The African continent has come a long way during the last fifty years from a development perspective. Literacy levels, health sector, infrastructure, growth of GDP, food security, security among others, are some of the indicators that have significantly risen over the years. There is a considerable positive change in the indicators mentioned although not yet to the standards that were expected.
The effect of development is the improvement of the poverty index through an increase in disposable income and also improvement in the distribution of wealth. One of the fundamental challenges to development in Africa has been the distribution of wealth amongst the populace. The 80-20 rule seems to be very alive in Africa and there are those that have argued this could be lower. This indicates that 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the population although there has been a belief that this could be lower and a smaller percentage of the African population is the one that owns 80% of the wealth. This is one of the development problems that Africa faces and needs to be addressed.
The development progress in Africa has been achieved due to the mix of interventions from various players such as the government, Development partners, multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and IMF, Private sector, civil society, academia who have worked relentlessly to make the African continent a better place. It is however important to note that it is not in all circumstance that the interventions by the aforementioned have led to positive movement toward development.
It is good to note that there is still far much that needs to be achieved in Africa and more so comparing to what other developing countries have achieved during the same period. It is a fact that Africa has not developed as much as the rest of the developing countries due to a mix of factors. The factors range from lack of proper development planning, lack of the relevant interventions, overreliance on Aid and Development partners driven interventions as opposed to Africa owned strategies, lack of the private sector engagement on the development agenda and the volatile politics in most of the African Continent.
In major development parameters, Africa is still not yet there. A lot of intervention is needed especially in increasing the education system, improvement in health services delivery, providing food security mechanisms as well as provision of the infrastructure among others. There is need to reconsider the aid programs that have been a common thing in the continent courtesy of the development partners. There is need for new initiatives to be explored considering that the past ones have not resulted to moving Africa away from poverty, where over 40% of the populations are still poor living on below a dollar a day.
The private sector needs to be involved in the fight against poverty in Africa and the embracing of the Sustainable Development Goals by the African private sector will play a key role. By companies embedding SDGs in their strategies, it is possible that most of the development parameter will rise in the next 15 years and hence helping Africa achieve the Agenda 2030. The intervention by the private sector will be from the big corporate to the informal sector. The informal sector accounts for over 70% of jobs in Africa and hence present a huge potential in creating more jobs if interventions that will strengthen the sector are put in place.
The intervention may include innovative financing of the informal sector, Capacity building and training, provision of facilities that will be relevant to make them efficient as well as the government providing an enabling environment for them to operate.
The informal sector vibrancy in most of Africa is due to the entrepreneurship spirit in the continent. This is at the highest level in the 21 century and is characterized by the fact that most of the people including those in full time employment have a side hustle that generates some cash only that full attention is not provided by the “entrepreneur” in question.
One area that could provide the relevant solution for the African continent is the social innovation. Social innovations have been defined as the new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet the social needs of different elements.
Social innovation when made sustainable can resolve many challenges that the continent is faced with especially if done from a sustainability perspective. This means that businesses, impact investment partners, high net worth individuals and foundations as well as development partners should consider engaging in social innovations for the purpose of resolving some social challenges but more importantly to make some reasonable return. The definition for return here goes beyond the financial returns as not all parties listed above are keen to a financial return, but could be interested in other forms of returns. The other forms of returns that may be relevant would include the social return, or environmental related return or prosperity return.
Another area that can bear great fruits in helping the African development to rise to the next level is addressing the governance challenge. Good governance is a key condition for development in any developing country and this more so in Africa. There is need to have a mechanism of governance where most if not all stakeholders are involved in the national development for the purpose of transparency and accountability in the allocation and use of the public funds as well as policy management. Governance should also focus on the ways that the leaders are elected in the countries to ensure that the right leaders takes the day and hence will be able to manage the affairs of the countries in the best way possible. The intervention in governance will need also to be innovative as various traditional methods have been used before and they did not result to much progress other than agitation from the African leaders who felt that the interventions were imposed on them.