If it is invested in enhancing African capabilities to integrate the
continent into global networks of knowledge and creating prosperity and
stability. This will mean confronting and overcoming a triple failure:
corruption and abuse of power by African governments, predatory practices by
extractive industries, and the waste of resources by an uncoordinated
and ineffective aid system.
Africa will acquire a strong voice when it is represented by credible
leaders and managers. Such people cannot be produced without investment in the
appropriate institutions. Currently, about $5 billion per annum is provided in
the form of technical assistance to meet donor requirements. Directing a
significant portion of this money toward investment in institutions will produce
stakeholders focused on creating a positive change.
New ground has been broken with the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative (EITI). Since rule of law is critical to accountability and
transparency, short-, medium-, and long-term mechanisms for insuring proper use
of natural resources in Africa are required. To create a level legal playing
field, Africa’s interests must be represented by the best legal minds in the
world, and the proceeds from extractive industries must be publicly disclosed.
African entrepreneurs encounter significant national and international
constraints to business development. While there is favorable legislation in
Europe and North America for African exports, access to information that allows
Africa to benefit from these laws is limited. The necessary knowledge for
taking advantage of legislation exists within corporations that are leading the
global effort in corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.
These organizations could partner with African businessmen to ensure exports
meet the standards necessary for developed countries.
Infrastructure planning in Africa has not allowed for sub-regional and
regional integration, or improved Africa’s access to global markets.
As reliable infrastructure is a prerequisite for participation in the global economy, the
strategic horizon for Africa’s infrastructure needs to be between ten and
a strategy requires moving from the current one to three-year budget cycles of
the aid system to predictable, long-term financing mechanisms (such as trust
funds) that will guarantee the effective use of resources.
There is sufficient evidence that poor people are able to both prioritize and
manage the use of limited resources. A programmatic approach, along the lines of the
successful rural development programs in Afghanistan and Indonesia, would
enable the most excluded segments of the African population to become
stakeholders in systems of good governance and carry-out development
After many decades, some African leaders are setting an example for others
by leaving office voluntarily. However, governance in Africa is still not
utilizing a state-building approach that emphasizes the fact that states have
both rights and obligations to their people and other countries. African states
must enter into a double compact: with their citizens, on measurable criteria
for the performance of state functions; and with the international community,
on systems of accountability and transparency. Only then can we judge state
effectiveness and ensure long-term state-building strategies are in place for
sustained investment over the minimum of twenty years necessary for lasting
It is time to address the needs of Africa seriously and harness the potential it has
through a commitment by the international community – a commitment similar to that made to decimated nations
after World War II. The circumstances may be different in Africa, but the
imagination and resources necessary are the same and the costs of failure would
be equally as devastating.
Ghani is chairman of the Institute for State Effectiveness. He was adviser to
the UN for the construction of the Bonn Agreement for Afghanistan, and was
finance minister of Afghanistan from 2002–2004.