Africa can discard foreign prescriptions for local solutions
Lovemore Chikova-Development Dialogue
Since African countries started gaining independence, starting with Ghana in 1957, a number of development blueprints, ideas and models have been fostered on them.
These development blueprints, mainly emanating from Western countries, have been regurgitating the same issues to the extent that there is nothing really knew when it comes to their application.
For decades, these paradigms, theories and blueprints have had one strong theme running through them — that the development of poor countries can only take place with the involvement of Western developed nations.
It is just about prescriptions from the West and their attempt to take developing countries through the same processes that uplifted Western countries.
The same remedies used in an attempt to bring development to African countries in the 1950s are the same being recommended and implemented today.
This is despite that such scripts have failed to take the developing countries out of poverty.
Nothing has really changed, the world is going in circles when it comes to bringing development equality to emerging economies.
The plausible explanation could probably be that developed countries deliberately offer prescriptions that do not work in developing countries because they want to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
In fact, a competitive Africa, Asia or Latin America could pose a serious challenge to Western dominance and hegemony, hence this desire to put developing countries in a revolving circle over the same development prescriptions that seem not to work.
It is clear that the 1945 multilateral settlement, as represented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, is running out of steam, is no longer representative and no longer has the financial means to provide the resources for addressing global concerns.
This explains why many developing countries are now starting to ask probing questions, agitating for a new settlement and a new development paradigm that brings tangible benefits to their citizens.
The concept of development, as it has been presented from the Western view, is now a bone of contention, especially with its strong links to colonialism and the expansion of colonial subjugation in developing countries.
There is indeed a crisis in global development today because of over reliance on development initiatives that have proved not to produce the desired results.
There is now a yawning gap for a new shift in global affairs that challenges the approach and perspective to development propagated over the years with little or no results.
The development prescriptions from Western countries always put emerging economies on a catch-up game, yet the chase has proved to be an illusion for many decades, with the world gravitating back to where it started, where the same solutions are offered once again.
Yet, the fact is that development as designed by Western countries for application in developing countries has totally failed, otherwise we should be having examples to point at.
Development blueprints from multilateral institutions that are seen as agents of development, despite their repeated applications, have failed to uplift underdeveloped countries.
Looking at where these Western development perspectives started being enforced in Africa and other developing countries and where they are today, one can easily conclude that the world is back to square one — with developing countries still trying out the same prescriptions since decades ago.
No matter how these development prescriptions are modelled, portrayed or applied, their vital features still remain the same — that of being inherently Eurocentric and largely Western in their approach.
Yet, rich countries have become wealthy on the backs of poor countries on which they depended and are still depending for their raw materials.
Cutting off the supply of raw materials to developed countries can even mean war or the resurgence of colonialism in its raw form.
Even after colonialists let them get independent, poor countries are still exploited through neo-colonialism where multilateral institutions like the IMF and the World Bank continue to shape their developmental paths.
From where world systems stand now, it appears it is in the interest of Western countries to keep the developing countries poor and dependent on them.
Western countries would still want to extract mineral resources and other raw materials from developing countries and the appetite for such is insatiable.
As a result, they have deliberately created a cycle of failed prescriptions since the partition of Africa in 1884-85.
Much of the so-called development failures in Africa and other developing continents are in most cases pinned on the approach by Western countries, which is hostile to those emerging economies that attempt to come up with their own home-grown prescriptions for development.
Formerly colonised states were awarded some resemblance of political independence, but the former colonisers still dictated economic affairs directly or indirectly, limiting the potential of such countries to chart their own way to development.
Western countries tout themselves as development models for developing countries, arguing that they have already set the standards and therefore development has to be seen in the context of the achievements of the West.
The Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) is one of the development programmes that clearly indicates that there is a recycling of the same ideas that have failed to end poverty in developing countries.
ESAP is being pushed by the IMF and World Bank, with the two organisations still insisting it works, when in actual fact it has failed to bring any results in the countries it has been implemented.
The programme is mainly based on free market principles comprising deflation, devaluation, decontrol and privatisation.
In the majority of cases, including in Zimbabwe, ESAP had serious consequences — poverty levels increased, unemployment shot up, retrenchments were implemented, exports declined and the cost of living became unaffordable to many.
This took several developing countries many years back in terms of their pace of development, yet the IMF is still regurgitating the same prescriptions it gave developing countries in the 1950s.
It is now clear that developing countries are caught up in an untenable situation in which they are expected to catch up with the developed Western countries.
Yet, the Western countries continue progressing in their developmental path uninterrupted.
This means that developing countries will never catch up because when they think that they have achieved certain levels of development, Western countries will be on a new level altogether.
This becomes a vicious circle as the developing countries continue to chase the developed countries in a bid to catch up.
This means more paradigms and theories of development will continue to be developed, but without departing much from the core of the argument that there is an imbalance and exploitation between the developed world and the developing world.
The best way forward is for developed countries to leave the developing countries alone to chart their own way forward to development, considering their own unique situations and the immediate needs of their citizens.
If colonialism had not happened, Africa could have been probably different today, with a different, but successful development roadmap.
A new world order that treats countries as equals is urgently required if development is to be witnessed in all parts of the world.
As long as there are some countries that think it is their responsibility to bring development to other regions, then the world will continue to go round in circles, with the mightier continuing to exploit the weak.
Instead of a bi-polar world, a uni-polar world will bring new alternatives to development paradigms.
What is needed is a win-win cooperation that brings mutual benefits to all the countries.
As of now, this is not happening. Western countries remain hostile to developing countries that show some form of independent thinking in their development models.
Zimbabwe can provide many examples in this area, just by studying how Western countries became hostile when the country embarked on the land reform programme.
Yet the programme was more like an internal development programme that was to ensure equal access to land as an economic resource.
The equitable distribution of land was meant to be the start of ending poverty in Zimbabwe as farming was to boom, hedging families against food shortages and ensuring adequate supplies of raw materials to industries.
But the country got devastating economic sanctions for trying to break from the norm.
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