Barter trade: A marshal plan for Africa’s development

Economies of African countries have remained static for decades, and, to some extent, some have had to decline as a result of multilateral factors that have played major role in bringing these economies almost to a halt.

Economies of African countries have remained static for decades, and, to some extent, some have had to decline as a result of multilateral factors that have played major role in bringing these economies almost to a halt.

Among other factors one would to this decline, include political reasons that created an unfavourable atmosphere that gave birth to an insecure business climate.

These political issues can sometimes result in wars, sporadic lootings, corruption, absence of judicial application, poor service delivery, financial shifting mainly from African continent to the western world, and brain drain.

The export of agricultural goods whose values have not been added, and agricultural subsidies that the western farmers had been enjoying, have made agricultural produce from Africa more expensive than the ones produced from western Europe, the United States of America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The subsidies allotted to western farmers, which are not paid back to their governments by recipient farmers hurt African farmers.

African farmers do not have any financial backing, and, as a result, their produce has to be very expensive and less competitive on the global market.

This implies that African farmers have been subjected to perpetual financial loses vis-à-vis their western counterparts.

Agriculture today remains the primary source of income in Africa, yet failure to get proportional costs keeps the farming industry lagging behind.

This means that Africa can not be in a better place to develop other sectors, because of the vicious cycle that has existed throughout the post independence era.

Many economies have been isolated from the international political economy so they have been relatively unaffected by global booms.

Economic interaction with neighbouring states – including trading with the international community – has often been very limited as well.

They have been reliant upon the export of a hand full of commodities, and the import of refined petroleum products and consumer goods from prosperous countries.

Many African economies now face the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation more than ever before.

In order to evict any unprecedented shortcomings, a structural adjustment programme which includes, among others, exchanging goods for goods to bridge the gap that exists in trade is necessary for diversity and vibrancy.

Otherwise an unfair trade which has always victimised Africa will continue.

Despite the negative impact of trade barriers, particularly in the agricultural sector where African producers are restricted from exporting many goods to industrial nations, global tariffs and duties are gradually falling, while new techniques to transfer operations are making it much easier for some companies in some parts of the world continue to affect Africa.

Even the most optimistic observer can’t hide the fact that huge problems encountered by the continent, including abject poverty, the impact of HIV/Aids, and the incessant conflicts that have locked the continent for a lengthy period of time, are still lingering in almost every country.

African politics and economies, however, are in a healthier state compared to five or ten years back.

This has contributed greatly towards its stability. Economic growth across the continent is now averaging 5 per cent per year, the highest level in eight years.

Real progress has been made on debt relief and the international community is at least far more interested in the continent’s problems.

Africa’s decision makers have a genuine cause in rising to the challenge that requires innovations to strengthen indigenous sources of entrepreneurship, investment and financing, and tapping new markets across the globe.

The target of the eight industrialised nations is to help Africa take off in the path of development.

But this requires pragmatism rather than mere rhetoric, which comes out whenever international meetings take place.

Let the intended help from the developed world kick-start the enhancement of African growth and investment flow to Africa, with an aim of creating harmony between African countries and external stake holders.

This is possible with proper utilisation of the continent’s available natural resources, and foreign investments on a large scale, as was done Germany after the Second World War.

Reduction of rates that relate to patent rights will also help enable Africa to build her industrial capacity on a gradual basis.

Basic and relevant training will improve the present economic mire so that African academics, on the completion of their courses, will be made to serve for duration of at least six years in order to patch the hole that has been draining the continent of her professionals.

A conducive working atmosphere that attracts professionals, and considerable numbers of local professionals, will have to remain back home, helping to boost African economies.

All the factors mentioned above, coupled with the homemade system of barter trade, will rejuvenate Africa’s development, though mainly lack of value addition to locally produced goods, such as mineral resources, and agricultural produce traded in their natural form, have been used as scapegoat in order to bring about biasness, hence rendering them valueless.

The philosophy of barter trade can be initiated on some level of a pilot scheme, thereafter adhering to the same if it is economically viable.                              

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