The World Bank has dispatched a bulletin of 2022 on opportunities and challenges of trade of African countries, how the market could be accessed in troubled times and the remedy to resolve the trials.
It has remained puzzling to everyone to date that Africans are living in the worst way than any continent though they are blessed with natural resources. Nations and international community that assume themselves as guardians of humanity and democracy remain silent on the case of Africans when they are treated in various platforms, when the continent is ignored to put its say in the international affairs. The continent still contributes only 2 percent of goods and service in the world market.
As a result, it is marginalized and portrayed as hopeless continent. The colonial past and the political instability lasted for almost 100 years left the continent pauperized and a recipient of foreign aid. Though it has abundant natural resources, Africa utilized a little of its assets due to the absence of sufficient knowledge, technology and finance. Paradoxically, natural resources available in someparts of the continent which have high economic value have been fueling conflict and further aggravate poverty.
For instance, with a surface area equivalent to that of Western Europe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). DRC is endowed with abundant natural resources, including minerals such as cobalt and copper, high hydropower potential, significant arable land, immense biodiversity with the world’s second-largest rainforest and navigable river which can transport goods up to 700 kilo meter. Nevertheless, DRC has been the third largest population of the globally poor. Poverty in that country remains widespread and pervasive, and is increasing due to impacts from COVID-19.
In 2018, it was estimated that 73 percent of the Congolese population, equaling 60 million people, lived on less than USD 1.90 a day according to the international poverty rate. As such, almost 14 percent or one out of six people are living in extreme poverty in SSA — live in DRC.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is potentially one of the richest countries on earth, but political instability, nepotism and corruption have turned it into one of the poorest, wrote historian Dan Snow.
The world’s bloodiest conflict since World War II is still rumbling on today. It is a war in which more than five million people have died, millions more have been driven to the brink by starvation and disease and several million women and girls have been raped.
The Great War of Africa, a conflagration that has sucked in soldiers and civilians from nine nations and countless armed rebel groups, has been fought almost entirely inside the borders of one unfortunate country – the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congo’s apocalyptic present is a direct product of decisions and actions taken over the past five centuries. The internal instability reigns for decades in DRC opened the door to foreign intervention both from neighboring countries and outside the continent.
Countries such as Uganda and Ruanda have leverage in that country to run their own political and economic interest. Yes, vividly clear why many African nations are unable to attain stability and ensure food security.
To address the puzzle of lack of visionary leadership and the people at large should turn to do their own home work through well-established reforms, concerned bodies suggested. Until 1980s after the end of colonialism in 1960s political upheaval, civil war and military coup had been pervasive. Conflicts due to political instability consumed the nations’ wealth that could have been allocated for development purpose.
Africa’s history reveals that intellectuals who had been traceable entities to bring economic growth and stability lost their life due to the military coups had taken place in different nations in different times and lasted until now in some parts of the continent.
Tyrant leaders who had controlled power by military arbitrarily killed their opponents, looted the resources for their own personal interest.
Money came in the form of aid from western governments and multilateral financial institutions find its way to secret banks outside the continent. The dictatorial regimes in order to retain their power for unlimited time have made the people to stay in fear.
Educated citizens who lost trust on the government remained dormant not to express their critical opinions and ultimately left their country to somewhere else. Thus, as it is believed by many and suggested a time and again, African Countries should work hard to establish an electoral system with independent institution which accelerates accountability and the prevalence of rule of law.
They should strive for the protection of freedom of expression the right to association, to elect and to be elected. Unless they exert their energy for the establishment of democracy, and attaining peace and stability will remain a day dream.
According to the Word Bank, Africa faces a global trade environment that is continuously changing, bringing new challenges and opportunities for increasing economic growth and reducing poverty.
Some of these developments include the increased frag-mentation of production across borders; the proliferation of regional trade agreements; the relative rise of Asia (East and South Asia) as the new economic frontier; the Fourth Industrial Revolution and subsequent rise of laborsaving technologies; and most recently the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Given the relatively small size of their economies, African countries’ effective participation in the ever-evolving international trade environment remains central to boosting the region’s growth and development. Africa’s exports and imports of goods and services propelled fastest growth in the past decade but remain low in overall volume as compared to other regions.
To reduce poverty on a large scale and transform their economies, African countries must scale up and diversify their participation in international markets and global value chains (GVCs). The global economy is a source of growth that African economies cannot afford to ignore.
To catch up with the rest of the world, there is no alternative except the continent must link its production and trade to the global economy to take advantage of the unlimited demand and innovation along the supply chain.
This effort calls for a comprehensive and dynamic approach that requires reexamination of existing trade to expand the region’s export market access and diversify its markets to new regions and new products while also strengthening regional trade. Such an approach is exactly what many scholars recommend.
It is the outcome of a journey started with an expert panel discussion on the future of global trade and its impact on Africa, while World Africa faces a global trade environment that is continuously changing, bringing new challenges and opportunities for increasing growth and reducing poverty.
Finally, it is high time to act and make sure to work starting from the grass roots to the higher economic level of the continent.
BY MENGISTEAB TESHOME
The 1 March 2022