Bridging Inequality and Inequity gaps in Growing Economies.
There has been a fuss about the growing economies in Africa and Asia – pun intended. But it is no fuss because some of these growths mean a lot to those governments and their people at large. The only issue has been the non-multiplier effect in terms of economic equality and equity among the citizens of those countries.
Maybe the whole narrative of equity is more of a salvation than a social geopolitical issue. As with issues of faith, one soul won is very worthy than the many others that decide otherwise. Thus, uplifting one person out of poverty is a markedly so great achievement.
Speaking of inequalities and inequities, there are two aspects to this. One is the macro level where we access inequalities among countries and regions to as far as continents. Secondly is the micro level where we address the issues among regions within a country and among the citizens of that country.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere used the socialist approach of Ujamaa to level the inequalities in Tanzania post-independence. The ‘family and villagization’ concept was implemented to a large extent by the government in a bid to nationalize industries and banking and increase productivity in the agricultural sector through collectivization.
Somewhere along the way, it didn’t work and what was envisioned as a solution for the people of Tanzania became their greatest undoing. In a nutshell, approaching inequality and inequity is not a fight against the philosophies of capitalism and socialism or even nationalism on a macro scale, it is more than that.
Steve Paulson recently wrote about the Ubuntu philosophy from the angular point that Ubuntu is more about the concept of “I am because we are.” Ubuntu in simple terms means, “this is our way of life.” The beauty of Ubuntu which originated from South Africa but has had a more applicable sense across Africa because of shared values is the fact that is anchored on principles.
Some of the principles include sharing, a sense of community, value, acceptance, humaneness, social justice, fairness, morality, group solidarity, compassion, and love among others. A keen look at these attributes means that Africa ought to have been the best place where issues to do with inequality and inequity are a thing of the past had these principles been practiced to the letter.
So why are we gobbling with these issues when we have had good philosophies trying to sort them out for us for a long time now? Prof. Patrick Lumumba hinted some time back though indirectly how Africa’s sense of communal belonging was quite high and great compared to the individualistic social order in the western world. The paradox is that inequalities and inequities are far much higher in African countries than in the western world.
Openness and Transparency
For us to begin seeing equality and equity matters being addressed, openness and transparency working initiatives should be implemented in our economies. This means going beyond simply voicing that we run open and transparent governments to seeing that in action in our governance systems.
Some of these emerging economies especially in Africa are run as family businesses. Citizens don’t know what happens in reality beyond the fact that the government will undertake a certain project at a certain cost. Resources have been wasted and misappropriated seriously and people have become comfortable with that.
A politician in Africa gets to power without anything and in a single term, they own such massive wealth which beats even the least logic. So, yes, the economy would be growing but that growth gets reflected in the earnings of only a few elites and the rest of the people still wallow in poverty.
One of the measures of economic growth is the expenditure on and the actual infrastructural development. However, the way that development gets distributed is a matter of concern. Mostly the areas where those in leadership come from get the favors.
The rest of the regions and their people own secondary rights to any development. At the end of the day, those that are “favored” get unequally advantaged and thus progress faster than those that are left to ‘merry’ in their misery.
Also, in line with the first concern on openness, some of these projects are blindly done in such a way that they only keep adding to the national debt not as a matter of necessity but out of uncalculated investments for the sake of simply investing.
At the end of the day, unwarranted borrowing creates a blow to the value of the national currencies and often economies end up with high levels of inflation as governments rush to meet their expenditures and service those loans through drastic measures of raising taxes among other strategies whose reverse effect lie squarely on the citizens.
The problem is that the citizens who have nothing feel the pinch more than the rich whose safety ceilings spread the effect of the high taxes given that some, if not most of them, have a way of navigating around those ‘hefty’ measures intended to address the inequities and inequalities between the rich and the poor.
And not just income
Whereas these things seem to narrow down to inequalities in income levels and access to opportunities, it goes deeper than that. There is every need to ensure that access to opportunities is available to all and sundry. The regional balance matrix is important though often it lacks a proper model for implementation. In other words, whether we like it or not, the issue with minimum wages should be addressed, and regional balances in state resource allocation.
In farming, it means the farmer gets value for the effort he or she puts into farming (not the middleman), and the local communities where natural resources are harnessed also get value for those resources. That way, it gives them a reason to be involved in such aspects as environmental conservation efforts which eventually address the issues of climate change.
Without any returns from the local resources exploited in their localities, there are no obligations for the locals in terms of responsibility to the natural environment in all fairness. Eventually, the effects of such resource exploitation become the source of inequality and inequity in terms of economic prowess, wealth imbalance, and environmental effects which end up straining national governments with hefty responsibilities.
Not a matter of philosophies
Where we are as countries be it in Africa or Asia where emerging economies are trying to catch up with the western world, addressing inequality and inequity is not just a matter of philosophies.
The Ujamaa and Ubuntu had very nice principles and ideologies yet Africa is where it is. It calls for a higher approach. The necessity to change and address issues at the source instead of superficially solving them so that they reoccur such that we are seen as heroes in a sense should be discarded.
Where does that end? To properly address inequalities and inequities, it simply boils down to us. The choices we make, the change we make, the accountability role we play, the openness we ask of, and how willing we are to live and pay for the principles of those changes.
Otherwise, the consequences of most of these actions wrongly taken or tolerated will continue expanding the inequality and inequity gap amongst growing economies however good their growth may look.