Africa: Communalism, Barriers and Economics
The economic underdevelopment of many African countries is a problem that many have attempted to fix. For instance, the World Economic forum is focusing on the "Effects of the Global Economic Crisis on Africa" from June 10-12. The objective of the forum is to establish a plan to direct Africa…The economic underdevelopment of many African countries is a problem that many have attempted to fix. For instance, the World Economic forum is focusing on the “Effects of the Global Economic Crisis on Africa” from June 10-12. The objective of the forum is to establish a plan to direct Africa to a path of economic prosperity. Although that may sound progressive, there are still many reasons why Africa has a long way to go before reaching economic prosperity. One of the many reasons lies in cultural characteristics of many African societies, such as communalism. “Africa has long suffered from low trade between African countries. Barriers… have kept African nations from harnessing their power of trade and participating fully in the global economy,” stated Abt Associates Inc. Communalism refers to strong allegiance limited to one’s own ethnic group, commonly based on sharing history and culture, for instance. It is characterized by collective cooperation and ownership by members of a community. Those that are from different ethnic groups or communities do not interact much, or at all. Many transactions between the countries are limited because of “lack of formal relationships” between countries. Abt Associates have tried to break the barriers between the countries. Their Agribusiness and trade Promotion (ATP) project, funded by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), “held a value chain workshop in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.” The workshop from November 2008 united “more than 50 agricultural stakeholders from 8 countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, and Niger to promote trade in West Africa.” In Africa, communalism is often praised, but it is one of the most important obstacles to Africa’s economic success, even though many African political thinkers have recognized communalism as the main foundation of traditional society. Communalism clashes with the mobilization of labor and capital, which are important factors of production that contribute to economic growth. Specialization, an important component in economics, is limited with communalism. Countries have different natural, human and capital resources and the combination of those resources varies; some combinations are efficient in some places while they are not as efficient in others. In other words, each country or region has their unique strengths and weaknesses. Specialization allows countries to allocate their resources in the most efficient combination, which will be different from the neighboring country. For instance, Kenya and Zimbabwe are the largest producers of tea in Africa while Ethiopia and Congo are the major producers of coffee. Each can grow their own crops and then trade. However, communalism creates hostility between different ethnic groups, so people from Kenya and Ethiopia might not even trade and prolong economic inefficiency that prevents each country from getting the most from their resources. This lack of internal integration hinders the economic development of the country. Abt Associates Inc holds that intraregional trade promotion may be a significant factor in economic development and poverty reduction. The ATP project hopes to establish relationships between buyers, investors, producers, suppliers and distributors. Abt Associates “helps countries to increase the competitiveness of industries through a range of policy reforms, balanced with focused technical support to enhance the productivity of small and medium-sized enterprises and their access to key markets.” “Small countries are limited in what they can produce, but if they are able to trade with nearby countries, their potential for growth greatly improves,” said Ismael Ouedraogo, Chief of Party for the project.