Thursday, June 11, 2009

African Development Requires Active Government

The World Economic Forum on Africa is a gathering of political and business leaders to discuss global economic competitiveness. With good intentions, speakers like former U.N. chief Kofi Annan and Mozambican first lady Graca Machel are waging consistent efforts to lull foreign venture capitalists to invest in areas such as transport, communications, and agriculture. Their message is crystal clear. While Africa has it's share of bad news, there are positive developments that warrant a safer return on investment and hold the promise of a brighter future for the poor. But is that enough?

Market reforms and democratic governance are two necessary but insufficient pieces of the African development puzzle. Ultimately, governments in Africa must create effective state government structures which can promote socio-economic development. The weaknesses and vulnerabilities of African governments to formulate economic policies and programs that can reverse the deepening poverty trend in the continent are troubling. What Africa desperately needs today is a progressive discussion about the future of economic policy in the region. So far there has been little consensus in continent to ensure that political institutions are empowered to protect the public against market failures like wild fluctuations in the price of food or fuel, and provide essential needs like health care, housing, and jobs.

It would be great to see the World Economic Forum move the discourse from rhetoric about "good" governance to a more focused discussion on effective governance.

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