The fallacy of modernization: Africa’s quest for industrialisation and search for alternative energy
The current world order which has been characterised by Great Power Competition has reignited the so-called new scramble for Africa. With various superpower states intensifying their long-held interests in the African continent to meet their needs, little attention has been given to the needs of the supposed benevolent giver – the African continent itself.
Given the ever-increasing energy needs of the industrial world, sourcing for alternative energy supply in Africa has made the continent an attractive destination. African leaders also welcome this given that the majority of the states on the continent remain poor and continue to struggle in their quest for industrialisation considering their desire for the ultimate desire to become modernised.
Plagued by issues bothering insecurity because of the nefarious activities of violent extremist groups, to the recent spate of democratic backsliding which has swept across some states on the continent, particularly in West Africa, one can only imagine the prospects of attaining true modernisation amidst these lingering challenges.
Potential investors are also likely to establish manufacturing plants in countries where they are guaranteed the availability of electricity to power these factories
The dangers of the current situation have far-reaching consequences across various sectors of the continent. One of such is in the supply chain. Africa suffers from critical infrastructure deficits and requires significant amounts of financial resources to remedy its plight in this regard.
One report notes that a total of N36trn ($81bn) is required over a period of 30 years to close Nigeria’s – Africa’s largest economy, critical infrastructure gaps.
The availability of energy is a crucial element in fostering manufacturing and production, both of which are essential to Africa’s economic growth and development. Potential investors are also likely to establish manufacturing plants in countries where they are guaranteed the availability of electricity to power these factories and more importantly a secure environment devoid of worries over the fear of their workers being kidnapped for ransom by violent extremists and insurgents.
During the recently concluded COP27 talks on climate change, world leaders reiterated their pledge and commitment to ensuring a habitable world amidst the threat posed by climate risks. In the past, such pledges appear to have been marred by political intrigues leaving the most vulnerable and affected nations in Africa at the mercy of those who ought to be responsible and accountable for climate action.
The need to take decisive action in this regard has been recognised and acknowledged with countries such as the United States of America willing to provide African states with 300MW of nuclear energy to meet its growing industrialisation needs. While this has the potential of not only significantly addressing the energy shortages that have been associated with most African states, it could also potentially aid the supply chain by improving and reducing the cost of production of goods, especially in a continent that is heavily reliant on the sale and export of primary communities.
However, a major stumbling block remains the threat posed by the activities of violent non-state actors as earlier alluded to. The implications for global peace and security of terrorist groups on the African continent laying their hands on nuclear materials and converting the same into weaponised dirty bombs could only at best be imagined.
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Three critical steps to take
African states must recognise that to get from where they are to where they desire to be in their journey to modernisation and industrialisation, certain critical steps must first be taken. The first of which is exerting the much-needed political will to act. Various studies have established that the rise and prevalence of violent extremism could be attributed to issues such as poor governance, endemic corruption, weak institutions, political marginalization, and fragile state-society relations, which breed distrust. There is a need for a conscious and deliberate effort by African leaders to address these underlying root causes of violent extremism which are mostly within the realm of politics, in reversing the proliferation of insecurity across several parts of the continent.
Secondly, African states must also recognise and come to terms with the urgency of the need to diversify their economies. Where they have solely depended on a monolithic commodity such as oil, taking decisive steps towards ensuring that the overreliance on such products becomes a thing of the past is not only central to mitigating the effects of global shocks but also to reduce the prospects of vulnerability. As with the first point, this also requires a demonstration of political will in attaining the quest for modernisation and industrialisation.
As a third step, African states must be deliberate about investing heavily in science and technology in such a way that guarantees optimal returns. Having an edge in an increasingly competitive world requires that Africa must transition from indigenous solutions to technologically driven ones even as it seeks to close the gaps in its energy needs. Doing all of these sooner rather than later might be what determines whether or not its quest for modernization and industrialisation remains a dream or a reality.