By Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba
trueFor the last two months, I have been engaged in an international project whose objective was to establish the factors that trigger and sustain growth and transformation of economies. As it were, I started enthusiastically to “devour” every literature I came across in regard to growth and “take off” of countries from rugs to respected economies.
Your guess as to where I started this journey to understand what developed and recently transformed countries have done to be where they are not difficult to ascertain. It is the recently transformed economies. Having read and internalized their transformation process, I made the following conclusions:
1. Growth and economic transformation are built on a national ethos.
This orientation clearly galvanised Malaysia. This country developed a national vision which the ruling regime “sold” to the people and the people “bought” the vision. The vision because a National artifact, the blood that run through the entire social fabric of the Malaysians to the extent that any deviations from this thinking almost tantamount to a capital offence. You would ask an old woman deep in a village in Malaysian an equivalent of (Kalangala or Dodoth in Karamoja in Uganda), why one would be grazing cattle? The answer would be proudly “I am grazing these cattle in order to transform Malaysia to a developed country in 30yrs! This answer would be affirmatively and emphatically given as the reason for any activity carried out by anybody whether educated or not, whether engaged in formal or informal activity. This simply shows the level of “buy-in” and mobilisation of the population toward achieving the national objective and direction of state policy.
2. Lack of linkage between plans, performance indicators and Budgets.
I have traversed a number of countries in Africa and this is one of the major planning defects. Since the era of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), many a country in Africa has been engaged in developing regular Sector Investment Plans (SIPs). In Uganda, for examples, we have Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP), Education Investment Plan (EIP) among others, which are very good strategic plans. However, one major defect of these sector investment plans is that they neither link the action plans with budgets nor with performance measures. Secondly one major paradox is that the National Planning Framework is not based on the Sector Investment Plans; hence, the National Budget is not linked with the National Development Plan. This makes it difficult to have investment ready projects because such projects may not be fundable in the first place. This sickness is pervasive in many countries in Africa. This means that it is possible to have a development plan and sector activities which are implemented in the entire period of the development plan, say five years, but without achieving any rated objectives of such five-year development plan!
3. Cultivating a “doing attitude and pride in work”
Most countries in Africa all embroiled in the “it is impossible attitude”. This is what is referred to as apathy. A population that is apathetic is difficult to transform because of the low level of innovation and creativity. Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world and the largest in Europe not because of the highly educated people but having a people that pride in work”. This is a country where vocational education is a national artifact. Every one prides in being a mechanic of some sort and people are respected for this vocation. However, in many African countries, vocational education is construed as a vocation for failures. Those whom pursue vocational education are perceived as second class citizens and this reality.
This is the most ridiculous and irony that pertains to growth and transformation of an economy. This is because any country that has transformed its economy has invested heavily in technical training except in Sub Saharan Africa where speaking English and other foreign languages are still considered the best vocations. China, the 2rd largest economy to United States and a top giant at the world market has adapted vocation education (Dual Qualification Framework-DQF) as a growth and transformation strategy. All university degrees and other qualifications from tertiary institutions are given a long with some vocational disciplines be it electronics, carpentry, plumbing, surveying name it. As it has come to be known, we are in the “Asian Century-cum-China Century”. Every Chinese has been engrained with positive attitude of loving work” and producing something”. It is no wonder, China is slowly colonising Africa.
4. Growth and transformation is from internal ignition and not from outside.
This is the most critical aspect of transformation of an economy. For a people to grow and transform, it is important first to appreciate the need to change and improve that “status quo”. It is after realising that your current situation is not appropriate that one will develop sustained motivation to change. Otherwise people generally fear change, preferring the status quo. People take refuge in the old adage that “the devil you know is better than the God you don’t know.” All countries that have had accelerated growth and transformation have first addressed the internal issues of management and developing their human resources (investing in their population to generate both higher productivity and effective demand as well as good economic policies such as those of export promotion with import substitution practiced in South Korea. It is after harnessing the internal synergies that external help can be sought as a propelling force. In fact, this could explain why countries subject to same stimuli are transforming at different rates. For example, Portugal was the first country to carry out expeditions for exploiting African resources but how did Portugal utilise this freely acquired wealth? How about Britain which came much later on the expedition front after Portugal? Actually most of the wealth amassed in Portugal found its way to Britain! Similarly, look at the democracies like Nigeria, DRC, among others. How much wealth do these countries command? But ironically, how much economic and social transformation has accrued from these countries. Growth, development and transformation are initiated from within.
The Writer is an International Development Consultant. Can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Growth and transformation of a country are initiated from within