The Emerging Vectors of Integrative Development by Babatunde Fagbayibo

Posted: January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

African integration remains the subject of a plethora of work. Both the positive and negative trends have been considerably analysed, and need no repetition. At the heart of these analyses are national governments and their primary responsibility to exercise the requisite political will for achieving integrative objectives. Suffice to say that national governments have performed below the par in this respect. This negative trend has fostered nuanced measures of realising the salient objectives of regional integration. Chief of this is the increasing attention paid to the private sector as a vector for achieving integrating objectives. According to a 2013 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Report, “over the past decade, there has been an increase in private investment in infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa from $3 billion in 1997 to $12 billion in 2009”. The report further added that although there has been a decline in private sector commitment to infrastructure projects, private sector investment in telecommunications continue to increase. It then recommended that governments should explore innovative means such as developing bankable projects, enacting investor-friendly legislation and regulations, ensuring political stability, and having a highly trained and experienced team to negotiate with the private sector.

A more crucial sub-text is the rising influence of African companies and entrepreneurs, particularly the volume of their investments across the continent. From South Africa to Nigeria, Kenya to Tanzania, African businesses continue to expand the tentacles of their investment, thereby creating more jobs and opportunities across the continent. According to a 2013 Report by Ernst & Young, South African investments have created an accumulated 46,000 jobs across the continent. The Nigerian billionaire, Aliko Dangote, is also increasing the volume of his investment across Africa. He recently unveiled a 4 year plan to invest $ 16 billion dollars in cement, petrochemical and agriculture across Africa. These are positive developments, and are redefining the trajectory and shape of integrative development (or what some have called “developmental regionalism”) in Africa.

However, a major issue is the fact that these private sector involvement in integrative development are largely uncoordinated, a factor that continue to limit the extent of their potency. Beyond declarations and resolutions by regional institutions on the importance of the private sector, there has to be a well thought-out, concerted business plan that essentially identifies and coordinates the involvement of African conglomerates in issues pertaining to integrative development. A major step is to design a business-like integrative development plan. Beyond the emotive “African brotherhood” conception of African integration, political elites should channel energy into creating a durable and stable space for the private sector to operate in the matrix of regional integration. Such plan should lay out the thresholds of private sector participation at national and transnational levels, including the modicum of ownership of projects. Formulation and implementation of policies on trade and investment should also stipulate the modus of private sector involvement. The overriding aim is to synergise governmental plans with that of the private sector in achieving the crucial objectives of regional integration.

Given the depth of inaction and quantum of failed promises by African governments on the issue of regional integration, one can safely say that the business of regional integration is too delicate and advanced to be left solely to governments. It is high time that the table of 54 is expanded, to include the MTNs, Dangotes, and the Standard Banks of Africa.

Twitter: @babsfagbayibo

  1. Tolu A says:

    Very good article Prof…I wish the African governments (I can speak for Nigeria at least) were as civil as we wish, they have no clue of what development means they are greedy, development means their bank accounts getting bigger while they drive on bad roads and live in a mess without basic infrastructures. I definitely agree that development should be govt-private integrated without that the private sector would just make scattered impacts instead of concerted efforts which translates to organized developments. Lastly, I am sorry I am part of the Africans that point out what is bad and proffer no solution. However, in contribution to Prof Babs Fagbayibo’s point this is my 2 cents to all forward looking Gen X and Millennial Africans (especially people with political flair) – it is time to get involved in the government and public sectors. It is time to choose a career in the public sector or plan for your political aspirations. Posterity will challenge us and ask what we did to make sure our continent has a remarkable stance on this planet. It is time to join the public sector and lead a career free of corruption or plan to be in politics and start/join parties with ideologies that are aligned to serve the people right.

    • Well said Tolu. I think we need a new narrative of development in Africa. We have critical issues to address in Africa and little time to address them. Development cannot thrive on emotional rhetoric, it rests on making bold choices. We must start from somewhere, and an essential starting point is finding ways of involving all hands. The earlier we channel the energies of the Dangotes of Africa to the stream of development the better for us.

      • Dr. Abe Taye says:

        This is a great piece and an eye opener to integrated developmental programmes in Africa. I hope that the South West Regional integration facilitators in Nigeria would look into issues raised in this article and pursue the South West Regional Integration programme to a logical conclusion.

  2. krugamotion says:

    Interesting article. You are on to something here – dig deeper now 🙂

    • That is the intention. This topic needs to be fully explored. It is indeed one of the alternatives to the current stagnation. One could say that Tony Elumelu’s concept of “Africapitalism” encapsulates the sentiments expressed here.

  3. Douglas Mailula says:

    Quite a thought provoking piece indeed! Well said Tunde

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