Rural community development central to Africa’s industrialisation

Thuletho Zwane

Victor Oladokun’s grandfather was a cocoa farmer. His grandfather lived in a small village in Nigeria.

“But all through his life, my grandfather never tasted chocolate,” said African Development Bank (AfDB) Director of Communications Dr Victor Oladokun.

Many years later, the continent is still faced with the same challenges. Africa remains an exporter of raw materials and an importer of finished goods. He added that if his grandfather were to come back to life and go to this village, he would see that nothing had changed.

“If we are going to change Africa, we must first change the rural areas. We need to ensure rural areas become sustainable,” said Oladokun.

Government institutions, the private sector and civil society all agree that Africa needs to industrialise in order to change the fortunes of many lives on the continent. However, the point of contention is how industrialisation should take place.

Economic analysts argue that Africa relies too heavily on agriculture and the export of raw commodities. They say the continent should focus more on manufacturing, beneficiation, and infrastructure development while others make the argument that this would cause too much debt; and that debt-dependent industrialisation is another form of neo-colonialism.

Professor of Economics at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso Justine Coulidiati- Kielem was one of the proponents of development away from big agricultural projects, financialisation of African economies or infrastructure development. She said structural programmes through grassroot community projects were what was needed for Africa’s development.

“Look what Thomas Sankara did for Burkina Faso. He rejected debt offered by foreign institutions in the form of aid. What Burkina Faso managed to achieve in that short space of time shows that for African states to truly develop, this kind of plan should be followed,” said Coulidiati- Kielem.

Thomas Sankara, the former president of Burkina Faso, introduced the concept of endogenous or self-centred development in his country between 1984 – 1987. Self-centred development  refers to the process of economic, social, cultural, scientific and political transformation, based on the mobilisation of internal social forces and resources and using the accumulated knowledge and experiences of the people of a country.

The model allowed citizens to be active agents in the transformation of their society instead of remaining spectators outside of a political system inspired by foreign models.

Endogenous development looks at “own strength”. Sankara mobilised the masses to take responsibility for their own needs, with the construction of infrastructure, (dams, reservoirs, wells, roads and schools) through the use of the principle ‘relying on one’s own strength.’

He was assassinated in 1987.

Coulidiati- Kielem was part of the audience in a panel discussion that took place at the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in May under the theme Engaging Civil Society in Accelerating Africa’s Industrialisation.

Coulidiati- Kielem’s argument was a counter to views made by AfDB’s Jennifer Blanke who is the vice-president responsible for  agriculture, human and social development.

Blanke said agriculture and agro-processing will be the main drivers of industrialisation on the continent.  She said agriculture projects needed to be bankable and incentivised to attract private investors and create employment opportunities.

“Right now Africa exports raw materials and imports finished products. This means we are exporting jobs. We export cotton and buy back clothing. We should be thinking about how we can capture whole value chains so that Africans can have these jobs and so that we can have a generation of agro-preneurs,” said Blanke.

Blanke used cocoa farming as an example. She said Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire together produced 60% of cocoa globally. The two countries, together with Cameroon, produce 70% of cocoa globally.

“We should be talking about these three countries creating an oligopoly power where they do not only set the price of cocoa but also add value to cocoa and sell finished goods. We have to start talking about moving up the value chain,” said Blanke.

Development economics cannot be separated from geo-politics

Honorary President of the Network of Farmer Organisations and Producers of West Africa (Roppa) said African countries already attempted to industrialise when they gained independence. However, this failed as a result of interventions by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who put pressure on African states to “privatise, liberalise the economy and open up our borders”.

“The first act of structural adjustment was to reverse this [industrialisation] and bring us to our knees. It was a revolution that could not be accepted. This bank [AfDB] is an example. This was an African bank, now we have non-Africans as shareholders,” said Mamadou.

Mamadou added that multinational companies come together and remove what Africa creates. He said it was not normal that west Africa produced cotton yet it  buys material from China.

“At start of independence, we made everything here. We are in global partnerships and our partners do not want us to succeed. We should be producing, processing and selling finished products,” he said.

He said African economies have to move focus from commodities and beneficiation because those resources are close to depletion but should rather focus on growing SMEs and developing them.

“We must focus on local development and create  territorial markets. They are putting robots in the factories, we need to put young people in the factories,” said Mamadou.

Coulidiati- Kielem was in agreement.

She said like Europe after World War II, Africa needs a programme like the Marshall Plan that allowed Europe to develop itself.

She said structuring programmes such as the development of small and medium enterprises and industries (SMMEs/SMMIs) were essential and would enable communities in African countries to develop organically, in the way they should.

The Marshall Plan was the post-World War II reconstruction of Western Europe where U.S President Harry Truman assigned $13 billion (approximately $130 billion in 2017/2018)  to Europe in the years 1948-51.

Economic historians James Bradford De Long and Barry Eichengreen explain how the Marshall Plan helped restart Europe’s economy after World War II. They say the plan “significantly sped Western European growth by altering the environment in which economic policy was made”.

A project carrying these ethos is already being implemented in Côte d’Ivoire after successful implementation in the Turi Goda village of Ethiopia and  the Kinseki II, Mbungu, Menga and Kinsendi villages of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A development community project

In his paper, Saemaul Undong (New Community Movement): Korea’s National Community Development for Rural Modernization,  Professor  Do Hyun Han explains the Saemaul Undong model, also known as the New Community Movement, as a political initiative launched on April 22, 1970 by South Korean president Park Chung-hee,

Chung-hee wanted to modernize the rural South Korean economy, which in 1970 was in absolute poverty. The movement was based on communism and initially sought to rectify the growing disparity of the standard of living between the nation’s urban centres and the small villages.

Han wrote that the Saemaul Undong fundamentally transformed rural South Korea in the 1970s.

“The average income of farm households increased by more than 8 times from 1970 to 1979. The rate of absolute poverty dropped from 27.9% in 1970 to 9.0% in 1980.

“The straw-thatched roofs – the symbol of rural poverty – were replaced with tiles or slates.

“The rural electrification rate increased from 20% in 1970 to 98% in 1977. Drinking water supply system was substantially improved.

Most notably, with the expansion of village roads and bridges built by themselves, villagers saw buses or cars coming into their villages for the first time,” said Han.

The same results are beginning to show in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire.

A partnership between the AfDB, the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Trust Fund (Koafec) and Agence Nationale d’Appui au Developpement Rural (Anader) has transformed two villages in Yamoussoukro: N’gbekro village and Zatta village.

In N’gbekro village, an irrigation dam has been built; a primary school with 12 latrines; a medical centre; four hectares of cassava farms and a poultry farm. Zatta village also has its own primary school, cassava and tomato farms and houses headquarters for the village microfinance operations.

“It took us two years to start and finish the projects in Yamoussoukro. People have moved from mud houses to brick houses. They sell their own produce to the greater Côte d’Ivoire. They have access to new markets. Their children go to school,” said Oladokun.

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