UN report faults Africa development strategy

July 17, 2008

, NAIROBI, July 17 – Development in Africa’s poorest nations is largely unsustainable and non-exclusive, according to a report released on Thursday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Banji Oyeyinka has noted that over dependence on unprocessed agricultural exports, minerals and oil is badly hurting African economies.

The report indicates that although the 33 least developed countries (LCD) in Africa have recorded increased revenues from exports, these are mainly on unprocessed horticultural products and renting oil and mineral fields, which mostly benefit the western countries that own the machinery and expertise.

“If you integrate simply by exporting commodities when demand slows down or when you have catastrophic situations and you are not able to export, then you jeopardise growth,” he said.

The 2008 overview goes ahead to reveal that although the levels of poverty have decreased there are more poor people in these countries than there were ten years ago.

Banji attributed this to wealth disparities with the rich getting richer, while the poor continue getting poorer.

In addition, the report showed that trade between these countries and the west is highly tilted in favour of the west, further denying LDCs much needed revenue.

In order to overcome these challenges the report recommends that Africa shifts to industrialisation and a service driven economy.

It calls on the governments to invest heavily on infrastructural development so as to concentrate more on exporting processed products for better proceeds.

The ‘tigers’ of Asia most of whom were in the same level with many African countries in the 1980s have emerged as formidable economic power houses by placing their focus on industrialisation and the service industry.

The overview further calls for ownership in policy formulation and reduced reliance on aid.

“LDCs should use aid in a way that on one hand alleviates the immediate problem, but is also tied to productive activities,” said Banji.

Though the continent is rich in mineral and oil fields, wars, strife, mismanagement of public funds and western control keep the Africans away from much revenue.

While most African countries have agriculturally driven economies their output is below capacity due to lack of innovation. Many countries are net importers of food increasing the burden on the Treasury.

“Africa is yet to experience the green revolution. The same techniques that our fathers and grandfathers used is what we are using today,” Banji noted.

49 nations are classified under the LDCs category, with 33 of them in Africa.

Most of their citizenry cannot access basic social services like food, water, health, education, housing and good employment.

Though Kenya is not among these countries, it has a replica of such scenarios with unemployment rates at more than 50 percent.

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