Economic superiority has not been historically achieved simply because the people of a nation want it. When applying various rules of trade and economic theory to a nation that is undeveloped, the assumption is not that a specific strategy will work, but rather that a given strategy should, to the best of our knowledge, work. We have never created a fully functioning, advanced, and economically stable country in a lab experiment, and as such are unable to predictably create them in areas that lack the traits necessary to organically grow into a prosperous and stable nation. The major reason Africa is undeveloped is because there is no predictable formula to obtain development. There are, however, a multitude of factors that are important to the creation of a developed country, which can be measured and accounted for; yet how these variables interact with one another varies from country to country. To gain perspective into Africa’s plight of underdevelopment, one must look at the effects of Western influences, the lack of education, and the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on this large diverse continent. Influence and Motivation
The World Bank, which essentially operates on more western approaches, is the entity responsible for providing loans and support for developing countries. As such, they affect the conditions under which countries receive aid, and control major trends in policies of the countries they assist. The continent of Africa is full of countries that request economic backing from the World Bank, which inadvertently forces transitions that the citizens of these countries may not be ready for. One of the reasons this happens is because the World Bank wishes to usher changes for its own benefits. These changes are not put into place for the possible advantages they may bring, but simply to satisfy the advantageous goals of the World Bank. I pose the question: What good is converting to democracy if no one, whether they are a citizen or political figure, actually believes in it? When trying to reform economic, political, and social institutions, one would assume it was necessary to create an environment that participants would want to establish and nurture (Opoku, 2010). Examination of Ghana as a proto-typical example, due to being “proclaimed as an African success story in the early 1990’s” (Opoku, 2010) yet falling back to a member of highly indebted poor countries (HIPC) in 2001, we can observe the failings of the World Bank’s approach to African development. The World Bank made a great deal of press in the 1980’s about the need to create the requisite environment in terms of political processes and institutional supports in order to establish what they called sound macro-economic policy” (Opoku, 2010). We can accurately state that Ghana failed in becoming fully developed, and with formal logic we can also state that the efforts of the World Bank were, at the very least, not the full answer to the equation. From the perspective of the World Bank, it is the responsibility of countries like Ghana, which receive loans like much of the African continent from the Bank, to create the proper climate for the funds to be properly used. The validity of that argument is weak at best; consider going to the bank asking for a loan, and you have no way of paying the money back; the bank would not be inclined to make the loan. Why then would the World Bank loan Africa money with no clear plan for repayment? What would be the benefit to the bank? This speaks directly to the motivation of the World Bank because Banks do not lend money and not benefit from the transaction; it can be argued that the World Banks motivation may be repayment in the form of raw materials and industrial products, many of which are richly available in Africa. It is certainly true that throwing money at a problem is never the solution in and of itself, but the strings that were attached to the World Bank loans added to the stagnation of Ghana’s economic prosperity. After the fall of Communism, democratization was added to the terms and conditions to accepting World Bank money, and of course African states began to convert their governments in compliance. The ideal at the heart of this was the belief that democratic systems of government allow economic prosperity to grow and establish itself. It was assumed for many years that capitalists would be able to properly accumulate wealth under a democratic political climate. Regardless of the validity of this idea, this resulted in a clash of interests for the World Bank and leaders of African regimes who enjoyed the amount of power they could exercise over their countries’ economies. The conflict begat a political system that converted in appearances to an electoral society, but one that carried over vestiges of power from the previous non-democratic governments. In Ghana this government began as the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), a military styled regime headed by Light Lieutenant Rawlings and a dominating Marxist ideology, and after 18 months of anti-capitalist fervor, the PNDC approached the World Bank for aid. In order to receive the loans, the government held elections every four years starting in 1992, which was won by Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress party. So in fact, while the style of government had technically changed, the faces and ideals did not; there still existed a deep rooted anti-capitalist mentality at the nation’s core because the elites were not committed to the realization of an authentic democratic nation (Opoku, 2010). The policies of the World Bank reflect neoliberal mindsets about economics, citing free trade and currency manipulation as the paramount objectives to produce economic prosperity. This economistic approach, which removes the importance of other more social conventions, has undoubtedly provided no sustained development in Africa. Further still, if the policies of this new state still reflect large amounts of state control as they did in Ghana, through state owned industry and regular government seizures of private businesses, then private industry is unlikely to flourish. The institutions that surround and support private enterprise are the foundation to a nation’s economic prosperity, as institutions are effectively the “rules of the game…structur[ing] incentives in human exchange, whether political, social or economic” (Opoku, 2010) Opoku, (2010) continues to say, the capitalist system functions properly with “a system of simple, transparent laws and regulation; consistent interpretation and enforcement; just and rapid resolution of conflicts; and a social attitude of respect for legal and regulatory institutions”(p.159). These codes of conduct allow businessmen and investors to operate properly with one another and with the larger entities of government and commerce. At the same time however, a system of authority must exist that can maintain this balance through regulatory agencies and management organizations. Both these aspects together provide a healthy and predictable environment for business to occur. Neither of these prerequisites came to fruition in Ghana, and protocols for trade regulations both domestically and internationally were relatively unknown to businessmen. Officers of the Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC) were unsympathetic to the needs of entrepreneurs. Internally, we see that the organizations that produce economic success are ill managed and unreliable. However, the process that African countries are embarking on is not one that comes easily, it is a process of trial and error, yet these are obstacles that have been addressed in other parts of the world (Opoku, 2010). Overcoming Technological Hurdles
At this current point in time, places like the United States and the European Union enjoy technology, both in infrastructure and individual use, which dwarf the capabilities of African institutions. Yet we see no appropriation efforts being undertaken. One such example of this disparity comes into view through the labyrinth of intellectual property rights (IRPs) and the Trade-Related Aspects of intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) that control of the access African nations have to productive and useful technologies. The benefits we enjoy in first world countries today inevitably stem from our networks of communication and information, which hold their roots in an organized Postal Service and telecommunication network. Technology has surpassed these milestones in astronomic ways, to the point where information and technology production can literally double its capability in less than two years. We are breaking ground at a rate never before experienced. This is hardly the case in the sub-Saharan African continent, where they “fall well below the one-telephone-per-household standard” we see in developed nations all over the world (May, 2006). This technological gap cannot be properly rectified, while IRPs circumvent the seriousness of this disparity. The concept behind TRIPs and IRPs is necessary indeed to protect the rights of those who create such protected technologies from piracy, achieving such technologies for free. However, such an argument is only appropriate when dealing with entities that have the wealth necessary for acquiring them. Such is not the case with the African continent. Setting the cost of much needed technology so inarguably high only sets the prospect of a developed Africa further and further back. Education: Changing the Colonial Program That Hinders Africa Development Systems of education in Africa are highly relevant to Africa’s development. There are obvious correlations between upgrading the level of education provided to achieve personal and statewide success that is needed in African countries. However the educational systems in Africa are not comparable to those in other parts of the world for many reasons. Contemporary struggles in regards to intellectual property laws well as historical vestiges from each nation’s respective colonial history prevent Africa from accelerating in a manner that will allow them to catch up with the modern world in the foreseeable future. The systems of education in African countries are deeply affected by the erroneous disparities in resources during the colonial age as Kuster (2007) pointed out in reference to Zimbabwe’s colonial history, stating that African colonial education needs to be assessed for quality, and for the extent to which it served to enforce cultural dominance between Western settlers and the indigenous Zimbabwean people. The African colonial period, which lasted from the 1890’s to the 1960’s involved a number of different structural changes to the colonies, yet the persistence of unfunded and segregated education went virtually unchallenged. Christian missions were the chief proprietors of African education in Zimbabwe and other colonies, and received a very limited amount of government funds in proportion to funds allocated for the education of white settlers. For Zimbabwe the Interwar Period, between World War 1 and World War 2, which contained a number of decolonization efforts, was the beginning of a reworking of the educational system first from increasing funding from 9467 pounds to 140,000 pounds from 1920 to 1944 (p. 81-82). While the money is the underlining necessary component to advance an institution; the functions that education looks to serve highly correlate to how productive the system will be. Zimbabwe’s educational system gained much needed ground through H.S. Keigwin’s plan as Zimbabwe’s Director of Native Development, which gave Zimbabwe’s educational system a tangible objective. Citing the traditional academic style of educational as containing “conceit and self-assertiveness,” Keigwin’s Scheme looked to educate Zimbabweans for work within developing industries. Not only would this promote success for Zimbabwe in the future, but it also provided Zimbabweans with a profitable future for themselves as individuals, as compared to traditional Western education, which looks to inform people classically, in the hopes that they will use these principles in the real world. Sadly, the missions themselves were the ultimate deciding factor in this approach, because even though Keigwin’s Scheme was developed for a capable work force for industry. “Christian missions adopted the vision for rural, self-sufficient Christian congregations rather than training Africans for…morally corrupting wage employment” (Kuster, 2007) (p.84). The Interwar Period saw intellectuals producing similar types of educational frameworks, all the while attempting to produce an able working class. This objective was shortsighted if an informed and participatory populace was to be achieved. The benefits of mobilizing a workforce are chiefly realized in economic development and technological innovation, but under such a paradigm the value of Africans themselves are minimized in order to reflect social structures similar to colonial segregation. Ndura, (2006) recounts her experiences in Burundi, understanding that a level of assimilation was “a necessary strategy to avoid [pain] and humilia[tion]”(p.90). Even in former colonies, this social hierarchy that is maintained produced an environment that stifled African cultural expression. These efforts on the part of educational institutions reveal motives of hegemonic and systematic control over indigenous populations well after the formal occupation of Western powers. At first glance it may seem that providing any framework of education will benefit Africa’s nations, but if a people become so disconnected from their own identity, as well as their cultural connections to who they are, and are subsequently left to feel inferior and lacking self worth, it is virtually impossible to mobilize them to enact positive change that can ultimately lead to prosperity and development of their nations. Education is a major hurdle for Africa’s development; however, the education cannot be counterintuitive to its people. Pandemic, Destroys Human Capital: How HIV/AIDS is Hindering Development Traditional issues that prevent development are never easy for countries in the developing world. When coupled with the fact that the continent of Africa is stricken with the worse Pandemic of HIV/AIDS on the planet, it becomes a daunting task to mobilize Africa’s citizens to propel the myriad issues affecting the continent to top priority. As of 2007, 67% of the world’s total HIV infections, as well as 66% of the new HIV infections and 71% of the HIV related deaths occur in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa (Bingenheimer, 2010). According to Bingenheimer, (2010) African men having multiple heterosexual partners contributes to spread of this disease throughout the continent, he attributes this sexual deviance to, “Sociodemographic patterns of such partnerships confirm the importance of men's control of economic resources and suggest that men's freedom from social control mechanisms may be more important than their authority over their wives” (p.1). Bingenheimer is essentially trying to express that the social norms of the African culture lend to the destruction of human capital and Dixon, et. al, ( 2002), solidifies this point when they note in their studies that, “macroeconomic impacts of HIV in severely affected countries may reduce the GDP, per capita incomes and lower economic growth”. They go on to stress the impact, “To simplify the measurement of “economic performance,” economists have tended to focus on one measure: average income, or gross domestic product (GDP), per capita. Our literature search identified 11 studies that attempted to quantify the effect of HIV/AIDS on GDP per capita. …In general these studies used regression analysis to estimate the impact of the prevalence of HIV on the rate of growth of GDP per capita, while controlling for other factors that might also affect growth (for example, levels of nutrition). The consensus from these studies is that the net effect on the growth of GDP per capita will be negative and substantial. The more recent studies show greater effects; and the most recent estimates indicate that the pandemic has reduced average national growth rates by 2-4% a year across Africa." When assessing the magnitude of this disease on the continent it becomes clear how HIV/AIDS is rapidly becoming one of the greatest threats to Africa’s development. While education in the academic arena is absolutely necessary to initiate growth on the continent; it is dwarfed by the need for sexual and reproductive health training. In order for any measures taken by the nations of Africa to improve, the populace must be healthy enough to sustain their efforts. Conclusion
Africa is undeveloped in many of the arenas where we have seen great advances in the last hundred years, not because of some natural disadvantage of the continent, but because of the role of various world powers; International organizations, foreign countries, and hegemonic internal power structures that benefit where Africa loses. Ultimately, Africa suffers from concrete issues that lead to dependence; Africa is made to be dependent on the rest of the modern world in order to protect a sense of global balance. Africa has reached a position similar to a rat backed into a corner, with first world nations creating the proverbial walls both through historical colonialism and contemporary economic power. The only opportunity for advancement is for the world powers to acknowledge the wrongs that are passively and actively committed against the diverse nations that make up Africa, and to devote resources to creating and sustaining a healthy and stable situation for African nations. African nations can only earnestly wait for such an opportunity to rise to the status of which they are certainly worthy and capable.
Bingenheimer, B. J. (2010). Men'sMultiple Sexual Partnerships in 15 Sub-Saharan African Countries: Sociodemographic Patterns and Implications. Studies in Family Planning, 1-17. Dixon, S. M. (2002). The Impact of HIV and AIDS on Africa's Economic Development. BMJ, 232-234. Kuster, S. (2007). 'Book Learning' versus "Adapted Education': the Impact of Phelps-Stokesism on Colonial Education Systems in Central Africa in the Interwar Period. Paedagogica Historica, 79-97. May, C. (2006). Escaping the TRIPs' Trap: The Political Economy of Free and Open Source Software in Africa. Political Studies, 123-146. Ndura, E. (2006). Western Education and African Culture Indentity in the Great Lakes Region of Africa: A Case of Failed Globialization. Peace & Change, 90-101. Opoku, K. D. (2010). From Sucess Story to Highly Indebted Poor Country: Ghanna and Neoliberal Referoms. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 155-175.