CONCEPT OF SELF RELIANCE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
Although the idea of self-reliance has been around since the 1980s and a growing number of development organisations are making it the central tenet of their work, in practice, many countries in Africa are still grappling with what achieving self-reliance really means. Development is defined as sustainable according to the World Commission on Environment and Development when it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The preceding definition expresses the intervening priority of the needs of the world’s poor as well as certain restrictions (e.g. state of technology and social organization) on the environment to meet present and future needs. Though, development as a concept is elusive, the major objective should be to satisfy human needs and aspirations. Therefore, all countries – developed or developing, market-oriented or centrally planned, must share certain common characteristics and must flow from a consensus on the basic concept of sustainable development and on a broad planned structure for achieving it.
It is to be noted with dismay that the basic needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs, these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life. Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life. However, the upsurge of economic turndown racing through sub-Saharan African countries generally and Nigeria in particular has overwhelming impact on the vast rural population, subjecting it to unprecedented economic and social dislocation.
This work is deemed necessary because the paper is primarily focusing on the concept of Self-Reliance and development in Africa. It should be made clear from this point that the development theory showcases two major schools of thought, which are referred to as the Liberal and Marxists perspectives. The earlier analyze development from the point of view of economic indicators. Development to these scholars is measured from the perspective of percentage growth in Gross National Product (GNP) recorded by a country over a period of time. In this vein, Meier describes Self-reliant development is not autarky; it should allow for “external” support, however, it is propelled and sustained by “internal” resources. Consequently, one general objective discovered in economic plans or blueprints of continental, regional, national and state organizations or governments is “to promote self-reliant development”. This means that in as much as rural economies are encouraged to pursue policies of self reliance and strive to ensure “autonomy”, they should allow for substantial external support. Ojameruaye contends that in many cases external resources do make a difference and can challenge the independence of the economic unit. Hence, self-reliance ought to be viewed as a continuum that is bounded on the left-hand side by parasitism and on the right-hand side by autarky but which does not include both boundaries. Thus we can talk of different degrees or levels of self-reliance; the farther an economic unities to the right-hand side of the continuum, the more self-reliant it is. In the vein, Mansour; Ikoku & Bloom submit that self reliance should be seen as a development strategy based on indigenous socioeconomic engineering. Its philosophy is improvement from within. This does not imply a return to the past, nor does self-reliance equate to autarky or dismiss some advantages of international relations. It means, rather, the search for and the application of scientific and rational knowledge to the resolution of local problems, within the context of maximum autonomy in decision-making.
However, Anyanwu argues that in most African countries community development has depended significantly on voluntary cooperative efforts. This follows a traditional trait that clearly underscores the virtue of self-reliance. This explains the emerging trend in community development, which sees it as an important point of take-off for better living. The emphasis is to involve groups of people in planned programs from which they may gain skills that will enable them to cope more successfully with the problems of their everyday life (Charles & Lotsmart .It is against this framework that Galtung et al. advanced that self-reliance is development derived from a country’s own resources, involving its populations based on the potentials of its cultural values and traditions (traditional technology). Communities and individual people define their own development according to their own needs, values and aspirations (Preiswerk). Hence, Local-level development, no doubt provides a major force in activating the utilization of local resources (land, water, labor) and therefore constitutes one of the most effective methods of promoting people’s participation in determining their own development. This accounts for the wide acceptance by many scholars of the needs for local alternatives and self-reliance in repositioning the rural system. For instance, Brett has called for cooperative and voluntary alternatives, while Sandbrook has emphasized the need for “small-scale community solutions”.
THE CONCEPT OF SELF-RELIANCE
Self-reliance is defined by independence. It is the ability to think and act without the help or influence of others, the ability to decide what you should be or do. It is one of the bases of effective community development in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. There is no gainsaying that the concept of self-reliance is positioned centrally within the discourse of community development and is linked to similar terminologies like self-help, mutual-help, indigenous participation and rural development. Self-reliance encourages the need for people to improve their living conditions using home initiatives and resources at their disposal. This concept is being given great attention and considered as a new blueprint for community development. Anyanwu posits that the widespread acceptance of this concept in the development planning of most African countries has the tendency to give greater stimulus and cohesiveness to community development in these countries.
Thus, Ojameruaye defines self-reliant economic development as that type of development that relies on the human and material resources of the economic unit whose development is the subject of discussion. In other words, it is development that relies on “internal” resources as opposed to development that relies heavily on “external” resources. It is pertinent to note that Self-reliant development is not autarky; it should allow for “external” support, however, it is propelled and sustained by “internal” resources. Consequently, one general objective discovered in economic plans or blueprints of continental, regional, national and state organizations or governments is “to promote self-reliant development”. This means that in as much as rural economies are encouraged to pursue policies of self reliance and strive to ensure “autonomy”, they should allow for substantial external support. Ojameruaye contends that in many cases external resources do make a difference and can challenge the independence of the economic unit. Hence, self-reliance ought to be viewed as a continuum that is bounded on the left-hand side by parasitism and on the right-hand side by autarky but which does not include both boundaries. Thus we can talk of different degrees or levels of self-reliance; the farther an economic unities to the right-hand side of the continuum, the more self-reliant it is. In the vein, Mansour; Ikoku & Bloom submit that self reliance should be seen as a development strategy based on indigenous socioeconomic engineering. Its philosophy is improvement from within. This does not imply a return to the past, nor does self-reliance equate to autarky or dismiss some advantages of international relations. It means, rather, the search for and the application of scientific and rational knowledge to the resolution of local problems, within the context of maximum autonomy in decision-making.
Ghari aptly noted that the concept of self reliance is closely allied to the principles of self-help and mutual help. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines self-help as “the use of one’s own efforts, resources, etc. to achieve things, without depending on others”. In other words, it is “do-it-yourself” (DIY). Today, there are very many self-help or DIY books, tools and other resources to assist individuals in doing a wide variety of things. In practice, however, there is hardly anything like DIY because some form of “external” assistance is usually required for an individual to improve himself. For instance, you may need to read a DIY book (written by somebody else) to be able to fix a problem (e.g. electrical or plumbing) by yourself. This is why economists take a more robust view of self-help as “helping poor and disadvantaged people to help themselves”. In other words, it is “assisted self-help” or “autonomy-respecting help”(Eade). It is recognized that poor and disadvantaged people find it extremely difficult to improve their condition of living without outside help. Sometimes they even become “complacent with poverty”.
In such a situation, external help or support can serve as a catalyst or provide the push for action against poverty or to improve condition of living, and even to sustain improvement actions. In fact, self-reliance can be regarded as a “helper-doer” relationship or game where the “principles of self-help” are adhered to. As stated by
Ojameruaye, these principles involve the following actions:
• The outsider must make a positive difference in the living conditions of the doer (the helped), i.e. the impact of the helper must be seen as felt.
• The doer (the helped) must own and implement the program or plan of assistance.
• The outsider must see the world through the eyes of the doer and respect the autonomy of the doer.
• The help or support must not undercut the autonomy of the doer –too much help can make the helped lazy.
• The help must be for a limited period of time – long-term charity corrupts self-help and undercuts the capacity for development.
• The doer should be able to sustain or continue with the development process if and when the help stops or even terminated abruptly.
THE EIGHT-POINT UNITED NATIONS MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDGS)
The MDGs thus refer to the eight major goals identified by international leaders, which if pursued with vigor, is likely to lead to better lives for the people of the world. These eight goals have been identified as:
• reducing extreme poverty and hunger,
• achieving universal primary education,
• promoting gender equality and women empowerment,
• reducing child mortality rates,
• improving maternal health,
• fighting disease epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and others,
• ensuring environmental sustainability and
• developing a global partnership for development.
As at the year 2000, these international goals had received the consent of 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations. The leaders set 2015 as the target year for the maximum realization of these goals (Robert)
THE AFRICAN GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY ACT (AGOA)
AGOA was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, to stimulate economic growth, to encourage economic integration, and to facilitate sub-Saharan Africa’s integration into the global economy. The Act establishes the annual U.S.-sub- Saharan Africa Economic Cooperation Forum (known as
the AGOA Forum) to promote a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues. At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), allow virtually all marketable goods produced in AGOA eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.
The U.S. Government provides assistance most notably through four regional trade hubs to African governments and businesses that are seeking to make the most of AGOA and to diversify their exports to the United States (AGOA Fact sheet.
THE NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT (NEPAD)
NEPAD which is a program of the African Union (AU) was adopted in Lusaka, Zambia in 2001. It is fundamentally new intervention, organized by African leaders with the intent to track new priorities and methods to achieve the political and socio-economic transformation agenda of Africa. NEPAD specifically is aimed at enhancing Africa’s growth, development and participation in the global economy (Rawia)
3. CONCLUSIONS, SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Conclusively, Self-reliance is defined by independence. The whole idea is the ability to think and act without the support or influence of others, the ability to take decisions as to what should be done. Whereas dependency is a reference to the act of relying on others to make decisions for you. Hence, people with power and privilege often take responsibility for the lives of those that are less fortunate. Dependent people often fail to find the motivation to solve problems on their own. Hence, self-reliance is vital for residents in developing countries to successfully govern their own lives and economies. When residents rely too heavily on outside influences,
even supposedly benevolent players, such as government agencies and non-governmental organizations, they relinquish control of their resources and more importantly, their future. They allow others to make decisions not always in the best interest of these communities. The people of these developing regions often have a vast amount of resources available to them, but they do not have the skills, knowledge or experience to use these resources to benefit their economy. Instead, groups and individuals who know how to produce and sell these commodities in many cases take the natural resources, leaving the local people with minimal profits. Those that
benefit from these resources often exclude the people that need help the most: the third-world residents living in poverty.
Having looked at the challenges militating against government’s genuine efforts to achieve economic self-reliance and development for Africa, the following are suggested ways by which the present challenges can be addressed.
First, accountability: one of government’s greatest challenges is lack of accountability of its resources. The political leadership and public office holders have taken advantage of the loopholes in government accounting system, poor financial monitoring and the absence of the digitalization of government financial records to steal from government coffers. However, the present massive digitalization and computerization of government business, that is government, will help to reduce government’s exposure to the activities of political fraudsters and thieves.
Second, the empowerment and independence of anticorruption agencies: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), are two agencies of government in Nigeria created to stem the growing tide of political and other forms of corruption in the country. For these agencies to effectively discharge their functions, the government needs to empower them and let them have total independence from government interference and encroachment so as to dispense justice as they carry out their duties.
Third, renewal of ethical standards: The government of the day must evolve program aimed at reviving the fallen ethical standards and morals such as sincerity, credibility, transparency, truth and honesty. It should have a zero tolerance for those who engage in sharp and questionable practices whether in and outside government, while, individuals who are found to support this paradigm shift are to be encouraged through a reward system to be put in place. Also, along this line, government business needs to integrate global best practices like professionalism, creativity, innovation, meritocracy, performance-based reward systems and planning.
Fourth, consistency in policy formulation and implementation: To achieve economic self-reliance, government needs to be consistent in its policy formulation and implementation.
Fifth, development of home-grown technology: Today’s global economy is governed and controlled by those who own the technologies in place. Africa, for many years, has remained a consumer nation and this will continue to frustrate the genuine efforts to transform the economy of the continent. As long as Africa remains at the receiving end of the technology trade continuum, the
desire to achieve economic self-reliance will be farfetched.
Sixth, the need for entrepreneurship development: Globally, countries are beginning to look inwards towards developing and empowering their small businesses, creating a climate that supports small business growth and encouraging citizens and young graduates to create businesses rather than seek employment. By investing in the growth and development of small businesses in the country, the massive result to be realized from this effort can facilitate economic self-reliance for Africa.
Seventh, the political will and commitment of government to economic self-reliance is key to achieving economic development. Government, at whatever level, must refuse to pay lip service to the
question of economic growth, development and independence for the country. Government needs to put its money where its mouth is by making a genuine commitment to efforts aimed at achieving economic self-reliance and development in Africa and for Africans.
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