If Africa is to realize the benefits of globalization such as increased export earnings, large volumes of foreign direct investments and micro and macroeconomic stability among others, it has to maximize on comparative advantage in agriculture and natural resources.
The developed economies like Japan, China, India, Taiwan and Malaysia are miles ahead of Africa in terms of technological innovation and inventions. We cannot effectively compete with them in manufacturing. They are already manufacturing many cheap products cheaply. This does not mean that Africa should ignore its manufacturing sector: it should actually promote its flourishment at all cost. Much emphasis must however be directed where comparative advantage is.
Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources like fisheries, arable land, biological diversity, forests, wildlife, minerals, and water. If utilized well, these can change the continent’ lot locally and internationally.
Africa is the only continent that still has millions hectares of arable land estimated at 620 million hectares. This land supports the growth of a variety of natural fruits and cereals which are on high demand in developed and emerging powerful countries. Africa should enable its farmers access interest free loans, good road networks, efficient storage facilities and agro-processing industries for value addition.
African goats, sheep, cows and natural chicken, are on high demand in Asia and Europe. Africa’s goat meat is sought after in the Arab countries. Current research also reveals that organic agricultural products are preferred over genetically modified products. Africa should tap into this by producing organic products whose demand is steadily rising.
The global hunger for mineral resources amongst developed and emerging economies like China and India is an opportunity that African countries should exploit. The practice where foreign companies come and exploit Africa‘s rich natural mineral resources and then export them back home in raw form back to their original countries should stop as this has only served to impoverish the continent.
Besides minerals, Africa is also a home to a variety of fish species. Lake Malawi alone, for example, contains the largest number of fish species compared to any single lake in the world with almost 500 species from 10 fish families. The coastal region of Africa also has more than 4,000 fish species. Some of the fish species in Africa include, Nile perch, small silver minnow and Bagras docmac among others which are all on high demand outside Africa. In fact, fishing is becoming one of Africa’s major sources of income and an important export commodity. Malawi earns more than US $240 million in fish exports. Uganda has since 2005 been earning more than US $1142.7 million in fish exports. Africa must invest heavily in improved fishing equipment, efficient fish storage facilities, fish processing industries as well roads connecting fishing areas to the market centers.
Promoting agriculture in addition to effective usage of natural resources will make the continent gain more financial resources to use for investment in science, technology and research which are needed to propel the continent to global competitiveness.
The author is a Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer.