Can African nations follow China's and India's route to economic success?

Mxolisi Ncube says Africa should look to its economic partners China and India on how to fight graft and widen trade beyond commodities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 November, 2015, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 November, 2015, 4:40pm

Africa has shifted its focus East as it seeks to shake off unending poverty and decades of overreliance on the West for both trade and developmental aid. China and India have in turn committed to giving the continent wings, but only political will, or lack thereof, will determine how high each individual African country will soar on the world economic horizon.

READ MORE: Africa ascendant although problems linger

Over the years, Western countries have used aid from the Bretton Woods institutions to try and arm-twist African countries into adopting political reforms and governance principles favoured by the West, but few African governments will argue that all of those conditions are entirely unwarranted.

Good governance - including visionary planning and the implementation of effective economic recovery measures - also needs to take top priority

Admittedly, some of the so-called grave sociopolitical and economic conditions in Africa have been magnified beyond measure , but very little of that commentary has been pulled out of thin air. That, therefore, calls for introspection and new measures by African governments, as the continent embraces the opportunities brought by India and China .

Amid the pomp and fanfare of signing new trade and loan deals, governments should also copy the most successful models that have catapulted China and India into becoming two of the fastest-growing world economies.

African countries must move away from using loan money to pay civil servants, buy armoured vehicles for security forces and pamper politicians as they buy votes, to instead laying proper economic foundations that will yield sustainable sources of government revenue.

Endemic corruption in both the public and private sectors needs be stopped and China has set a good example of how this can be done. African governments could copy such a model, which leaves no room for sacred cows and punishes those caught on the wrong side of the law. Merely firing corrupt officials is not enough.

READ MORE: China's model for sustainable investment in Africa

Good governance - including visionary planning and the implementation of effective economic recovery measures - also needs to take top priority. Only if all trade and loan proceeds are used to spur production, establish new industries and recapitalise old ones, can the continent achieve goals set out in the African Union's Agenda 2063.

While trading in commodities is one of the age-old practices that have kept Africa afloat, it is high time countries took advantage of their newfound relations, especially with China, to learn and trade in skills development that will produce inventors of the many African graduates. Invention is, after all, one sure-fire way of driving an economy.

Mxolisi Ncube is a Zimbabwean-born journalist who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes on mainly politics, human rights and developmental issues