Brief Look at the Past Development Planning Challenges of Africa

Development planning plays an important part in the fast tracking and realisation of a country’s development targets. Development planning is an extensive enterprise covering all sectors of the economy.

In essence, development planning entails the creation of well-researched plans, which provide for prioritising of the various activities based on the available resources. A national development plan is created for the proper utilisation of available scarce resources in the country to achieve the planning objectives.

Challenges in Africa

Development planning in Africa has changed over time, but during the sixties, when the majority of countries on the continent had national development plans, the plans were focused on central planning that entailed the use of five-year plans. Multilateral agencies assisted in the preparation of the national development plans, which were quite extensive. The focus was to bring about development of the various economies to address issues such as poverty and inequality.

Lack of ownership regarding the development planning meant a lack of civic and leadership support for the development process. During those years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank played integral roles in the development planning of the countries. The focus was on free-market economic development with the lowest possible involvement of the governments and maximum input from the private sectors.

The understanding was that the governments of the various African countries did not have the required information and expertise to ensure informed decision making regarding economic development. The perspective at that stage was that the public would naturally benefit from what was economically beneficial to business.

The above approaches and perspectives meant that governments were not actively involved in the development planning, which contributed to the failures associated with the national development plans of the various countries. With the majority of countries in Africa not having the financial means to support development goals, the countries relied heavily on the assistance from multilateral aid agencies, such as the World Bank and the IMF.

Structural adjustment programmes were born with the help of these agencies, which meant that the World Bank and the IMF would largely dictate what the policies regarding economic and social development would be in these countries. The structural development plans from the World Bank and the IMF were unsuccessful and so were their adjustment programmes for the countries that borrowed money from them for attaining their development planning goals.

The countries in Africa showed very little economic growth and social service delivery suffered. By the year 2000, the focus was to reverse the negatives created through the structural adjustment programmes led by the IMF and World Bank. In the place of these programmes, the IMF and World Bank initiated the poverty reduction strategies. The ownership of such strategies was broader than with the structural adjustment programmes. Unfortunately, the lack of balance in the development planning also meant a far too heavy focus on social welfare, with too little focus on the sectors that could be productive to support social welfare development.

What can be learnt from the development planning failures on the African continent is that in order for such planning to be successful, it is important that the government and private sector institutions must be involved The institutions, such as legal institutions, must be well developed and strong, in addition to the administrative institutions focused on service delivery. It is equally important that the relevant institutions can provide the necessary data needed for development planning.

Yet, with so many countries still struggling because of weak institutions, only focused on economic welfare of small sections of the economies, the potential for achieving the long-term national development goals within the planned timeframes is still limited. All-inclusive institutions that are out to serve the larger society, rather than selected smaller segments, are thus essential.

The National Planning Commission of South Africa is a constitutional body in South Africa with a focus on setting priorities and driving the direction of national development. With the NPC not being a state head body and with the ownership of the development plans, stronger institutions, and available data for decision-making, the development plans for South Africa for 2030 are expected to be reachable.

What sets the NPC apart from the planning leadership of other African countries of the past is that it works closely with all sectors of the South African economy to ensure that the development goals can be reached. It thus entails a coordinated effort that includes the government and private sector.