Tackling inequalities through structural transformation | ACORD Learning Forum
Economically, is Africa rising or bleeding? This was the question posed by Aidan Eyakuze, associate regional director of the Society for International Development (SID) and head of the SID Tanzania office during his keynote address at the start of ACORD’s Learning Forum.
“Africa has been growing tremendously fast,” he said. “The growth pattern shows us as a primary producer of primary commodities and minerals which strengthens new forms of colonial exploitation of African resources to the benefit of limited Africa elites. Africa is expected to feed the world but continues to fail to feed itself.”
Eyakuze said the domains of inequality are political, social and economic, across social groups, locations and within social groups and domains. He wondered whether socially, Africans’ aspirations are growing faster than the opportunities. He noted that with growing technology, wealth was in everyone’s face, particularly through mobile phones and media. People are questioning why their lives are not similar to the images the see. This is a key factor in the rising violence and crime and growing insecurity.
Politically, electoral autocracy is on the rise. He noted that ballot box democracy in the face of social exclusion and economic disempowerment was not altering the political course.
“There is a significant diversion of public resources for private benefit by the economic and political powers,” said Eyakuze.
He pointed to the shrinking democratic space, giving the examples of attempts to domesticate civil society organisations and challenges to independent media, as well as corruption and impunity as further triggers of inequality.
“There is widening social gaps. The cities look beautiful with new buildings coming up but majority of the people have little money in their pockets. This is the ‘winner takes all’ scenario that is prevalent in Africa right now.”
The growth that Africa is facing looks good on paper but the head-count of those under the poverty line is growing. He gave the example of Tanzania that has an increasing number of US dollar millionaires in the country. Currently, 5,800 US dollar millionaires in Tanzania are responsible for 16 per cent of the GDP.
“If Warren Buffet walked into a bar with nine unemployed people, the average income in the room rises to millions of dollars. When he leaves, the average falls back to zero.”
Eyakuze said that CSOs and governments had been having aspirational discussions at national, regional and global levels that had developed national visions and development plans, such as the AU Vision 2063 and the post-2015 agenda. However, he noted that key programmes such as PIDA and global negotiations such as EPA are not aligned to the new narrative of structural transformation. He further noted that African countries were creating resource bubbles by prematurely mortgaging their countries against future revenues from natural resources like gas and oil.
“The dissatisfaction with the status quo particularly by the middle class, the attractiveness of alternatives and the clarity of the path to be taken to reduce inequalities have to be bigger than the pain of change.”
The two-day forum kicked off September 25 in Naivasha, Kenya with the theme “Working with national governments in tackling inequalities through structural transformation.”