Governance, Wealth Creation and Development in Africa: The Challenges and the Prospects

by John Mukum Mbaku


Available evidence shows that human conditions in most African countries have deteriorated significantly in recent years. In fact, since many African countries began to gain independence in the 1960s, the standard of living for most Africans has either not improved or has done so only marginally. The general consensus among many observers–including researchers, aid donors, and even African policymakers–is that unless appropriate (and drastic) measures are undertaken, economic, social and human conditions in the continent will continue to worsen. Today, most African countries are unable to generate the wealth they need to deal fully and effectively with mass poverty and deprivation, and as result, must depend on the industrial North for food and development aid. This paper examines impediments to wealth creation in Africa and argues that continued poverty and deprivation in the continent are made possible by the institutional arrangements that Africans adopted at independence. In order to prepare for sustainable development in the new century, Africans must engage in state reconstruction to provide themselves with governance structures that minimize political opportunism (e.g., bureaucratic corruption and rent seeking), and resource allocation systems that enhance indigenous entrepreneurship and promote wealth creation.

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John Mukum Mbaku is a professor of economics and John S. Hinkley Fellow at Weber State University, Ogden, Utah and associate editor (Africa), Journal of Third World Studies. He is also president of the African Educational Foundation for Public Policy and Market Process, Inc. Born in Cameroon, he received the Ph.D. degree in economics from the University of Georgia in 1985.