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Africa's vision strategies require improvement

Having reviewed in detail economic strategy documents for over a dozen African countries either entitled Vision 2030, or Vision 2040, there is much to like and much not to like. Strategies like Mauritius’s Vision 2030, Côte d’Ivoire 2040, Kenya’s Vision 2030, Uganda Vision 2040, South Africa’s National Development Plan Vision 2030, among others, are comprehensive development plans that aim to foster growth and prosperity. 

A presentation of Kenya's 2030 strategy

When it comes to Africa’s vision strategies, there is room for improvement. After all, for those countries with vision strategies whose end is 2030, that is basically just around the corner. (KEV2030)

Vision’s 2030 or 2040, for African nations that have developed such strategies, are a country's long-term national development plan that covers either a 10 or 20 year time horizon. They represent the critical thinking of a country's path towards sustainable and inclusive development, as part of achieving a secure and prosperous future that goes beyond 2030, or 2040. 

Many of the problems embedded in these Vision strategies are summarised below:

  1. Aspirational Goals: virtually all of these vision documents have aspirational goals, without a detailed roadmap for their implementation. Every vision document lays out targets for GDP component growth, in many cases without specific actionable steps to achieve them. They regularly lack a direct connection to annual development plans, and to the yearly budget allocation process. 

  2. Structural Reform: Vision strategies seem to all be universally light on a road map for economic structural reform. In several African nations, structural reforms remain a primary obstacle to growth. Structural reforms are meant to tackle obstacles to the fundamental drivers of growth by liberalizing product, service and labor markets. The liberalization of these markets is key to both job creation, investment and to enhancing productivity. Since structural reforms work on the supply side, they tackle obstacles to the production of goods and services. Not only are structural reforms not highlighted in Vision strategies, they are often not addressed. 

  3. Consumption: Many African countries suffer from anemic private consumption. Consistently missing from vision strategy documents is a coherent approach for enhancing private consumption. Often, there is no systemic approach to how African MICs and LDCs can overcome the phenomenon of citizens living on between $2-$6 a day. 

  4. Investment: Low domestic private consumption in most African nations leads foreign and domestic investors to focus on extractives and raw material exports. It also keeps the private sector embryonic. But, raw materials exports do not generate high value addition, or lead to significant job creation.

  5. Exports: Vision strategies seem to consistently lack clarity on how exports will grow, what exports will grow, which countries will buy their exports, what specific fiscal and monetary policies will support exports, and what aspects of a country’s comparative advantage will lead the way. Additionally, all vision strategies have the objective of expanding exports to developed countries in quantities that don’t seem plausible, or consistent with rates of global economic growth.

  6. Going at it alone: Where vision strategies are strong is on how African countries plan to develop their industrial capacity and in what sectors. Where this falters, however, is the overlap that exists between several African countries industrial strategies. It’s as if regional integration doesn’t exist and every country is going at it alone. 

  7. Cookie Cutter Vision Strategies: One concerning thing about the majority of African vision strategies is their similarities in approach, methodology, structure and presentation. The overlaps are so glaring that at times one country’s vision strategy is indistinguishable from another.

However, many African vision strategies lack the critical thinking that countries like China used to develop their areas of comparative advantage. China taught the developing world that a country doesn’t need abundant natural resources to have comparative advantage. The lesson learned from China’s rise is you can create your own comparative advantage. Virtually none of the African vision strategies have developed approaches for diversifying comparative advantage.

Nevertheless, this is not always the case. Rwanda’s Vision 2050 is one exception. First, Rwanda has given itself an additional decade than most to achieve its aspirations. Second, Rwanda’s vision strategy’s focus is exclusively on enhancing the quality of life of Rwandans. Embedded in their approach is a wealth creation strategy. Rwanda is also focusing its development vision on modernizing and strengthening the capacity it has for managing the economy, something inherently lacking in other African vision strategies. 

When it comes to Africa’s vision strategies, there is room for improvement. After all, for those countries with vision strategies whose end is 2030, that is basically just around the corner. If revisions are needed, the time is now.


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