African leaders still trying to reinvent the wheel.

Author:Davies, Desmond
Position:Book review



16.99 [pounds sterling] HURST PUBLISHERS

Many African countries are still mired in old economic systems based on commodities instead of planning for a rapidly changing continent. Desmond Davies reviews a new book that provides an analysis of the region's economic fault lines and how to address them.

It is not going to be business as usual, they warn, if leaders fail to grasp the magnitude of three major challenges that Africa will face by 2045: a doubling of its population to two billion; rapid urbanisation, with more than half of this figure living in cities; and young people under the age of 25 making up the bulk of this burgeoning urban population.

The authors of Making Africa Work--Greg Mills, Jeffrey Herbst, Olusegun Obasanjo (former President of Nigeria) and Dickie Davis, all experts in their own right--believe that if African leaders plan properly for these momentous changes, they could positively alter the socioeconomic climate in their countries. But if they cannot provide economic growth and jobs, the social and political repercussions will be catastrophic. So, if these leaders want to stay in power, the authors say, they will have to find a more dynamic means of promoting growth.

Making Africa Work, to a large extent, provides solid examples of how African leaders should go about changing the face of their countries. This handbook does not contain abstract ideas; it is replete with practical examples of how other countries have extricated themselves from socio-economic poverty. Take, for example, the city of Medellin in Colombia. It once had the highest rates of violent crime in the world, with nearly 7,000 murders a year when drug baron Pablo Escobar was operating in the early 1990s.

When President Alvaro Uribe came to power in 2002, he introduced innovative security arrangements that reduced violent crime, while at the same time introducing a massive urbanisation programme that changed the face of the city.

The authors note: "Medellin was, not too long ago, synonymous with a level of anarchy that even the most challenged African cities have yet to achieve. However, a dedicated government with a comprehensive security, economic and infrastructure plan was able to turn around a situation that many had deemed hopeless. The critical ingredients are the recognition [of] the severity of the situation and the leadership taking responsibility for...

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