What Africa can learn from Asia

Launched in 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis, the BRICS Emerging Powers Club, faced with the new American protectionist threat, once again stood together at its 10th annual summit in Johannesburg. In this anxiety-provoking context of mistrust and uncertainty, there is no doubt that the fifteen or so African heads of state present in South Africa have taken full measure of the stakes: the current economic climate, made up of increasing isolationism from the market In the US, persistent low commodity prices and continued rising sovereign debt costs are painfully reminiscent of precarious growth in many of the continent’s countries.

Of course, many African success stories have been recorded in recent years: in the decade 2001-2010, five of the ten fastest-growing countries in the world were in Africa (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola , Equatorial Guinea). Nevertheless, as a whole, the economic trajectory of the African continent remains contrasted. Agriculture, on which so many African assets depend, has not yielded the expected results; as for industrialization, considered as the next frontier for inclusive growth, it is still waiting to really take off.

Asian lessons

But there is no inevitability, the example of the nations of East Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore) proves it. Faced with a global cyclothymic economy, which has never stopped alternating growth and recession, the strength of the Asian model is to have managed to build a sustainable development strategy, less subject to erratic changes in the economic situation. . Not that the waves of the economic wave were felt on the shores of the Pacific, far from it. But, unlike many of their African peers – dependent on versatile primary resources – East Asian countries favored an early export strategy for manufactured goods that were less sensitive to price changes than commodities. basic.

The need has, it is true, often been law: these nations had few resources other than their human capital. Moreover, the focus was quickly on a rapid recovery of the sectors (from the assembly of products to their design) in order to capture the largest possible portion of the added value produced. And, who says more value restrains says more financial independence. Similarly, by long closing their financial networks to the outside world, these states have most often given favorable exchange rates, essential levers for strategies of commercial conquest abroad. An economic leadership far removed from the liberal doxa commonly accepted and which allowed them to generously finance sectors considered strategic – education, health, infrastructure, industry. But never at the expense of efficiency, private investment, balanced public finances and monetary stability. These are all favorable factors that have enabled these countries to become world champions of long-term growth.

Economic choice

On the other hand, the same causes producing the same effects, prolonged economic difficulties in the African latitudes could once again trigger here and there a negative spiral similar to that of the 1980s (a lasting fall in commodity prices and an explosion in commodity prices. interest of the debt service). Taken by the throat, Africa was then imposed by the IMF and the World Bank a drastic regime and without concessions. This will be the era of structural adjustment and state failure, which will last until the end of the 1990s and will weigh so heavily on the continent’s populations. A contingency that is today an absolute repellent.

In the end, we always pay high prices for hazardous economic choices in the event of a turnaround. However, this deterioration of economic conditions, sooner or later, inevitably occurs. On the other hand, sound public policy decisions will save many predictable difficulties in difficult times and will fully capitalize on the opportunities offered by a more favorable economic climate. To each one his choices and his growth trajectories. Trajectories that are nevertheless still likely to be inflected, in the light of the lessons of History.


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