Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Transforming Africa’s Narrative: The Anatomy of a Hybrid Economy

Is it not interesting that the one product that can bring SADC immense growth under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), is neither part of the AGOA list of trade products and services, nor is it legal in the region? I am talking about Cannabis, that weed that grows without much effort. Did you know that two of Africa’s Cannabis strains are in the top twenty five most loved strains in the world, more specifically Europe? Did you know that according to a 2006 study by Jon Gettman, PhD, the recreational/medical Cannabis market might as well account for $100billion? And that was 2006, before the proliferation of sporadic state sponsored legalisation in America. Even historically -that is before 1937, the year it was outlawed, thanks to the petroleum industry – Cannabis was already a 17 billion dollar cash crop (figure adjusted for inflation). What’s more is that all these figures are not a true reflection of the value of this versatile plant. This plant is estimated to create as many as 300+ products right across all industries – from textile, medical to energy industries. When you combine the vastness of this plant’s economic potential, you have a potential trillion dollar Greenfield industry starring right at you. Yet, guess what? Africa does not see worth in advocating for the legalisation of this plant. Whole continents are raising serious talking points on this matter and Africa is silent, waiting for a hand-me-down from Europe or America or wherever else Africa likes licking the obscene.

Funny thing is, the hand-me-downs that Africa is receiving are made of Cannabis. When rising numbers of American legislators are pushing for universal legalisation in America, African legislators are sjamboking unemployment petitioners and prostitutes, whose jobs are locked in the embargo that has been placed on this plant. Look around you Africa. The world is moving on without you. What strategy do you have to avert the catastrophe that is facing Selebi-Phikwe, Carletonville, Marange and many other mineral resource towns and states across your land? What is in your arsenal that can dramatically shift your place as global orphan to one of equal occupier of mother-earth? Do you know that you were not even part of the drafting of the Human Rights charter? Do you know that you are never part of any significant economic forum where you can influence the globe’s political and economic direction? Yet you regurgitate their outcomes like you were there, like they are your own! Why is that Africa, why? It is because your thoughts are not your own. It is as if you have undergone a head transplant. Your body remains African but your head is not. How you manage to do that eludes me. Maybe it is the powerful immunosuppressants called debt-aid that you are taking. Here you are since the recession of 2008, without missing the now familiar step, running around asking for more debt-aid instead of streamlining your value systems. Or are those systems even yours? What, you have to wait for some Institute to tamper with your sovereignty? Africa please!

Let us get something straight. There is no such thing as first, second and last. There is only effort, prudence and sacrifice. There is no such thing as an enemy. There is only fear, delusion and bigotry. And where these dominant states meet, has given birth to the state of the world as we live it. Therefore, if Africans are to survive, leaders must adopt a transformative attitude towards Africa’s development agenda. I have been straining my ears to hear one leader in Botswana who has one such radical idea, an idea so radical it would make them sound and look foolish. Anyone? Yet real incomes in Botswana continue to fall. Since 2008, mean incomes have fallen by almost 50%. Formal employment has stagnated. As of this second quarter of 2016, formal private sector employment stands at 191,484; Government at 130, 220 while Parastatals employ a total 19,411; which tallies to, 341,115 people who are formally employed. The reverse of this statistic is that around 83% of the population of this nation relies on the 341,115 mentioned above, for economic sustenance. This, more than the graduate unemployment crisis, is most deplorable, as the majority of the 83% are farmers producing low crop yields. Yet there is a cash crop that, since its legalisation in certain states, is the most desired in America right now. Statistics show that there has been a jump from 7% to 13% in users of this plant. Yet these transformative numbers are not on the lips of a single legislator in Botswana. But we are talking about creating employment and arresting poverty.

The reality is that, we cannot talk about employment creation and poverty eradication without talking about mobility; neither can we talk about mobility, without talking about income growth. To push incomes, there should be demand growth, which comes as a result of consumption. Consumption then drives expansion, forcing producers to invest more. When investment expands there is job creation and expansion. When people are employed, they reshape prevailing economic classes, forcing the system to expand further. The trick is to have leaders with a knack for spotting opportunities that can drive this state of affairs. Leaders who understand that politics of rulership and power mongering no longer apply; but rather, an optimum economic throughput, is the only panacea to economic uncertainty in this increasingly globalised world. To achieve that state, there must be a willingness to transform archaic value-chain matrixes, together with their inefficient business models, and create a much lither and agile hybrid system that will encourage expansive and inclusive collaboration. Africa must begin talks around such a hybrid system. For the last ten years or so, Europe has been talking about a circular economy. In America, they are talking about a progressive economy. Is there any wonder the regions are leading the world? Their talisman is simple – they long realised that the only constant is change and that only those prepared for change, own the future. What is Africa’s future?

*K. Gabriel Rasengwatshe is a business strategist, author and presenter of Gabzfm Business Hour, on Wednesdays, 6pm-7pm.


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