An Essay on the World Bank’s Objective of “Ending Poverty and Ensuring that Future Generations Share in Broader Prosperity”: African Perspective.
Eleanya K. Nduka
The World Bank is determined to achieve its twin goals of "ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity - and ensuring that future generations share in broader prosperity". These goals elude Africa due to the usual politics that surrounds policy implementation in the region. The major challenges facing African countries are corruption and rent-seeking by the ruling class. The ruling few who belong to different cabals flaunt economic power. Only their members get access to government contracts and bank loans with kickbacks. Due to mismanagement of these economies, governments rely heavily on aids from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund respectively. Thus, majority of them have accumulated debts and mortgaged the unborn generations. They can be said to be eating their tomorrow today and would go hungry tomorrow (which is already taking place).
This situation has given rise to different economic strata and widening inequality. It is common to see individuals (mostly the poor) with promising innovative and entrepreneurial skills denied access to funds needed to actualize their ideas. Hence, two different “worlds” exist: world of the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The “have-nots” are determined to cater for themselves through struggle, but do not have the enabling environment to thrive. On the other hand, progeny of the elite on the average are lazy and unproductive. These individuals rely heavily on the wealth already accumulated by their parents, while the majority are living in penury. Employees are being owed salaries, thereby increasing their economic hardship. This gives rise to persistent vicious circle of poverty that is very difficult to break.
However, according to the Bank, “citizens around the world are already driving change in their communities and developing innovative ideas to address some of the toughest challenges their country face”. Suffice it to say that due to political upheavals, socio-economic problems, corruption and terrorism rampant in these societies, their impacts are rarely felt. Furthermore, with stagflation, inequality, and poverty dominant in many of them, the following questions arise: Would African economies be able to end poverty by 2030 in line with the Bank’s goals? Will the future generations be able to afford quality food, quality health care and education? Answers to these questions give insight into why many migrate from these countries on daily basis and do not dream of returning. There is so much suffering in Africa, people are subjected to health hazards and harsh economic conditions. The most vulnerable individuals such as women, children, and the unemployed die on daily basis due to starvation and diseases. Moreover, many youths are running berserk, especially young men who are frustrated by the system and resort to smoking and alcoholism. Many have been lured into terrorism, robbery, and “gangsterism”. These are individuals that would have contributed immensely to the productive capacities of the nations. Little wonder these economies are tagged volatile for investment. Many foreign investors have withdrawn their investments. As a result, foreign direct investment (FDI) continues to dwindle in these economies.
It is noteworthy too that their life expectancies are far less than that of the developed countries. For instance, according to the World Development Indicators (WDI), life expectancies of North America, Latin America & Caribbean, South Asia, and Central Europe & the Baltics are 79.08, 75.1, 68.4 and 77.0 respectively, while that of sub-Saharan Africa is 58.9. On the average, majority of citizens from some of the region live on less than $2 per day. Amidst these problems is global warming which has caused more extreme weather and food crisis. It also contributes to the death of many people. For instance, famine and flooding have killed many this region.
Again, according to the World Bank, “it will take a global movement to end poverty, and in supporting and working alongside stakeholders around the world, the Bank can fully realize the twin goals.”
In sum, to achieve a certain level of these objectives there are pertinent pre-conditions that should be met: Firstly, enabling environment should be created for those with excellent innovative ideas to thrive. This includes policies that can tackle the problem of weak institution, poor electricity, insecurity, non-access to credit facility, poor road networks, lack of adequate entrepreneurship training, skill acquisition and mentoring, among others. This is due to the fact that innovations and entrepreneurship are the main drivers of development. The success stories of the “Asian tigers” such as Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and North Korea can be traced back to innovations and entrepreneurship. Secondly, the private sector should be strengthened to become independent of the government to an extent, while still increasing public-private partnership (PPP). In many of these countries there is no well-organized and efficient private sector. What is common is “private sector of government friends”. When any politician is visiting a place all the purportedly private sector players will be seen clinging around them. This second condition is informed by the fact that it is mainly the private sector that drives the economies of developed countries such as Switzerland, United States, Britain, Canada, France, amongst others. Finally, one of the major challenges facing governments of Africa is persistent policy change and somersault. The governments should have consistent policies, projects and programmes that are independent of change of government (administration). Governments’ should ensure that projects and programmes are sustainable and there should be effective monitoring and evaluation framework. These recommendations, among others if implemented can aid to reduce poverty and inequality in Africa.