Growth on Paper
Two world visions collided during the presentations. On one side those who are convinced that high macro-economic growth numbers are a sign of quick development. On the other side the experts that emphasize that macro-economic growth doesn’t mean a lot, and question out loud whether growth as it is taking place in Africa right now will lead to development.
The outgoing Dutch government has focussed on economic growth, assuming this would improve the wellbeing of poor people. Under the inspiring leadership of State Secretary Ben Knapen the available means for Dutch enterprises increased. Embassies were ordered to facilitate the involvement of the Dutch business. The attention for good governance in service of sustainable and fair economic development weakened.
The experts at the Africa Works conference seriously doubted that vision. Several shortcomings are the lack of respect for existing rights to land and water, rules concerning labour and attention to the role women have in decision- and production processes. Economic development with these shortcomings is no more than a growth percentage on paper that does more harm than good to the better part of the population.
The new Minister of Trade and Development must change this: she has to commit to supporting the politics and economics of development. Through trade agreements she will be able to promote fair and green economic growth; and through strategic use of the development budget she can balance the focus on economic development and good governance once again. That way, macro-economic growth and development can go hand-in-hand.
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