Samuel Adegboyega University (SAU), Ogwa, Edo State, in keeping its desire to achieve excellence and strong academic traditions, engaged a seasoned and high profile academic to deliver its 1st African Diaspora Lecture titled “Comparative Regional Development: Lessons from Southeast Asia for Africa” on Tuesday, 22nd May, 2018.
In his opening remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Benard Eronmonsele Aigbokhan, said that the lecture was timely, examining the happenings around the continent called Africa. He said further that regional development could not be overemphasized considering its potent to national development.
The guest lecturer, Professor Samuel Inuwa Zalanga, a distinguished academic in the field of Sociology (Development Studies and Social Change) from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology & Reconciliation Studies, Bethel University, St Paul, Minnesota, United States, began his lecture with “Where has Africa got it wrong”. Asian countries, just some decades ago used to be extremely poor; indeed, poorer than newly independent African countries, but from the 1980s, poverty is concentrated in Africa.
Professor Zalanga, an associate Editor for the Africa, Journal of third world studies and a recipient of Carnegie African Diaspora, examined the current reality in the global south which started in the mid-20th century as tropical region with high rural poverty and peasantry. But fifty years later, the Global South has become fractured into two parts:
a) Export-oriented manufacturing industries and productive commercial agricultural sector.
b) A part containing agrarian economy and structure which remained more or less the same or minimally changed.
The lecturer compared Southeast Asian countries, which are increasingly export manufactured goods and African whose percentage of global trade in manufactures is negligible. Even in the area of producing and exporting commercial agricultural exports that are traditionally associated with Africa, Southeast Asian countries excelled better: palm oil, coffee and Cocoa.
Professor Zalanga, born and bred in Bauchi State, Nigeria, briefly described among others, the success of Southeast Asia as follows:
i. Sound Macroeconomic Management
ii. Creating an Environment of Genuine Economic Freedom
iii. Pro-Poor and Pro-Rural Spending
In the curse of his lecture, professor Zalanga highlighted some factors that influence development policy choices in Southeast Asia;
1. Deep national economic crises constitute a learning experience and a turning point on the path of development. “Bad times produce good policies, good times produce bad policies.” Inflation and food shortage were key compelling factors.
2. The Southeast Asian states were often counter-revolutionary in their origin and mission or were states that were post-revolutionary and trying to modernize without losing their support-base.
3. Differences in the elites’ evaluation of the rural way of life between Southeast Asia and Africa. African elites focus on modernization as transforming people from rural to urban ways of life. Asian leaders recognize the relative backwardness of rural life but look back at it with “nostalgia and admiration.”
4. Colonialism caused greater historical break with the past in Africa than in Southeast Asia.
The guest lecturer stressed that Africa, who is peculiar to Asia in ethnicity, coloniasm and other things, could learn some lessons from the development of Southern Asia, as stated below:
i. The need for pro-growth coalition.
ii. The need to promote shared growth.
iii. The need to pursue growth with equity strategy.
iv. The need for strong policy to focus on agricultural and rural development.
v. The need for implementing a complementary set of factors in development policy formulation and implementation. There has to be synergy.
vi. Policy choices play a very important role in spite of inadequate institutions and structural limitations rooted in the cultural, historical and geographical realities of their countries.
vii. Southeast Asian countries were not “Predestined” to develop, and assuming they were, few predicted that.
viii. There is a need to reexamine the stress on “Path Dependence” While it may be useful, it should not be used in a deterministic way.
ix. The need to educate African elites on the need to focus on pro-poor policies, investment in agriculture and rural development.
x. Need to Encourage Global Multi-Lateral Organizations to draw insights from lessons from Southeast Asia and on that basis use their influence to exert pressure on Africa Leaders.
During question and answer cross-section, the attention of the guest lecturer was drawn to the fact that for effective development to take place, the government must put into consideration among other things, the following:
i. Creating strong institution for implementation of policies
ii. Effective leadership structure
iii. Avoidance of cultural of hierarchical sentiment, tribalism etc.
The University Librarian, Dr. Christopher Nkiko, on behalf of the university community appreciated the guest lecturer for sharing with the university community his wealth of experience. He assured Professor Zalanga that all the lessons learned from his quality paper would be put to use. Dr. Nkiko also appreciated the Vice-Chancellor for his continuous efforts to sustaining the university traditions
The occasion was well attended by staff and students of Samuel Adegboyega University, academics, men of the press and people from all works of life.