Ambassador of Mauritius to Germany, Prof Kheswar Jankee, has identified factors inhibiting Africa’s development and preventing the continent from realising its huge potential.
Speaking at the 2019 Global Partnership for Africa’s Development (G-PAD) Forum, which took place on 22-23 November in the German city of Tubingen, the diplomat and scholar said it’s frustrating talking about African development challenges despite its enormous natural riches.
Ambassador Jankee said Africa could only chart the way forward if it identifies its strengths and weaknesses and act on them.
“Is Africa democratic? Or becoming more dictatorial or becoming more democratic?” the diplomat asked his audience of academics, German politicians and development experts, and members of the African diaspora who gathered for the 2-day event.
He referred to a recent Afrobarometer finding which indicates that, compared to four years ago, lesser numbers of Africans were interested in politics, pointing to disillusionment among the people with the political elite.
The diplomat attributed the disillusionment to the popularly perceived abuse of electoral processes in many African countries.
He also pointed out that democracy was under siege in some countries with activists and NGOs who are working for change being clamped down upon.
Despite these challenges, Prof Jankee said democracy was thriving in many countries on the continent, referring to recent elections in Mauritius and Madagascar that went well.
He said it was reassuring that the majority of those polled in the 2019 Afrobarometer study, about 75%, believe that democracy is good. “So we need a positive attitude that empowers the people to work for reform and changes to the system,” he said.
Prof Jankee also pointed to the hotspots of conflicts on the continent – conflicts due to identity politics, jihadism, elite power struggles etc. He called for concerted efforts to resolve these conflicts as development needs peace and stability.
Talking about the economic challenges in Africa, Ambassador Janke asked:
“Are we a cheap source of raw materials and market for finished products?
“If yes, then we have to diversify our economies and promote manufacturing.”
He said his country of 1.3 million inhabitants started as a sugar-dominated economy at independence in 1968, but today the small nation in the Indian ocean has successfully diversified into services, IT, manufacturing, education, biotech and tourism, enabling it to increase GDP per capita from $200 in 1970 to $11,280 in 2019.
Prof Jankee also warned against, what he described, as “a looming debt crisis” in the continent. “Africa has to address this as well,” he added.
“Why is Africa lagging behind despite Western aid, IMF and World Bank loans?” he asked.
“Is Africa a laboratory for testing cultural, environmental, social and economic ideas?”
He recommended that Africa should fashion its own solutions and not simply accept all ideas from the outside. “Africa has the potential to solve its own problems working with global partners,” he posited.
The ambassador said Africa had to look at models that have delivered in other places and emulate them. “For example, we can learn from Europe – the work ethics, good institutions, rule of law etc,” he advised.
Prof Jankee warned against pessimism because the challenges facing the continent had become a cliché in the current narrative about Africa, with the oft-touted unsustainable population growth, lack of jobs for young people, outward migration etc. He pointed to the increased economic integration in the continent, praising the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
Ambassador Jankee called for increased collaboration between Africa and Germany. He said Germany’s renewed interest in the continent is positive. “Germany is saying we have to reform, develop the private sector and introduce transparency in governance. These are all good for Africa.”
He advised African countries to work closely with Berlin on the G20 Compact with Africa initiative as it could only bring positive outcomes in the continent
“When Germany says yes, they will do it,” he said, praising Berlin as a dependable partner for African development.
Organised by Lead Africa International e.V., a global non-governmental organization dealing with development issues, G-PAD Forum promotes “shared knowledge of development policies that impact Africans and people of African descent and facilitate effective global partnerships towards achieving sustainable development” in Africa.
The 2019 edition of the event was devoted to promoting an increased awareness of the German Africa policy, which was launched in March 2019, and to explore how the diaspora could engage it for the good of Africa