Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs

By Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst

Published By Penguin Books (2012)

ISBN 978-0-14-353882-0

MANY narratives have been proffered concerning the plight of Africa. 

Ironically, most of the narratives do not dispute that Africa is a rich continent, blessed with abundant natural resources.

Besides the natural resources, Africa also possesses a strong, vibrant and capable human resource.

No one can talk about Africa without citing a country like DRC which boasts an array of minerals such as gold, diamonds, uranium and coltan but sadly a country with poor people.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, boasts more than 50 minerals, but is struggling to boost its economy. 

According to some of the studies, the sad part is, Africa is the same continent making headlines of how poverty, unemployment, poor governance, corruption, wars and terrorism are hindering development. 

The bottom line is, there are a number of factors that contribute much to underdevelopment of Africa, but it is important to take note of some that are cited in the book under review this week.

Titled Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs, the book is a brainchild of two authors Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst.

In the book, the authors argue Africa has gone through two liberations that consist the first which resulted from colonial and racist regimes and the second from the autocrats who often followed foreign rule.

The gist of the authors’ arguments in the book is Africans must focus on the third liberation which is about promoting economic growth in their countries.

They try to tackle the question of how Africa can accelerate its economic development towards more jobs and less poverty.

To achieve that, the book suggests that Africa must move from experiences in which most of its economies are hampered by corruption, nepotism and, most importantly, the exclusion of citizens in political, social and economic development.

Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs is a book that clearly spells out reasons stalling some of the countries in Africa from economically developing.

“Resource-led growth not only makes building a state through a widespread tax net and base difficult, but complicates the ability of the state to create a single society in which all citizens feel they are making a worthwhile contribution,” write Hills and Herbst.

Interesting is that the authors say one of the major challenges in Africa is the high rate of unemployment of youths.

Their argument likens Africa’s youths to their forefathers who were forced to develop Europe and America during the Transatlantic slave trade, about five-and-a-half centuries ago.

If the high rate of unemployment continues, youths can be forced by the bad economic environment to offer their services to developed nations.

“Without the right environment and opportunities, Africa’s youth will most likely become a powerful destabilising force, especially in the cities — but not just on the continent, as many inevitably (and with good reason) seek succour elsewhere, notably in Europe,” write the authors.

In other words, their argument points to the youths as the future of Africa.

Arguments raised in the book remind the readers that despite being rich in mineral resources, Africa is considered one of the poorest continents as a result of poor implementation of policies that do not open avenues for growth.

Examples of different sub–Saharan countries given in the book clearly highlight where Africa is getting it wrong.

Mills and Herbst have this to say concerning economic growth of some countries in Africa: “It is also the case that some of the small countries (notably Botswana, Mauritius and Seychelles) owe much of their economic success to good governance.

It is also the case that the largest sub-Saharan African countries have done relatively poorly .

The DRC, with 64 million people, is among the very poorest.

Malawi remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with three-quarters of the population living on less than US$1 a day.

Yet donors do not offer the long-term solution to Malawi’s plight. 

The country’s fundamental overall challenge is that it imports more than it exports, that government spends at least 25 percent more than it gets from taxes though the tax burden is already high, and that it lives on the charity of others.”

To the authors, solutions to Africa’s problems are initiated within a country and it is through enacting viable policies that can make the third liberation possible for Africa.

Mills and Herbst also point out that Africa needs to ape Asian and Middle-East countries that have impressive economic performance.

However, this generalisation is contentious.

“While Israel’s external image has been dominated by pictures of conflict and perceptions of injustice, internal progress has been due to smart development,” note Mills and Herbst.

“In agriculture, for example, Israelis have used technology to reduce water usage and increase output and higher-yield crops to increase both volumes and financial sales values.

Although it depends on imports for nearly all of its raw materials, from oil to diamonds, Israel has become a global industrial hub.”

Indeed, as much as some African countries believe in homegrown remedies for their economies, it is imperative to look at how other developed nations achieved success on the economic front. 

Africa’s third liberation is long overdue.

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