AFRICA'S POSITION IN THE 4TH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

Obasan Taiwo James-Yakub
Department of Economics,
University of Lagos, Nigeria.

Introduction
Jean Bodin (1576) said, 'Men of fat and fertile soil, are most commonly effeminate and cowards, whereas those of barren lands..... Careful, vigilante and industrious. Though he opined that more than four centuries ago, his assertions are right and is evidence in the happenings around the world.

In a world full of diversities and inequalities in resources sharing, countries like Japan, China, India, UK, USA and a host of other with little or no resources have shown their advancement in economy over oil and other valuable resources rich countries which mostly now constitute the Third or developing world.

Though colonialism, wars and other excuses may have been given for their failures, it is not a match to what their laziness, overdependence on their rich and fertile soils has contributed to their slow development. The question is why a land filled with milk and honey will simultaneously be identical to poverty, inequalities and slow development.

Today, Africa has 10% of Worlds oil with more untapped, 40% of worlds gold, 90% of worlds diamond, 60% of worlds total land not under cultivation (600m ha.) but 50% live below $1.25 per day. Africa as a whole can not only boast of a vast natural resources but also of increasing consumption class and young labour force due to it's vast increasing population growth. All these should normally be expected to yield good such as more investment, higher standards of living and more productivity but it has thus far produced bad such as low income earnings, unemployment etc.

Every government has taken politics has a battle of do or die and winner takes all to the extent that most tend to focus on politicking over the economy. The economy of the region has now been left to an autopilot with every opportunist lichen reaping its fruits into his basket of bazaar.
To justify this, Claude Oke addressing the Nigerian Political Science Association in 1981 observed;
We (Africans) are intoxicated with politics; the premium on political power is so high that we (Africans) are prone to take the most extreme measures to win and maintain political power.....

I believe this is the time when African as a whole should rise up and face the realities that though resources is key in globalisation, it must move its economy past it.

According to Peter Mandelson (2008), a former EU Trade Commissioner, the next phase of globalisation will be defined by pressure for access to basic resources.....
Africa needs to shift away from both the neo mercantilist ideology of China and the Orthodox mercantilist ideologies of Europe, Africa needs to draw its own ideologies by examining its history and understand its people and environment. Africa needs to start using its vast resources to develop itself and boost its productivity. Rapt industrialization is needed as a matter of urgency to raise the region's economy from just a tool for world's industrialization but a partaker in the industrialization activities.

How it started?
Africa and its many identical problems have long been courting centuries before its came in touch with the Europeans or its later colonialism. Though, on a personal note, I do not subscribe to the popular excuse of blaming the rest of the world for its tragedies but for the sake of intellectual illumination, I will not hesitate to explore that angle. It is a general believe amidst the economists’ circle that a normal economy ought to grow from Agrarian to Industrial to Service but that has not been the case of African countries with exception to South Africa.

Africa was predominantly agrarian due to its vast endowment of tropical forests and arable lands but at the advent of the Europeans, (been the same time with most European Industrial Revolution, Mercantilism and rise of capitalism) all they needed was more service workers and cheap raw materials for their growing industries.
As much as they were preocuppied with filling the empty spaces on their maps noted as terra cognito, they were also hungry for external land occupation that could be used as their annex and discoveries of new raw materials. Most Europeans like the Royal Niger Company decided to stay on ground to train and employ for service provisions as no local was seen fit for technical trainings.

Also, the partition of Africa without considering its people too has been said to be the reason for the instability and inequality rampant in the region. An evidence is vivid in its biggest and largest economy, Nigeria, which before its amalgamation and independence comprises of people with diverse economic systems, ideologies and theories. The North, largely Muslim and Hausa-speaking accustomed to a feudal system of government run by Fulani ruling class. Martin Meredith described how pathetic this is in his book Fate of Africa by noting that "both Hausa and Fulani looked disdainfully on the people of the South". He quoted a principal leader of the North, Sardauna of Sokoto on visit to Lagos for the first time in 1949 that he (Sardauna) observed "The Whole Place (Southern Nigeria) was alien to our ideas and we found the members of the other regions might well belong to another world as far as we were concerned."
The West, which included the then capital, Lagos, was dominated by the Yoruba, who traditionally had been organized into a number of states ruled by kingly chiefs. Because of their early contact with Europeans and long experience of city life, the Yoruba had progressed far in education, commerce and administration and absorbed a high degree of Western skills. In the Eastern region, on the other side of the Niger river, the Igbo, occupying the poorest, most densely populated region of Nigeria, had become the best educated population, swarming out of their homeland to find work elsewhere as clerks, artisans, traders and labourers, forming sizeable minority groups in towns across the country. Their growing presence there created ethnic tensions both in the North and among the Yoruba in the West. Unlike the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba, the Igbo possessed no political kingdom and central authority but functioned on the basis of autonomous village societies, accustomed to a high degree of individual assertion and achievement. In addition there were some 250 ethnic minority groups, each with its own language, occupying distinct territories, amounting in total to one-third of the population.
There was also an immense development gap between the North and the two Southern regions. At independence, after expanding its education system, the North, with 54 per cent of the population, still produced less than 10 per cent of the country's primary school enrolments and less than 5 per cent of secondary enrolments. Only fifty-seven students at the University College in Ibadan out of a total of more than one thousand came from the North. The shortfall in qualified Northerners meant that many government positions were filled by highly educated Southerners, notably Igbos. On a national level, barely 1 per cent of Nigerian officials in higher executive posts were Northerners. A constant fear in the North was that its own traditions and conservative way of life would be undermined by Southern encroachment; the ruling aristocracy in particular were determined to protect their own position against radical change.
Nigeria is not the only country with this kind of fundamental problem, a sizeable number of African countries share this same problem and this has best explain why there has been so much turmoil and economic instability in the region.

These grew with Africa and decades after the last presence of colonialists on its land and it has not been able to develop its real sectors and sometimes find it difficult to stabilize it.

New Scramble?
Africa became prominent and important at the wake of first industrial revolution when Britain and most of its European counterparts needed both resources in raw materials and human labour to boost their trading and industrial activities. That led to the first Scramble for Africa. Again, Africa has just gained so much prominence in the world with almost synonymous speeches from Europe leaders just like said by EU Commissioner for Development in 2011 and Cecelia Rhodes in the first industrial revolution, the former opined that "Africa has become a sought after continent... Thanks to its strategic importance. Today Africa really matters". And the later famous for his Parliamentary speech on debate on Africa's occupation; "I contend that we (Europeans) are the first race on earth and the more we occupy, the better for the world.
Both speeches may be said to differ but the contextual meaning of Cecelia Rhodes' has turned Africa not only to Europe's backyard but a service dominated economy. The EU Commissioner for Development quote has further strengthened the NEW Scramble for Africa and its resources. This time around not through occupation or colonialism but neocolonialism, imperialist, hegemonic ideologies which have been propagated through aids and other economic relations.

China, India, Brazil and other emerging nations has always turned to Africa for its raw materials, China's noninterference policies which sometimes promotes political instabilities and other vices. China got over 2,126% of Africa's export between 1998 and 2006 and has 13.8 % of its outward investment from 2005 to 2010 in Africa. China paramount aim in the region is not of real development but to be seen as an alternative to the supposed policy-stringent EU and US, therefore increasing its recognition towards emerging as world power. China does not concern itself with the welfare of citizens, instabilities, human rights or proper democracy of the region as long as its investments yielded profits and will have access to the region’s raw materials. China is also famous for its Africa infrastructure developmental aids aimed at boosting African governments’ confidence in the Forbidden City. These infrastructure development aids are left in the hands of its companies lying all over the continent which is definitely not only an addition to its GNP but also an increase of Beijing's presence in Africa. China has a great advantage due to its ability to coordinate its business, aid and diplomacy in African's terms and not in a father-son top down approach as seen in the EU countries' approaches.

Europe in response to China continual growth in Africa came up with RMI (raw material initiative) and Contonou Agreement. Though the RMI has not been very successful due to its pursuance of some policies not so convenient for African leaders and the unabated competition from China, it has tried to help ex colonial masters retain presence in their ex colonies. These is evident in the France and its African colonies diplomatic relation which is cooked in neocolonialism and imperialism, and has also affects how those ex colonies relates with other African countries and the world at large. This has not been so favourable to these countries even though has continuously been using Paris CFA as currency but still lag behind in development compared to their almost liberal neighbors.

China's noninterference policies like Look East policy sometimes seems to be the best way to do business in Africa but is it really helping Africa? But another cogent question is that despite Western criticism of China helping autocrats hold onto power, and preaching democracy and stability in good governance, are their companies not heavily involved in autocratic nations with little respect for human rights such as Paris policies of liberty, equality and fraternity towards oil rich African states.

Another prominent actor in the scramble for Africa is the US who has constantly seen China as a threat of world’s occupation. It has ravaging the continent like a wind and has also used incentives to make African countries let go of their natural endowments such as oil, platinum, diamonds and other strategic minerals. US has also followed the path of its counterparts by creating several agencies such as AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Acts), USAID among others. According to David Makwere & Ronald Chipaike (2012), this is a preferential trade arrangement that benefits selected products from eligible African countries by providing their duty free entry into American market.

The ongoing cold war and scramble for Africa has brought several developments and hazards to Africa and none of its harbingers should be tolerated. The new scramble has been veiled to appear as if to benefit Africa, Africa must move into full liberalism and fight against all odds of neocolonialism, imperialism and hegemony. Though this article is not aimed at creating enmity between the regions but is after the continents good and development.

The way out of scramble?
Africa should not just sit down and watch its world torn into pieces by these power gladiators, it should not just reduce itself to a tool of world's industrial revolutions but as an active actor in the revolution because evidence has shown that most industrial revolutions will not go through if Africa is left out.
If Africa must trade or receive aids, it should always ask that the pitiful aids turned into infrastructure development aids directly injected into construction of its developmental projects such as roads, railway lines, ICT, and as opined by David Makwere and Ronald Chipaike (2012) most importantly in the establishment of relevant and durable manufacturing and value addition infrastructure that also makes it possible for African countries to add value to their minerals and sell them at better prices.

African companies should also participate actively in the extraction an exploitation of raw materials in their own lands and these can be achieved through liberalization of certain strategic industries and subsidizing local industries where needed. They can also engage in joint ventures with the foreign countries for the purpose of exploitation and extraction. Its time Africa stand on its ground and get total control of its resources through policies and diplomacy.

Africa should also come together in one accord to help each other despite differences. The Africa Development Bank, Regional economic groups and institutions should be put to finance and help African countries with resources to extract and process their minerals into finished products. International lending organizations can also be approached for such loans and help but with assurance of flexible repayment plans and low interest rates. However, this must be done with so much transparency and accountability.

Though China, USA, EU may be seen as friends of the continent and its helpers, the continent should be much aware that the 4th Industrial revolution is just like any other. It will seem good at present and Africa will seem to be everyone's favourite until they all achieve their aims, then desert the continent leaving deep scars and chasms on the continent. Africa must be vigilant and call for real partnerships that will benefit both parties and its posterity will enjoy from it, this cannot be achieved through nationalistic approach but by real, non-parasitic and true partnership free.

The Within problems and solutions
Due to the surplus of nature endowed resources and occasional boom in their prices and demand, most African governments are lazy to plan, and diversify both the economy and its governmental revenues. A good example is Nigerian Federal Government that based well over 70% of its revenue on 10.8% of its GDP, this further explain the reason for its slow development because the rodent of corruption, favouritism and indiscipline has eaten the government rotten to the bench of Justice.

African governments need to do a real mapping out of their real sectors, then they will be able to determine what they really produce and which area of industrialization should be pursued.

Governments need to create policies to determine the industrial sub sector that needs immediate, medium term and long term based supports to enhance productivity and ease local manufacturers.

Rasheed Adegbenro, former acting DG of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria once opined in an interview with Punch Newspaper that (African) Government must have database of its industries' energy needs. He stressed that out by saying "....producers are the problem of government in the area of power. ...... Everybody builds factories that require energy and government does not have a database of energy rrequirement of industries. Everybody woke up one day and there was no light. Researchers have said if we (Nigeria) have 69,000 megawatts of power in the 2029, we (Nigeria) will be 15 years behind the world average".
That is to show how power and energy is highly cogent in any nation’s industrialization process. Just as blood is to life so is power to industrialization! Africa must find a way to either collectively or individually solve its erratic power problems. It has been a lacuna to the development of the region and prompt attention must be given to it because without solving the problem, industries will not be able to compete both internally and externally. Africa will not be able to earn much foreign exchange which will keep on putting pressure on local currencies, leading to its devaluation, low and decline in SME working capital and perpetual death of the sector. This will also transcend into influx of cheaper and smuggled goods, depression of market and low quality commodities into the region from comparatively advantaged countries like China and Brazil.

To some extent the lack of this underlying social infrastructure can also cause increase in social demeanors such as corruption because as local industries especially SMEs wants to edge out expenses so as to get raw materials and make profit despite devaluation of its currency, there will be much pressure on customs at the border to take bribes because of scarcity in the market and this will make the government to lose money in duties.
There is the need open Africa’s internal borders to reduce the cost of doing business across the continent. This may be seen as a threat to security nut if well managed can be a success like EU and the Europe Schengen Zone. To facilitate this, African countries need to be more united by leaving its diversity behind and cooperating in promoting major investments in transport infrastructure including roads, ports, internal container depots, inland water ways and railways are needed as well as increase in energy production capacity. The strides being made by national governments, regional and continental bodies in transforming Africa to a modern and growth-induced economy will be a positive step for global prosperity.

Paul Frimpong in his article titled Africa’s Infrastructure as catalyst for economic growth (2013) observed that Energy, water, sanitation, telecoms and transport have long been identified as a major setback to trade on the continent. Energy supply continues to be Africa’s largest infrastructure challenge with 30 countries experiencing frequent power outages with just over a third of Africa’s population having access to electricity. Poor infrastructure cost each member countries growth to reduce by two percentage point each year and cut productivity by as much as 40%. According to the World Bank about $93 billion is needed annually to be able to fund Africa’s infrastructure for the next 10 years. Which is about 15 percent of the region’s GDP. About $60 billion would go to new projects and the rest would go into the maintenance of the existing ones.
Infrastructure development and management is an aspect in which the efficient developments within a society rely heavily upon, and is the cornerstone for socio-economic development. The availability of infrastructure is of great importance in the realization of sustainable development desperately needed in Africa. Infrastructure development and management has become even more essential for Africa’s economic development and integration.

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Telling stories of Africa; her economics, history and politics | Bridging economic gaps by scaling traditional ideas & businesses with tech.

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