Opinionista Babatunde Fagbayibo 30 November 2016

Africa doesn’t need Germany’s new ‘Marshall Plan’

Africa does not need any new “Marshall Plan”, be it from Germany or any other entity. Africa already has an extensive and detailed raft of plans on how to address its developmental problems.

The idea that the German government is in the process of drafting a new “Marshall Plan” for Africa is one that naturally lends itself to a number of thoughts. These thoughts, or what some might call introspective engagements, would ordinarily centre on issues such as Germany’s motive (altruistic or self-interest driven), the engagement with governmental and non-governmental agencies in Africa on the salient points to be included in such document, the ideological bent of the agenda, and the need to wait until the plan is released before making any critical engagement.

The validity of these issues is not contested. However, the overriding concern should move beyond these points to understanding why Germany assumes the existence of a void or vacuum in the business of articulating Africa’s developmental agenda. Put differently, the question is whether Germany is oblivious of existing plans or perhaps feels that available plans are not sufficient in addressing Africa’s many problems.

The answer to this question is not as important as refocusing the beam light on the awkward silence from the supposed guarantors of the entire spectrum of Africa’s developmental plans. This includes national and transnational (African Union and sub-regional organisations/agencies) elites that are involved in drafting numerous policy documents on development programmes. The ordinary expectation is that these policy mandarins should at least have drawn the attention of the German government to existent frameworks. By doing this, Africa would have tacitly rejected the development of any new “Marshall Plan”.

The simple point is that Africa does not need any new “Marshall Plan” be it from Germany or any other entity. Africa already has an extensive and detailed raft of plans on how to address its developmental problems. The Lagos Plan of Action (1980), African Economic Community Treaty (also known as the Abuja Treaty, 1991), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad, 2001), Programme on Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and the recently adopted Agenda 2063 all contain critical points on the steps Africa needs to take in order to advance its developmental agenda.

While these may not be perfect documents, they symbolically highlight the centeredness of African thoughts and action in the initiation of developmental policies. The crucial problem has always been the implementation of these plans. In this respect, what is needed is not so much the initiation of more plans, even by the AU and other subregional entities, but the discipline and forthrightness to commit to the attainment of these plans.

It was the late Nigerian political economist, Claude Ake, who once asserted that “the problem is not so much that development has failed as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place”. This statement was aimed at capturing the tendency of African political elites to outsource developmental agenda to western powers and/or the Bretton Woods institutions. This bad habit has to stop, and this is the spirit in which Germany’s new “Marshall Plan” must be rejected. DM

Babatunde Fagbayibo is an associate professor of law at the University of South Africa. He blogs at Afrothoughts. Follow him on Twitter: @babsfagbayibo

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