Africa may be short of funds but not the potential to fund its development

The Guardian
Published at 08:37 AM Jun 21 2024
Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation

EXPERTS are being put to work on an old theme that has varying answers, but it now appears that there is a sense of urgency among a section of development authorities.

One notable elder in that area is Sir Mohammed Fathi Ahmed Ibrahim – the 78-year-old Sudanese-British billionaire businessman popularly known as Mo Ibrahim, chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

No, Mo Ibrahim has lately insisted that Africa has the resources to finance its own development but lacks the processes it needs to ensure the effective allocation of resources needed for purpose.

At least on this much, many analysts on the African scene will likely concur – though it is unlikely that they will have mapped how to solve it any time soon.

As a think tank, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is emphatic that Africa has resources that are lying dormant or misused while political will would see the continent properly manage those resources to attain the aspired objectives.

There is also a note on what needs to change in the way Africa works within the international financial system, appealing for the ‘updating’ of the continent’s debt structuring.

There is an effort to appeal for more favourable risk assessment and mitigation inputs, where loan ‘conditionalities’ are trimmed, all of it not quite practicable as the global lenders also borrow.

It is not clear where the Mo Ibrahim Foundation takes its preliminary thinking when it sees development in terms of the piling up of large amounts of money but with certain prerogatives.

The report, “Financing Africa: Where is the Money?”, is credited with providing “a comprehensive view of what is deemed necessary for Africa to meet its development and climate goals and the resources that are currently available”.

There is minimal correlation between needs and the funds available so long as there is a shift in attitude, “a complete change of paradigm”.

The lyric or sentiment at the centre of this formulation is viewed as admittedly familiar, and it isn’t surprising that the activist wants a change in that direction.

Mo insists that the key issue is not about Africa approaching the developed world with a begging bowl and developed countries considering how much more they can pledge.

“This is about smarter money, not just more money. As this report outlines, the money is already there,” he surprisingly declares, then pointing at a familiar alibi, as the report is blunt that the continent must stop squandering its own assets but must take proper ownership and responsibility.

If it was again in the past, someone could possibly have argued that the development philanthropist was taking up some revolutionary sentiments.

That would have amounted to call to stop squandering resources and start being patriotic, and thus using national income in such a way as to realise national development objectives!

It would sound much like the sweet late 1960s when we thought we had the answers: the political will of selfless leaders plus strong political parties. Still the radicals were wrong – leader can’t constantly fire at their own feet.

Revolutionary economics is a situation where collective aspirations willed by an authoritarian leadership take precedence over individual wishes or expectations, as demonstrated in any tolerably democratic environment.

Thus, when one says people must apply good governance to ensure that these assets are adequately leveraged for the best interests of our people, it is from a leadership position. Bring in discussion, free choice or representation and even organised opposition and free elections, and we have our Africa as it is.

Systematic reform also needs to be an integral part of the game for the kind of development many will be yearning for – and expecting.