Africa and the Changing Dynamics of Global Realpolitik (By Babatunde Fagbayibo)

Posted: August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized
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We are indeed living in interesting times. No one, not even the avowed critics of the neo-liberal politico-economic global system, could have accurately predicted the current economic problems in the developed world. Writing in the September/October 2011 edition of the Foreign Policy Magazine, Mohamed El-Erian aptly surmised the state of things: “Who would have thought just 18 months ago that a member of the eurozone, the most elite club of economies in Europe, could have worst credit rating than Pakistan? … Two other eurozone countries (Ireland and Portugal), meanwhile, are already in Europe’s intensive care unit, receiving bailout … And who would have thought that a rating agency would dare question the sacred AAA rating of the United States, the sole supplier of global public goods such as the international reserve currency (the dollar) and a financial system that serves as the nexus of international flow? … And who would have thought that the same country (the US), which is renowned for its flexible labour markets and dynamic entrepreneurship, would experience a persistently high unemployment rate?”

And to add to El-Erian’s observation, who would have thought that the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoelick, will markedly assert that the “hope of the world’s economic recovery will have to be from emerging markets”? Despite the economic crises in Europe and the US, the GDP of emerging economies continue to grow at an appreciable pace, with analysts forecasting higher growth rates. China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia are gradually changing the status quo of the global economic system. The sustained rise of emerging economies will have substantial impacts on the restructuring of the global governance structure (political and economic) and the enhancement of the socio-economic conditions of their citizenry. The question to ask at this point is the extent to which Africa fits into this plan. In other words, will there be a change in Africa’s current periphery status in global realpolitik?

Africa’s economies have enjoyed impressive growth rates in the past decade. According to the Economist Magazine, from 2000-2010, six of the ten world’s fastest growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2000 and 2008, Africa’s annual growth rate averaged 4.9%. Although political events in North Africa has ensured that Africa’s 4.9% economic growth rate in 2010 will drop to 3.7% in 2011, there is an expectation that it will accelerate to 5.8% in 2012. Political stability in many African countries, rising value of commodities, China’s (and other emerging markets) investments, and on-going economic reforms are some of the factors that have contributed to the growth of Africa’s economies.

Riel Malan argues that the current economic crises in the developed world present Africa with the golden opportunity to increase its importance in global economy. Africa’s potential to play a meaningful role in global realpolitik is not in doubt. The problem is whether African governments and policy-makers are prepared to create, and genuinely, implement the key fundamentals for achieving this goal. In this respect, the task should be the channelling of positive factors such as a growing youth population, technology innovation, and the rising prices of natural resources into creating a sustainable and prosperous socio-economic environment. Impressive growth rates are meaningless if the economic conditions of the masses remain dire. In addition, economic policies are better achieved within the framework of sound principles of good governance and the effective management of the economy.

As emerging economies begin to take a more assertive role in a changing global order, Africa cannot afford to be left behind. The positive report on Africa’s growth potential is a good thing but it should only be considered within the context of a bigger picture of what can be achieved if there is a serious commitment to developmental goals. The enhancement of Africa’s stature in global realpolitik will thus be determined by the ability of its leaders to make the foregoing sentence a national and regional creed.

Follow this writer on twitter @BabsFagbayibo


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