From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
World Bank Report Boosts President Koroma's Agenda for Prosperity
By Captain Saio S. Marrah (Rtd) Expert in International Relations and Security Studies
Apr 18, 2013, 17:18

President Koroma's Agenda for Prosperity is on a solid foundation and fellow Sierra Leonean should be optimistic that in the nearest future, prosperity as articulated in the President's Agenda will be achieved.

 

With president Koroma's achievements in the Agenda for Change and his determination to seal his legacy cocooned in the Agenda for Prosperity, in tandem with the trust and confidence from the International Community and coalesced with the most recent  World Bank Report, I will argue that with all hands on deck President Koroma will surely achieve his goals.

 

According to the most recent World Bank Economic Report published this April, (general) economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa should significantly outpace the global average over the next three years. The Report further maintained that higher commodities, increasing investment and a general pick-up in the world economy should all boost the continent's growth to more than 5% while Global GDP was forecast to grow by an average of 2.4% this year.


Captain Saio S. Marrah (Rtd)

Nevertheless, the World Bank Report added that African governments must to do more to ensure that this growth reduces poverty. The report asserts that strong economic growth in Africa had significantly reduced the extent of poverty (in Africa) over the past decade. The Bank's provisional figures of Africans living on less than $2 a day fell from 58% to 48.5% between 1996 and 2010.

 

"If properly harnessed to unleash their full potential, these trends hold the promise of more growth, less poverty, and accelerating shared prosperity for African countries in the foreseeable future," emphasised World Bank Economist, Punam Chuhan-Pole.

 

Resource-rich countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Gabon were singled out as making less progress in combating poverty than other African countries with fewer natural resources. The mineral sectors in places such as Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone should continue to attract investment, the World Bank maintained.

 

"While the broad picture emerging from the data is that Africa's economies have been expanding robustly and that poverty is coming down, the aggregate hides a great deal of diversity in performance, even among Africa's faster growers," said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank's chief economist for Africa.

 

The Bank said infrastructural development was critical to ensure the strong pace of economic growth.Investment in infrastructure would be essential to the continued success of the oil, gas and mineral sectors aimed at achieving prosperity for Africans.

 

Having perused at the encouraging World Bank Economic forecast on Africa, it is easy to infer the identifiable potential problem areas that could hold back economic growth in many African countries.

 

Labour unrest, political instability, poor infrastructure, uncertainty within the Eurozone and unforeseen circumstances in demand for commodities in China - are the main factors likely to militate against the peoples' prosperity. That said, political instability and poor infrastructure are the leading vulnerabilities against the potential prospect in African countries.

 

Labour unrest in the continent's largest economy, South Africa, as well as political issues in the Central African Republic and Mali are identified as potential concerns for prosperity. Furthermore, the Bank warned that risks to African growth remained, not only from the continuing crisis in the Eurozone, but also from any sharp unforeseen downturn in demand for commodities from China.

 

Analysts have maintained that the investment wind is no longer blowing towards South Africa's mining industry, but had changed and is now blowing north and west - seeking out opportunities in the rest of the continent. The question is.why? The reason is simple. Many investors are still nervous about last year's strikes at many of South Africa's mines and the devastating effects those strikes had on production is telling. Although it will be premature to say that the era of big mining is over in South Africa, but if you look at where the major investors are moving to do business, it will appear or rather suggest that many of them are withdrawing from South Africa.

 

In order to prevent analogous ill-fate as experienced in South Africa, a lot of other African countries are welcoming investors with open arms. They're trying to rectify their mining codes by making them easier and more accessible for foreign investors. Looking at South Africa, where political uncertainty is rife, it's been more difficult to promote investors mining investment.

 

Although it will be harsh to maintain that the consensus might not be one of doom, but perhaps South Africa should be looking at its golden years in its rear-view mirror.

 

As belt-tightening happens in the investor countries (EU and US in particular), many countries in Africa are finding themselves competing for a shrinking pot of investment money. African governments know that investors will balance risk and reward, and that stability is paramount in attracting investors and bringing prosperity to the people. To underpin this argument, Gabon's exhibition standing at the Indaba is emblazoned across its large poster "a safe and friendly country". This is pure marketing.

 

But other African countries do face a challenge that South Africa doesn't - and that challenge is infrastructure. It is all very well having enormous mineral deposits, but if they cannot be exported, no-one benefits. The prime reason is, many African countries in terms of infrastructure are relatively undeveloped. Although the resources are in Africa, but if we lack the necessary infrastructures then extracting them out of the ground and conveying them to the ports is a big challenge facing many African countries including Sierra Leone. According to an objective estimate prepared by Standard Bank, Africa will need about $50bn (31bn) of infrastructural investment over the next 10 years, if its resources are to be exploited effectively.

 

Judging from the contents of the World Bank Report and the analysis in this piece, it's pretty obvious that President Koroma (alone) can't succeed in achieving his dream insulated in the Agenda for Prosperity. We should present ourselves as civilised, honest and friendly people to foreign investors, create a conducive environment where investors will feel at home, clean our streets and environment to reduce the degree of contagious diseases and eliminate corrupt practices from both government and private sectors.

 

We must rectify quiescent policies to match international ones if we are to compete with other African countries. Over and above all, we must maintain our hard-earned peace in order to enhance political stability. Because without political stability, no foreign investor will venture to invest a penny in Sierra Leone, there wouldn't be any prosperity and "man's life will become short and brutish" as Thomas Hobbes notably argued.



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