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Development or Industrialization Must be a One Size Fits All Approach - [Right or Wrong?]
Published by in Economics · 17 June 2019
Tags: DevelopmentIndustrializationAfrica
Africa, as an underdeveloped continent, is willing to bridge the gap with the rest of the world. A new concept, emergence, surfaced a few years ago in this regard. And today most African countries would like to become “emerging countries” by 20XX. However, the definition of an emerging country is not always very clear and differs from one country to another.

A few decades ago, the “International Community” thought that it was politically incorrect to call African countries “underdeveloped countries”. It became, therefore, politically correct to call them “developing countries”. The question we can ask is: has Africa developed since then? Not really, unless one would like not to see the reality. How many countries in Africa are the equivalent, today, of South-Korea, a country that was poorer than several African countries in the 1960s? This is one of the facts that made it incongruous to keep on calling African countries “developing countries” because the African continent, for the past 60 years, did not delineate a coherent development strategy.

Since Africa is still for the most part underdeveloped, there was a need to find a new motto. The “International Community”, playing with words, replaced the expression “developing countries” with “emerging countries”. These words actually mean the same thing, but said and written differently. As a result, we tend to think that emergence is the key solution to Africa’s development. It is quite difficult to pretend developing something new using old paradigms or methods when the rules that govern the “ecosystem” are the same old ones. Is, therefore, emergence going to get Africans out of poverty and underdevelopment?

Another concept, which is unfortunately misunderstood in Africa, is that of “industrialization” which is another motto coupled with that of “emergence”. Industrialization meaning here that Africa must import industrial units conceived outside of Africa. The only problem is that this strategy is not new and was already used and propagated when the objective was to turn “developing countries” into “developed nations”. But this strategy did not work in the past and is likely not to work in the vast majority of African countries today and in the future. Indeed, industrialization is a complex concept. But to make things simple, industrialization means developing the techniques and technology that can help a nation find solutions to its problems in order to improve productivity and the standard of living of its inhabitants.

In other words industrialization means: observing a problem and bringing a concrete solution to it. Now people in all continents tend to have the same problems: access to clean water, access to energy, access to a good healthcare system, access to good transportation systems, etc. However, if the problems are the same, the techniques, devices or machines that lead to the solutions may not be necessarily the same. Industrialization must be contextualized to the environment where the problem is identified. Otherwise, the tendency will be, and is already to believe that everything developed outside the continent, technology-wise, is a one-size-fits-all solution for Africa.

Moving away from the “one size fits all” approach is most likely going to make Africa an industrialized continent if and only if African scientists, researchers, inventors, innovators, etc. are listened to so that their findings are valued, financed and mass-marketed on the African continent. Otherwise, Africans will still be lured by vague concepts such as “developing countries” or “emerging countries” that actually don’t mean anything specific if deprived of their local content or originality. Africans are not less intelligent than other peoples. That’s a fact. Another terrible fact is that the African continent is underdeveloped. Let us not be ashamed to admit it. Yet, another reality is that there are incredible solutions that are developed by African scientists and inventors that can make Africa a powerful continent. That’s why it is important for Africans to lose their inferiority complex and start trusting their fellow scientists, technologists, inventors, etc. in order to narrow progressively the gap with “developed nations” in all domains.

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Lenda Rudy Massamba
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