievement.

Here is a look at the reality of urbanisation in Africa:
Although the central districts of many of Africa’s major cities now boast numerous skyscrapers of cement, glass and steel, and are host to great night life with vibrant bars and night clubs, these are transposed on unplanned, chaotic settlements built of wood, corrugated metal sheeting, mud bricks and whatever other materials may be at hand, with dirt roads and open sewer ditches.

This scenario is further complicated by other ills such as lack of piped water, unsafe sanitation, near absence of refuse collection, unstable electricity supply, poor housing, striking inequalities in wealth, absence of recreation parks and green landscapes, heavy traffic jams, and pervasive poverty, all of which have negative impacts on the quality of life and working environment in many African cities and towns.

These problems are compounded by corrupt and inefficient local government institutions and governance issues that hinder effective urban management as the lack of capacity and weakness in the municipalities result in critical problems such as unfocussed planning, weak resource mobilisation, and creation of slum conditions as “nobody is taking charge, and nobody is providing guidance”.

As of 2007, Africa housed an estimated 250 million people in urban slums, which are reduced to wastelands of overcrowding, poverty and social exclusion, and labelled by governments as illegal informal settlements that do not deserve provision of services.

In most African large cities, these informal settlements provide domicile to 40 and 70 percent of urban dwellers, especially those who work in the informal sector of employment.

Further, the African continent sits with an insurmountable level of unemployment as high as an average of 8.5 percent but going to 40 and 95 percent in some countries.

Forty percent of the people work in the informal sector of unemployment, which accounts for an extraordinary 78 percent of non-agricultural employment, 61 percent of urban employment, and 93 percent of all new jobs.

The documented growth in Africa has been driven mainly by services and capital-intensive extractive sectors, with the result that it has been growth without jobs and without reduction in poverty levels.

The formal economic sector (excluding government) has been incapable of creating sufficient jobs for urban populations, partly due to rapid influx of people, but mainly due to poorly managed urban development and weakened national economies.

It is reported to account for barely 10 percent of the total employment on the continent. _Africa 50 Years Later
Clearly the "African miracle" of growth and urbanisation looks somewhat different without the rose coloured glasses of international development "experts."

The IMF has just cut estimates for the near term economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa, and there is little reason to hope for the long term. In terms of the reality of the ordinary African, the IMF's predictions have very little impact. Growth in Africa, when it occurs, rarely trickles down to the street level.

The reasons why African nations perpetually sit at the bottom rank of nations in terms of virtually all measures of development, achievement, and quality of life, could be debated over an indefinite period of time.

A lot of things could be done in terms of nutrition, public health, medical care, education, housing, and access to clean water, electricity, and advanced telecommunications. But almost as soon as an African achieves higher education, he is likely to emigrate to the western world, to escape the political caprice and instability of Africa.

Perhaps Africa should not be compared to the outside world. But you can be sure that Africans themselves will do so, and whenever possible, they will vote with their feet.


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Blogger neil craig said...

Cutting estimated growth to 5.4% annually still leaves it well ahead of what the parasites running the US/EU aspire to. Admitedly a fair proportion of that GNP is oil extracted without any role by the locals and in many cases offshore.

It shows both how dreadful our own governments are and the potential levels of growth we could achieve if they could manage even just to be no more parasitic than Africa's rulers.

Monday, 14 May, 2012  
Blogger Eric said...

Where does the 5.4% come from? Is that for South Africa or the whole continent?

There isn't enough order, logistics or human resources to extract taxes in the ways the US/EU would. They have plenty of natural resources though.

Monday, 14 May, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

The problem with 5% growth, 10% growth, 15% growth etc, is that 5% of nothing is still nothing.

If you can maintain a 5% growth rate over several decades, feeding the profits into a healthy system of property rights, rule of law, limited government, and honest bureaucracy, your prospects would be good over time. Eventually even the peasants would begin to benefit, as long as the government was fair and impartial.

None of those things are likely to apply to even a single African nation for very long, much less the entire of SubSaharan Africa.

The rapid urbanisation of hundreds of millions of people into massive slums with open sewers and rampant crime and disease, is particularly troubling.

Monday, 14 May, 2012  
Blogger MH said...

alfin -> "as soon as an African achieves higher education, he is likely to emigrate to the western world, to escape the political caprice and instability of Africa"

This is precisely the reason why multi-culturalism is harmful. It impoverishes western countries and Africa.

Monday, 14 May, 2012  
Blogger james wilson said...

My brother was in Cameroon four times totaling several months, and he never met a person who didn't want to emigrate. The US is the preferred destination, even though they are French speakers. The most sober people in Cameroon (not the worst country in that neighborhood) will tell you that the social fabric is clearly deteriorating over the last twenty years. They have learned a lot of behaviors from western tv.

Wednesday, 16 May, 2012  

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