Commonomics: Rhetoric and Reality of the African Growth Tragedy

In their contribution to a recent book entitled Subsistence Entrepreneurship, Professor Jerry Kolo (American University of Sharjah), Nnamdi Madichie (Bloomsbury Institute London), and Professor Chris Mbah (American University of Nigeria) contend that the “Commonomics” narrative is gaining support in the west is evidence that it was capable of facilitating development at the grassroots.  

Flip through any report or news about Sub Sahara Africa’s (SSA) economy in general and you’ll find that, after the first snippet about things looking bright, as in the Africa rising rhetoric, the statistics therefrom tell a different story. Today, the largest economies in the region are chugging, resulting in alarming social, political, environmental side-effects. Can there be, or should there be a new approach to economic development for the teeming population in SSA that lives at the subsistence level and are practically detached from the so-called global economy? This is thorny question that scholars of development in the region continue to wrestle with. In a rather unbashful argument, the authors of yet another provocative study rationalized their contention that SSA is in a development straitjacket and its much-touted economic rise is more rhetoric than reality. The authors charged that ‘Africa rising’ is “trumpeted” by international organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and SSA governments for various “self- serving” reasons adduced in the study. Confounding this purported rise are worrying observations as at the end of 2018, four examples of which the authors cited:

§     17 of the world’s 20 least competitive economies were in SSA;

§     the middle class is rapidly disappearing;

§     corruption has become a means of livelihood across all socioeconomic classes;

§     the youth are fleeing their countries – as exemplified by the treacherous transatlantic crossings into Europe.

The authors delved into recent history and postulated that, in SSA’s development quandary, Africans nostalgic about the “good old days” have opined that, until the postcolonial era the sub-region’s resource base enabled people to meet their basic needs cost-effectively and sustainably, and that the consumerism and greed that typify the postmodern era of Keynesian economics were essentially non-issues in traditional SSA contexts. The missing elements of the Africa’s ‘old’ economic models, the authors argues, are being revived and embraced in an emerging grassroots economic model worldwide, known variously as commonomics, sharing economy, circular economy, etc. At the heart of this economic model are ownership/control and shared dividends of means of production, such that people’s basic needs are met equitably, affordably and sustainably through collaborative grassroots initiatives. Prescribing commonomics for SSA, the authors cautioned that the model is intended, not to extirpate or supplant but to complement mainstream macroeconomics, whereby Africans are not dying of starvation while products from their commonwealth dot foreign markets. That commonomics is gaining support in the Western world is evidence that it has potentials to facilitate development at the grassroots in SSA.  

How to cite: 

Kolo, J., Madichie, N. and Chris H. Mbah (2019) Commonomics: Rhetoric and Reality of the African Growth Tragedy. In: Ratten V., Jones P., Braga V., Marques C. (eds.) Subsistence Entrepreneurship (pp. 17-32). Contributions to Management Science. Springer, Cham.


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