Table of Contents
Issue of Inequality
Theoretical Perspective and Overall Framework
Strategic Actions and Tasks
The Western African Community has been known along for its influential and affluent trading regime. The implementation plan of the first 10-year Agenda of African Union 2063 sought to emphasize on working towards a prosperous Africa through sustainable and inclusive development (African Union Commission, 2015). African nations, especially West Africa has not been able to meet these sustainable goals and reduce poverty and extreme inequality, in spite of rapid economic growth in the region. According to Bouchama, et al., (2018), the total wealth of the region is concentrated amongst 1% of the richest West Africans highlihgting the deep disparity in social and economic conditions of people in the region.
Inequality in West Africa can also be seen in the utilisation and faciliation of public services like eduction, healthcare etc. For instance, women from wealthy West African families are more likely to have received education at a secondary level as compared to their poor counterparts. Some of the current governments in the Western African region are not bringing out enough measures to bridge this issue of inequality. To achieve the sustainable development as set out in the Agenda of African Union 2063, there should be a colloborative effort by prominent authorities to eradicate inequality in the economic strata of the society.
Inequality and poverty have a significant retarding effect on the economic growth of West African regions. This puts a onus on their policy makers to work out strategic policies which aim at reinvesting in human capita, reducing poverty, significant land reforms and infrastructure developments as the core criteria for economic growth in these regions (Ceesay, et al., 2019). Modernization theory and dependency theory are two of the popular theories which are referred by sociologists to identify the problems with respect to global inequality. The former talks about industrialization and technological advances as the way ahead and the latter cites core nations creating a cycle of dependency as the reason for global inequality.
According to Matunhu, (2011 ), both the above theories have not been of much benefit in developing Africa as Modernization theory sees development in Africa as the responsibility of its metropolitan states; and Dependence theory says rural poverty is due to continuous movement of society to the metropolis. But in reality, the inequality and poverty issue in Africa is mostly due to the cultural conflicts between the West and Africa. The African Renaissance Theory seems more apt to deal with this challenge as it has evolved based from the African way of life. The theory has been flexible enough to adapt to changes and innovations to the common African value and belief systems. The theory highlights the need for a social authority to bring about changes to reduce inequality and poverty in Africa, including West Africa.
For instance, the theory considers development and reduction in poverty through African centric strategies, which are imbibed in its value systems like ‘Ubuntu’ in South Africa, ‘Humwe’ in Zimbabwe, etc. It does not consider the modernization and dependency theories for reducing inequality and poverty as they fail to understand the crux of the African beliefs and core values. The theory focuses on micro-level development and poverty reduction so as to bridge the gap between inequalities in West Africa. The African history was replete with indigenous knowledge system which got lost in the promotion of modernization of the country.
This renaissance theory works on achieving sustainable goals for development of the region by highlighting the importance of social movements for issues relating to justice, sustainability and inequality, considering the community as one approach (Nabudere, 2001). This theory is about reclaiming the African identity and values to achieve economic growth in the region which would help in bridging the gap between the different economic strata of the society. This theory helps in bringing out frameworks for addressing the issue of inequality through local or community-based solutions, diversity, and dependent on local resources to further development in the region. The theory with its emphasis on inward working is more suited to meet the development goals of West Africa.
The renaissance theory calls for diversity and inclusion of the African people and culture to bring about policies for bridging inequality and poverty leading to dynamic rapid growth of the region, especially West African countries which have been harder hit by the crisis. First and foremost, there has to be a strategic tie up between the national government, ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union to fight over inequality as a united front. Next, based on circumstantial evidences on the region, various measures like developing small-scale industries, improving farm and agricultural sector, encouraging women development through education and jobs, implementation of the minimum wage system, giving more opportunities for growth in the rural sector thereby minimizing outflux of migrants to urban developments, a proper tax system to get the wealthy to pay tax and introduction of social measures to ensure that the society at large is included in the overall development plans (Ajulu, 2001).
There should be more liberalization of policies and greater power given to African states so as to eradicate corruption and incompetence which is now a major cause of increased inequality in the region. The focus should be on developing an African centric social movement for ensuring sustainable trade and development. African belief system and cultural ideals should be also one main area of focus to get about the change in the existing system (Bongmba, 2004). There should be increased emphasis to end hunger, improve food security and nutrition through measures of sustainable agriculture. Safety should also be one of the top priorities of the strategy ensuring making human settlements a safer and healthier place to live.
According to African Union Commission Report, (2015) key areas have to be identified, channels of financing have to be considered and distribution of the same at national and regional level have to finalised before getting the strategy to be implemented finally. The report further gives major action plans like providing decent jobs, social security and protection, improving living and working standards, innovation in education and science by ensuring inclusive and providing quality education, improving the overall health of the people of the region and investing in healthcare facilities, improve the standard of agriculuter and ensure peace and stabilty in the region. There has been talks of upscaling the financial institutions in the region like development finance institutions (DFI), commercial banks etc to as to give benefit to the masses.
The report also talks about getting its local governance and particpation, leadership roles into place and getting out best practices in the field so as to ensure proper funcitoning of the whole set-up. Also, the vision of getting back the African identity and values through working on the rich cutlural heritage of its people would also help sustain economic growth through development of its traditional industries.The focus has to be on integrated growth of the African nation by creating equal employment opportunities, improving the social and economic conditions for achieving the desired sustainable goals and reducing inequality.
Strategic tie-ups between the leading authorities in the region as specified earlier, would go a long way in ensuring that the policies have been properly developed and implemented at variouis strategic levels, like national, regional or local. Good governance and improved leadership skills would ensure that development is taking as per plan and any deviations are immediately looked into and corrected. By working on developing the cultural ideals of the region, leads to development of cottage industries which are the major source of income in the rural sector apart from agriculture. Getting technology into agriculture ensures improvement in food production and nutrititon, thereby leading to higher income for low income farmers and helps in reducing poverty.
Bringing on mimimum wages plan and equal employment opportunities would ensure that the people of West Africa would be assured of some minimum wage and better career development prospects. Safer and healthier living conditions leads to happier and contented indivduals who would contribute significantly to the economic growth of the nation. Financial aid through the variouis finance channels ensures that loans are properly disbursed reaching the right set of people and helping the small scale and labour intensive industries thrive.
Giving women opportunities in education and job sector ensures that there is increase in the family income thereby leading to lesser poverty and briding the inequality. By making people pay tax on the higher income, it also ensures that the wealthy are also contributing to the growth of the economy and the poor are not being unnecessarily burdened. With the government showing proactive measures, there would be good and encouraging outcomes which would benefit the people of West Africa to a large extent.
African Union Commission, 2015. www.un.org. [Online] Available at: https://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/agenda2063-first10yearimplementation.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2020].
Ajulu, R., 2001. Thabo Mbeki's African Renaissance in a Globalising World Economy: The Struggle for the Soul of the Continent. Review of African Political Economy, 28(87), pp. 27-42.
Bongmba, E., 2004. Reflections on Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance. Journal of Southern African Studies, 30(2), pp. 291-316.
Bouchama, N. et al., 2018. Gender Inequality in West African Social Institutions.. s.l.:OECD.
Ceesay, K. E., Fanneh, M. M. & Joseph, T., 2019. Effect of Income Inequality on Economic Growth in Selected West Africa Countries: An Empirical Analysis. BİLTÜRK. Journal of Economics and Related Studies, 1(3), pp. 240-257.
Matunhu, J., 2011 . A critique of modernization and dependency theories in Africa: Critical assessment. African Journal of History and Culture , 3(5), pp. 65-72.
Nabudere, W. D., 2001. The African Renaissance in the Age of Globalization. African Journal of Political Science / Revue Africaine de Science Politique, 6(2), pp. 11-28.
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