Weakness into strengths
And yet, the report says, Africa can turn all this around and fairly rapidly. Its current weaknesses could, in fact, become its strengths. Take agriculture for example: Africa’s output is the lowest and most inefficient in the world – some of the cultivation techniques are hundreds, if not thousands, of years out of date.
Yet the solution is there in plain sight – what the report calls a ‘uniquely African Green Revolution’, which will not only provide sufficient food for all of the continent’s population but could also feed a good part of the world in the coming years. Africa is the only region in the world that still has vast tracts of uncultivated arable land.
Africa’s fishing grounds had been the richest in the world until overfishing, often illegal, depleted our oceans. There are case studies of fishermen in countries such as Senegal who now cannot find any fish in waters that a few years ago where teeming with seafood. West Africa alone is conservatively estimated to lose $1.3bn annually. “Beyond the financial cost, this plunder destroys fishing communities who lose critical opportunities to fish, process and trade,” Annan says.
The fish are being removed by the tonne-load by huge foreign trawlers and exported to countries that are so replete with food that food waste (good food that is thrown away) is in millions of tonnes every day while Africa children suffer malnutrition.
Another $17bn is lost through illicit logging activities. Illicit financial transactions siphon off billions of dollars more – approximately $2bn is lost annually in excessive remittance charges alone for example.
This wholesale plunder of Africa’s resources must stop. Foreign governments who support Africa’s development on the one hand, but turn a blind eye to the destructive activities of its nationals on the other, should be made to own up and put measures in place to put paid to this wanton theft.
In addition, taxation and subsidy systems in Africa often channel income to the middle and upper classes and away from the majority – increasing the already enormous income inequality that exists in Africa. A little clever tinkering would reduce this disparity, redistribute national wealth more evenly and reduce the possibility of major social upheavals.