The commodities downturn has revealed the fragility and structural weaknesses of many African economies. With fast-growing populations, African states are under intense pressure to deliver for their citizens. At the same time, austerity is impacting Africa’s traditional donors, with foreign governments focused on domestic priorities rather than overseas largesse.
Meanwhile, climate change and income inequality are fuelling conflict and migration and creating new humanitarian challenges. As David Miliband, the Director of International Crisis has noted, ‘the scale and complexity of current humanitarian needs are increasingly out of step with the resources, policies and practices available to meet them.’
It’s clear to us that we need a new approach to development. We need to rethink the role of the State and the contribution of donors and the private sector to sustainable development. We need progressive new compacts which engage all actors to solve the continent’s toughest, most intractable development challenges together. We have the frameworks to guide this. The Sustainable Development Goals alone contain 17 goals and 169 targets.
In our view enterprises have a vital role to play in development. They are skilled at delivering public goods and services and can often be held more accountable than governments. In our view governments must understand their limitations and recognise that they alone don’t hold the solutions. Countries like Botswana realised this long ago and have managed to create inclusive growth by enshrining cooperation and conversation with industry and civil society in the enforcement of mining laws, for example, to generate shared value for society from its diamond wealth. Rwanda holds some lessons for us too. The discipline introduced into its development planning process now extends to the use of data and evidence from industry and civil society for policy-making.
Across the board, we need to encourage greater collaboration and greater pooling of evidence from governments, donors, private sector and NGOs in order to determine which policies deliver the greatest positive impact. At the heart of this needs to be a focus on the beneficiaries – the people who all too often are passive recipients rather than active participants in the development process.
We need to focus on measuring not just outcomes but impact – not how many classrooms were built or teachers hired but how many children are receiving a quality education and building relevant skills and knowledge they can deploy productively in decent jobs. Defining these collective goals – through the Sustainable Development Goals framework – and creating clear accountability around each actor’s part in achieving the goal, needs to be given much more focus.
New coalitions of donors, corporates, governments and civil society, powered by new models of blended finance, offer fresh solutions to old problems. By freeing parties from the restraints of their traditional roles each actor can be encouraged to bring their full skill set, networks and technologies to bear. This is about solving the thorniest market failures and the most intractable social challenges, which in turn will create more predictable operating environments and a larger addressable consumer market for industry – critical factors for job creation on a massive scale.
We are advocating for a new development model which looks at the contribution of diverse partners to deliver positive impact and to solve different aspects of a complex problem. This might be stimulating agricultural production in northern Zambia or it might be cleaning up the Niger Delta and creating sustainable income-generation opportunities for communities. That’s the model we need in Africa today, and a model that Africa can export to the rest of the world.
This article reflects a conversation between Marcus Courage and Patrick Utomi at the inaugural Palladium Positive Impact summit held in London in March 2017.
Marcus Courage is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Africa Practice Ltd, a strategic advisory firm. He is Director of Alkebulan Ltd.
Patrick Utomi is a Nigerian professor of political economy and management expert. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria and a former presidential candidate.