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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
General…

AFRICA LACKS INTELLECTUAL CAPABILITY FOR PROMOTING RAPID DEVELOPMENT

THERE IS THE INJUNCTION, ‘THINK BEFORE YOU ACT!’ It warns us that except our understanding of a problem is correct, our action aimed at solving the problem cannot be effective. Take the simple illustration of the error at a T-junction; if one turns left instead of turning right at a T-junction, the more the effort made, the farther away one would be from his or her desired destination. So the proper understanding/thinking/perception of a problem must precede the proper action aimed at solving it. Thinking is an intellectual activity. It is the main thing in educational institutions. Thus, education is institutional-learning in which those involved acquire fundamental principles or theoretical knowledge. Education equips the learning individual with knowledge and develops the mind and character. A learning institution may indoctrinate a people and equip them with ideas that are not true, ideas that have no historical or scientific bases; that type of learning institution cannot be described as true educational system. This article argues that independent Africa does not have the intellectual capability to direct her development and Africa cannot borrow the necessary intellectual wherewithal for promoting rapid sustainable economic growth and industrialization (SEGI) in the continent. That is the principal cause of the African stagnation or the very slow progress in the continent. Let us examine the ideas guiding Africa’s development process.

An important question all nations must answer is: what must a nation do to achieve sustainable economic growth (SEG)? Any nation unable to answer this question certainly lacks the intellectual capability to promote rapid development. Africans have no independent position as to what a nation must do to achieve SEG. Africa depends on the thinking of Western intellectuals/intelligentsia with respect to the ideas about achieving SEG. So we ask: what do Western intellectuals/intelligentsia think is the fundamental basis for achieving SEG in a nation? Western nations today are all rich because they are all industrialized, though they were agricultural nations for many centuries. So, we ask Western scholars: how did the West become industrialize? All Western intellectuals are Marxian (Galbraith, 1967). That is, Western intellectuals were brought up to believe that capital investment is the primary source of sustainable growth and industrialization (SEGI).   Marx (1867) was probably the first to give credence to the belief that capital investment promotes economic growth when he said in his book, De Kapital, that the key feature of the capitalist system is that machinery facilitates a continuous revolutionary and  creative production in agriculture and industry, communication and transportation (Gerschenkron, 1966). Marx also said that the capitalist must accumulate capital to start. Was Marx correct in his claim that capital investment is the primary source of SEGI?

No analytical study in relation to the source of economic growth was done till the second quarter of the twentieth century.  Charles Cobb (a mathematician) and Paul Douglass (an economist) (1928) were the first to develop a testable model that quantified the relative contributions of the factors of production, labour (L) and capital (K) to economic growth in a nation. Douglas (1948), applying the Cobb-Douglas model to the American manufacturing sector during the period 1890-1922, found out that output was more responsive to L input than K input in the ratio 3:1. Abramovitz (1956) and Solow (1957) showed that about 90 per cent of the growth of output per head in the American economy during the late nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth century could not be accounted for by increase in capital per head. Abramovitz was disappointed at the lopsided importance which his study attributed to non-capital input in determining production output. The findings of Abramovitz and Solow disappointed economists because economists had been brought up to believe that capital accumulation and investment play a critical role in achieving SEGI (Thirlwall, 1972). Abramovitz was honest and advised economists to look somewhere else from capital in search of the source of SEGI.

Economists refused to heed the advice of Abramovitz. Rather than look somewhere else from capital in search of the source of SEGI, economists have continued to claim that capital investment is the primary source for promoting SEGI. What the situation means is that all economists and all institutions populated by economists, including the World Bank and IMF, all over the world do not know the primary source for promoting sustainable economic growth and industrialization (SEGI). Sadly, all government programmes in African nations are developed and implemented by economists and other social scientists and experts like lawyers, administrators and scientists/engineers who have become economists on-the-job. The consequence is that virtually all African nations and some nations in Asia throw money at all problems and have been achieving growth without development (GWD) for decades.

Many socially-conscious economists and students of economics are unhappy about the inability of economics and economists to provide solutions to common societal problems. They have long been expressing this sadness in their writings. Kaldor (1967), reflecting on the adequacy of Western development theories, observed that existing academic texts on general economics and on development were of little or no use from the point of view of understanding development, and would indeed be harmful in the hands of unimaginative people having influence in policy formulation in low income countries. Soludo (1998), in his article: “Investment in the growth process: A measure of the economists’ ignorance in Africa,” agreed that there is no theoretical or empirical justification for assuming a short-run proportional relationship between investment and growth as some economists and the World Bank have done for decades in influencing economic policy in Africa. Soludo also remarked that when a physician makes a mistake, a patient dies, but when an economist makes a mistake, a nation or generation dies. What is irksome, he continued, is the often blatant arrogance with which the economist pontificates about his expertise and formula. In the end, millions of lives are sacrificed in the chessboard in which economists carry out their experiments. Nowhere is this more troubling than the persisting puzzle of Africa’s growth tragedy and the economists’ confusion or plain ignorance about the diagnosis and remedy. More often, the economists’ diagnosis is casual and the approach naïve. French economics students in year 2000 petitioned the French government that what their professors and teachers taught them is autistic (imaginary), they want to be taught economics that is applicable in this world. The Post-Autistic Movement originated as a consequence of the petition. The translation of the original petition can be read in the website [www.paecon.net].

Ogbimi (2003), using the depreciation concept demonstrated that nations which emphasize capital investments invest in structures – roads, bridges, dams, electricity generating plants, etc., which are Depreciating Assets (DAs). In principle they invest in decreasing investment functions, like one trying to fill a profusely leaking water-tank with water. They do not achieve rapid economic growth and industrialization; they stagnate for a long time. This explains the Africa’s stagnation or very slow economic growth.

So, one can say that there is no intellectual basis for rapid development in Africa. Planning in virtually African nations since independence including the national development plans, the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) introduced to African nations by the World Bank and IMF in the 1980s, the programmes most African nations including Nigeria are still implementing today, have all been based on the false claim that capital accumulation and investment are the primary bases for promoting SEGI. It is for the false claim that all those in government and industry in Nigeria cry for capital, especially Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). How can African nations, including Nigeria make progress when all their activities are based on a false claim?

 


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