By Perry Munzwembiri
Equitable growth, which sees a thriving middle class also enjoying a larger cut of the pie, would be most desirable. After all, it is this class that creates sustained demand for goods and services produced in an economy. Their financial well-being or lack thereof has a direct bearing on any economy as it is the middle class in essence, which creates a ready market. However, evidence on the ground would seem to suggest that this elementary tenet of political economy is increasingly being overlooked today.
In Zimbabwe for instance, there has been scandalous revelations of CEOs of quasi government organisations like ZBC (the country’s sole broadcaster), PSMAS (a medical insurance society to which most civil servants are signed up to) awarding themselves hefty salaries when workers of the same organisations have gone for months on end without pay, or as in the case of PSMAS, members being denied medical service as the society fails to settle claims.
As a result, economic activity at the lower base of the pyramid, which by the way accommodates a significant portion of the population, is stifled, as with no money, there is no spending power. This invariably fans a self- perpetuating economic system dominated by a few wealthy elites at the expense of the greater masses. Growth therefore will never be sustainable as it is not at all inclusive. These “few big men” can never drive real economic growth and whatever growth that may be seen in the short term is only but a mirage as not every member of society is catered for.
“Africa grew at a faster rate in the last decade than most other regions, but the impact on poverty is much less than we would`ve liked. Africa`s growth has not been as powerful in reducing poverty as it could have been because of the high levels of inequality ,” says Francisco Ferreira, acting Chief Economist, World Bank Africa Region in ‘Africa`s Pulse’, a bi-annual analysis of the continent`s economic prospects.
A shift in the mind-set of policymakers and responsible authorities is thus critical, to effect economic structural reforms that would ensure inclusive growth with less income inequalities, if economies particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa where statistics show most of the world`s poor will live in by 2030 according to the World bank, are to develop. The current model of a few wealthy elites enriching themselves while the masses suffer under the vagaries of poverty will curtail growth in the long run.
Renowned political commentator Moeletsi Mbeki makes this point in his book ‘Architects of Poverty’, “If the African sub-continent is to develop, it needs a new type of democracy that will empower not only the political elites but also the region`s private sector producer`s most of whom are peasants. The new democracy should be able to restore the growth of an independent and productive middle class too.” Hence the reality facing Africa of the elite nouveau riche has to be transformed to that of a growing and empowered middle class.