Regardless of the challenges, most African countries are making substantial progress in virtually all indicators of prosperity. Seychelles, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, has been an excellent example with its very high human development index of 0.801. It is nevertheless the only African country among the sixty-two countries that are in that index category based on the 2018 data. However, countries like Mauritius, Algeria, Botswana, Libya, South Africa, Gabon and Egypt have also shown signs of significant progress with their high human development index scores. Generally, the progress that the continent has made so far indicates that it is possible. That was in part why the Legatum Institute’s 2020 report noted that the last decade was Africa’s greatest boomtime. At least forty-three countries recorded meaningful prosperity improvements. Specifically, the previous ten years saw the majority of the African countries improving substantially in terms of their income, literacy, and overall living standards.
Several countries are also showing substantial promise in the prosperity drivers. Mauritius, for instance, has a compelling investment environment, social capital and enterprise conditions. It also puts much premium on education which is critical for strengthening the human resources required for sustaining attained prosperity. Rwanda equally has a stable investment environment as well as enterprise conditions, both of which explain its impressive growth in recent years. Again, Kenya has a relatively good social capital, investment environment as well as enterprise conditions. Similarly, Mauritius, Seychelles and Algeria boast of excellent health environment conditions.
Africa is no doubt in the frontiers of joining the league of the highly prosperous countries. First is the growing relative independence of African leadership from the puppeteering dominance of Western countries. More than ever before, most African countries have relatively better air of freedom to choose the model of economic development that they want to adopt. This freedom also permits the emergence of many home-grown models of development in Africa. Much of the growth and development of Rwanda in recent times mostly stand on home-grown models. Secondly, trade relationships between Africa and many other countries of the world are improving. Thanks to the growing authentic independence of Africans to fashion and implement trade policies that are best for them. Thirdly, the sociopolitical environment, as well as governance systems, generally have improved considerably in most African countries. Fourthly, foreign economic interests and the resultant increased investment activities within the continent have equally boosted. This trend will continue in the foreseeable future.
William Easterly, an economics professor in New York University as well as a 2008 visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, demonstrated that the millennium development goals (MDG) were unfair in its assessment of the progress made by Africa. These unfair assessments comprised early allusions to the prospective failure of Africa in the MDG, as well as the setting of targets that never recognized Africa’s stage in the evolutionary process of economic development. The MDG assessment also failed to acknowledge the giant steps that Africa made between 2005 – 2015 before its discontinuation. Arbitrarily chosen indicators and performance targets that were never reflective of the realities of Africa all formed the core of the socio-economic performance assessment process. The sustainable development goals (SDG) approach appears to be more realistic. The Brookings 2020 report on Africa’s SDG progress highlighted that the continent is now in a much better position for trade, investments and symbiotic partnerships. According to the report, the fast pace of growth of the continent will likely continue over the decade.
Regardless of these auto improvements, the SDG’s implementation appears to hold relatively better prospects relative to the MDG. The drawback, however, is that both the millennium development goals and the sustainable development goals have strong bulwarks in the alleviation of poverty rather than the creation of prosperity. The first eight goals of both development goals typically converge around the eradication of poverty, hunger and diseases with a mental focus on Africa. Unfortunately, the fixation on poverty eradication or alleviation does precisely the opposite in the long run. They strengthen the foundations of poverty. That is, therefore, not what Africa needs. We need prosperity creation which effectively banishes poverty.
In many senses, poverty alleviation may be a tool for economic domination. First, there is a psychological convention that Africa is a continent harbouring large numbers of homeless, hungry and poor people. Our selfish leaders who see self-enriching opportunities in the numerous foreign economic aid to help reduce these seeming adverse conditions accept and propagate that notion at home. Second, through the acceptance of financial assistance, certain economic privileges are consequently lost in return for more economic aid. Unequal commercial relationships blossom as a consequence and result in the approval of policies that enable continued dependency on foreign countries for assistance. Thirdly, it is well-known that financial aid is a synonym for trading a country’s economic freedom. Aid-giving countries usually pressure the aid-receiving countries into adopting a good boy behaviour of complying with the dictates of the former.
Fortunately, unlike poverty alleviation, prosperity creation banishes poverty in its wake. The more the wealth-creating activities, the more the number of persons admitted into more income-earning opportunities. Poverty alleviation is harmful and creates further swells of poverty. Fortunately, prosperity creation is in the cultural DNA of the African people. There are several native African models for wealth creation scattered across the continent. Africa has always had wealthy kingdoms. The well-documented incredible wealth of the ancient Mali empire attests to this. It was only the dexterity of millions of ancient Malians who knew how to turn natural resources into more wealth that brought such prosperity into existence. Timbuktu, for instance, was not only an academic hub in the fifteenth and sixteenth century but also radiated the well-being of ancient Africa.
Similarly, the Ashanti empire of the ancient Ghana kingdom flourished with the abundance of gold used in trading with other African communities. Several of the antique Ashanti furniture traded in that era are in the museums of Europe. These entrepreneurial milestones were not based on inspirations of the Western world as we know it today. It is also on record that when the Portuguese explorers arrived at the island off the coast of present-day Tanzania, they met Africans living in houses comparable in all respects with those of the Spanish. They also met with wealthy merchants and black men and women who wore clothes made of fine cotton. The summary is that traditional African society has been a prosperous one. Its peculiar entrepreneurial model drove its prosperity. One of such outstanding examples is the Ibo apprenticeship model.
The Ibo people of south-east Nigeria are known and respected for their entrepreneurial ingenuity. And in the spirit of communal self-help, persons with skills and opportunities are expected to introduce others to same. That way, more persons can earn income through the same process. The Ibo apprenticeship system overtime became entrenched prosperity creating culture. Younger people spend between three and seven years to learn useful trades and several other moneymaking skills from more experienced older persons. Ideally, the process is formalized by the parents or caretakers of a would-be apprentice meeting with the would-be Master and in some rare instances paying some agreed amount of money to enable the latter to take in the former as an apprentice. The apprentice consequently spends an agreed number of years learning the trade or merchandising skills. At the end of the period, if the Master considers him/her to have satisfactorily met the conditions for discharge and independence, the former (Master) settles the graduating apprentice with a lump sum of supposedly accrued income commensurate with the period spent under tutelage as well as exhibited character. The lump-sum is to enable the graduating apprentice to start in his own.
Through that process, many young Ibos have been able to acquire meaningful trades that have given them income-earning opportunities. And because a master can have as many as ten apprentices, this employment creating process is replicated at scale. The long years of practice of the system leave no one in doubt why the ethnic group has been one of the most economically independent and prosperous in Africa. It is a well-known fact that more than 70% of the foundation for the wealth of the Nnewi people of Anambra state Nigeria is ascribable to the Ibo apprenticeship system. Nnewi – a community approximately the size of two local government areas – boasts of the most significant number of highly reputable multimillionaires in Africa.
Despite this enormous capacity to create wealth at scale, the system still needs a complementing model to protect many of the graduated entrepreneurs from the ravaging macroeconomic shocks. The complementing model will also help them to conduct business in Africa successfully. This complementary model will ensure that entrepreneurs thrown up through the apprenticeship system are adequately hand-held to maturity and wealth. This process is called “handholding”. It is a model that when combined with the apprenticeship system, would deliver unbeatable wealth for the continent of Africa. The handholding scheme guarantees a sustained, robust and profitable performance by firms that adopt it. The programme stands on five pillars: diagnalytics, ideation, accreditation, finance and drive. The first determines the organization’s health while the other deals with strategic pathway creation. The third pillar ensures that the created strategy is credible, feasible and financeable. The fourth pillar deals with the strategic financing of the entrepreneurial initiatives, while the fifth pillar provides effective strategic implementation and control.
In effect, therefore, while the apprenticeship system produces entrepreneurs at a reasonably large number. The handholding scheme ensures that those successfully initiated into the prosperity creation pathway receive the five vaccines of corporate immortality and high performance. The sequence is simple. First, mainstream the modified Ibo apprenticeship system across the continent. Then, position the handholding scheme as a complementing framework that ensures maximum success from the programme. Its primary source of success is the fact that it is home-grown. Both structures originate from the continent of Africa as time-tested models for orchestrating prosperity. When appropriately combined, both prosperity-creating frameworks become positively explosive. Its combined effect will always result in an increasing number of persons experiencing economic success. And because productive entrepreneurship always gives birth to authentic prosperity, this combined model, when deployed destroys poverty at a much faster rate than the so-called poverty alleviation schemes. There is a need, therefore for governments of Africa to understudy and implement these combined schemes for a more rapid actualization of the targets set out in the sustainable development goals.