“We have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders, we have a duty therefore to all the worlds’ people, especially the most vulnerable and in particular, the children of the world, to whom the future belongs.” – UNITED NATIONS, MILLENNIUM DECLARATION, SEPTEMBER 8TH 2000.
Last week, we succinctly gave a picture of the development case in Africa, the Realism of Africa’s Race to Development. The term development may mean different things to different people, but it’s imperative we have a core perspective on its inner meaning. Without such perspective and some agreed measurement criteria, we would be unable to measure our development process and determine which country is actually developing.
In traditional economics, development meant achieving sustained growth rates of income per capita, to enable a nation expand its output at a rate faster than her population growth rate. Levels and growth rates of real per capita gross national income are being used to measure economic well being of a country. That is, how much of goods and services in real terms are available to the average citizen for consumption and investment.
Economic Development was also seen in terms of a major alteration in the composition of the economy. This means a decline in the share of Agriculture and increase in manufacturing and service industries to the structure of production and employment (Structural-Change Theory). This made development strategies centre on rapid industrialization, often at the expense of agriculture and rural development, as in the case of National development plans in Nigeria from 1962-2003, and the IMF induced structural adjustment program in 1986.
Although a few African Nations (in one way or the other) reached growth rates, the quality of human lives, levels of living, self esteem and freedom remain unchanged. This signaled that something was wrong with the development model. This singular reason shows why the use of income levels in classifying economies on the development ladder by the World Bank seems questionable with respect to the inner meaning of development.
Development in truism focuses on economic, social, political and institutional mechanisms (both public and private) necessary to bring about rapid and large-scale improvements in standard of living for the broadest segment of her population.
Furthermore, three core values serve as practical guides to understanding the inner meaning of development, they are:
- SUBSISTENCE – The ability to meet basic needs, food, shelter, health, clothing and protection.
- SELF ESTEEM – To be a person and nation of self-esteem – having a sense of worth, self respect and not to be used by others for their own needs.
- FREEDOM FROM SERVITUDE – Embracing the concept of human and national freedom, that is, emancipation from alienating material conditions of life and social servitude, nature, misery, oppressive institutions and dogmatic beliefs.
As we embrace the inner meaning of development, societies must change her objectives from not just production of goods but more:
- To increase the availability and widen distribution of life sustaining goods e.g., water, food, health and protection.
- To raise level of living, including addition to higher incomes, the provision of more jobs, better education, and greater attention to cultural and human values, which boost self esteem.
- To expand the range of economic and social choices.
Until we embrace this true meaning of development, we remain far from genuine development in Africa.
“Development is legitimized as a goal because it is an important, perhaps even an indispensable way of gaining self-esteem” – DENNIS GOULET.