Africa and its partners: building alliances for sustainable development
Sustainable development and peace in the world depend on economic and political developments in Africa. Cooperation with Africa has gained importance in recent months in Germany and Europe. During the general elections in Germany and France in 2017, the German G20 Presidency or the preparations for the Africa-EU summit in November 2017 a key topic will be how cooperation with Africa could be reformed and made more sustainable. Until December 2017 we will discuss with leading policy experts, academics, business and media representatives from Africa, Europe and beyond the following questions: What are relevant trends that would support sustainable developments in Africa? How should cooperation with African governments, African regional organisations and African societies be organised to enable sustainable development?
Seldom is the African market discussed in terms of an opportunity for international cooperation. As long as Europe and the USA subsidise their agriculture, African farmers have no place within the European markets. A stable middle class struggles to develop in consequence. Germany and Europe could help trigger a turnaround if processes of endogenous development were supported by economic measures and technological and research collaborations.
Does democracy promote economic growth? An immense body of literature already exists on this topic but there is, as yet, no hard consensus among scholars and policymakers alike about the general link between democracy and growth. This question is particularly relevant to sub-Saharan Africa—a region where two broad trends of fast economic growth and democratization concurrently happened over the past two decades.
The next EU-Africa summit is due to take place in Abidjan in November. This requires a vision of peaceful, legal partnership with and for each other. This can only be the creation of self-supporting economic development in Africa. Although development cooperation has a catalytic function here, private investments are decisive. In this case, it is advisable to ask oneself the following: which elements of mutual interest can and should we change? The EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements with African countries and country groups should be named in this context as an example.
All low-income countries have the potential for dynamic economic growth. We know this because we have seen it happen repeatedly: a poor, agrarian economy transforms itself into a middle- or even high-income urban economy in one or two generations. The key is to capture the window of opportunity for industrialization arising from the relocation of light manufacturing from higher-income countries. That was true in the past and remains true for Africa today.
Traditionally strategies aimed at accelerating economic development in Africa have focused on strengthening domestic resource mobilization and attracting more external capital to fill the large financing gaps faced by the continent. Much less attention has been paid to the illicit export of Africa’s capital – capital flight. This approach has perpetuated Africa’s dependence on external financing while ‘normalizing’ the plunder of Africa’s wealth through unfair trade and illicit financial flows.