Building Competitiveness in African Societies and Countries

By | 2016-05-02T11:56:38+00:00 May 2nd, 2016|

Sustainable, irreversible economic development of African nations depends on evolving competitive societies that win in the marketplace of products, ideas, and tenacity. Everything in life depends on winning. Competition extends to the cosmos between the powers of good versus evil. It’s natural. The most successful companies sell winning products or services. The most successful athlete wins his competition. Usain Bolt has not lost an Olympic event in two Olympic Games. His record is one of the ultimate measures of competitiveness. Carl Lewis also had the standard until his very last Olympics. Competitiveness determines which country/countries sell goods and services and which one/ones do not. In some countries, the competition is between states in the same country. Frequently, the result of such competition determines which state gets the company to build a plant, create jobs and tax revenues for the state. It also applies to everything countries do.

The world is ruled by champion products and services because human beings need “things.” We need food, water, covering, housing, good health, education, transportation, spirituality, etc. They are the basics. But our desires have vastly expanded the range of basic needs. People need a means of getting from place to place. Some do it by public transport, others in a Mercedes-Benz and still others in a Rolls Royce automobile. It is the same purpose but different styles. The key is that the one who uses public transport, although not riding in the style of a Rolls Royce owner, also, like the owner of the Rolls Royce, has a destination and is determined to reach it. Competition, likewise, mandates that competitors get in the field to be counted and to have a chance to win. The Tortoise and the Hare analogy is a metaphor that victory is not always to the swiftest or the strongest.

African countries have failed to enter the competition and have been relegated to international nonentities as a result. For example, African nations have been knocking on the door of the Security Council of the United Nations for many years and no one has yet answered because nonentities are usually ignored. President Mugabe railed against it in his farewell address to the African Union. However, it is common knowledge that the highlight of his resume is that he is running one of the least competitive, poorest managed countries in the world of which he has been in charge for almost 30 years. On the other hand, Asians knocked and were invited to enter without too much fuss. It is the same door, the same request but different results. The difference in how they are perceived and treated is in the success of one society and the failure of the other. Western members of the UN Security Council have a line item on their budgets for aid donations to many African countries. By nature, human beings, homo sapiens, who are successful want to hear from other successful people; and successful nations want to deal with successful nations. A country that is an aid provider is not interested in seating at the table to deliberate on grave geopolitical issues with countries that cannot pay their bills or manage their societies. There is an African proverb that goes as follows: “if a child washes his hands he can eat with Kings.” African countries must wash their hands to eat with the “kingly” states of the world and it starts with developing a competitive society. African states will wash their hands on their journey to building competitive societies.

Failure exacts a high price. It is better to win. Nothing has cost more to any race of people in human history than the triple scourge of; slavery, colonial rule, and neo-colonialism. The example of the UN Security Council snub is one of many snubs of exclusion that African countries have earned because of failure to compete on the global stage. It is much more expensive for African countries to remain as they are than to strive to improve. It very important to improve the ability of African nations to compete on the global stage. It starts with deploying highly creative thinking and outside the box ideas.



Becoming a competitive society is not an immediate development. Rather, it is cultivated through a “process” of acquiring the traits, by a commitment to the idea of becoming a better, more competitive society. When all of a Society is set on a course to become competitive, the momentum of the “process” kicks-in to supply “kinetic” subconscious energy that propels everything and everyone in society towards the indefinable but a tangible destination.

The “kinetic” energy is borne of the activities in the “process.” It includes aggressive, saturating, dissemination of information to the public. The fulcrum of the process is a total review of all the functions of the public sector in order to learn the critical control points of service delivery and to create timelines for processing duties in every department. Public lectures and seminars for all levels of society. Retraining of public sector employees and designing an exhaustive oversight process. One of the most important factors in the “process” is to install a network of undetectable electronic monitors at critical points of public service dispersal in order to monitor the work environment and to catch perpetrators in the act of violating public policy. The “process” will expose unproductive staff members, people who work diligently at doing nothing to earn their wages, in the public sector and give them an opportunity to improve or to lose their place. The “process” will also engage all of a society in the journey of re-engineering society and culture.

Fig. 2 corruption hinders society’s competitiveness

Fig. 2 corruption hinders society’s competitiveness

One of the more common themes about African development challenges is the inherent lack of competitiveness. Whether it is in dealings with the public sector including the court and justice system, housing for workers, importing goods into the countries, moving goods from point to point within the countries; everything takes longer and cost more than in other comparable environments. For example, the cost of housing in Kinshasa, D.R Congo is comparable to some European markets. The problem is that D.R Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is the sort of anomaly that emanates from a dysfunctional clueless policy regime.

There are four crucial ingredients to attracting companies to a country or environment. Coincidentally, they form the basis of creating a competitive environment for countries as well. The first and perhaps most important is affordable housing for workers. The second is mass transit network that is affordable and encompasses the entire sphere of work and living environment in the area. In order words, a mass transit system that effortlessly brings workers to work and returns them home at a price they can readily afford without stressing their ability to cater for the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing and housing. The third is a functioning professional public sector that processes its tasks expeditiously. Two important elements of public sector apparatus are semper fidelis law enforcement and judiciary that upholds and oversees the sanctity of society’s rule of law with fidelity; Public servants that are inspired by the awesome responsibility of managing the affairs of millions of people and who are committed to doing so in a manner that is positive, liberating and empowering rather than negative, confining and enslaving. The fourth element is tranquility and social harmony. A country that has these four elements will be a magnet for businesses. It will be a haven for local entrepreneurs and for companies in international sources desirous of operating the environment.

Fig. 3 Blending Society’s Resources for Optimal Competitiveness

Fig. 3 Blending Society’s Resources for Optimal Competitiveness

Any African country that wants to transform their economy must of necessity evaluate exchange rate policy as a critical component of creating a competitive society. It should be instructive that prosperous Asian Tiger economies have used low exchange rates to jump-start Export-Oriented Industrialization. There is a very important reason Asian countries devalued their currencies in the building stage of export industrialization and continue to use weak currencies to capture market share in global markets. It works! A weak currency discriminates against import dependence and in favor of export orientation. It makes goods and services of the devaluing country cheaper in the global market and thus accessible to more consumers. Price competitiveness is the cost of admission to the global market. Strong currencies “kill” export competitiveness for poor countries and favors elites who have built their “economic gravy train” on the backs of government promoting their ability to import all they want, anytime they want. To the detriment of the rest of society, who are paying for their own exploitation through inflationary prices for everything they, as living, breathing humans, are mandated to consume; food, clothing, fuel, transportation, housing, schooling, medical care.

In conclusion, creating a competitive society means building a society that can sell goods and services in the global market in competition with other nations. It also means having an environment that businesses can compare favorably with other environments when searching for a place to do business. The first one relates to all the factors that play a role in providing services to foreign client-companies. Or to manufacturing or processing goods-for-export to foreign wholesale and retail customers such as labor, transportation, government policy, ease of international shipping, to mention a few critical points. The other has to do with how much a government is engaged and facilitative of the growth of manufacturing-for-export companies. It is an element of how much effort and resources the government is willing to devote to nurturing the sector.

About the Author:

The author, John Akhile, is a man of varied entrepreneurial accomplishment in several fields. His range of interest includes fields as diverse from one another as; international trade, real estate and restaurants, demonstrating his keen interest in international affairs and in the cultural underpinnings of society. In many respects he is as a true "Renaissance" man because he has great depth of knowledge and command in many diverse fields. However his central passion has been the African continent and people, having concentrated on the issues hindering development and growth in African countries for more than more three decades. It has led to one self-published book and Unleashed.