In Jeffrey Herbst’s and Greg Mills’ 2006 piece “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future,” the authors imagine three different futures for Africa in 2020. The differences between these futures are stark, and according to the authors, depend on a variety of factors. In order to promote a brighter future, the authors advocate for greater agency of African countries in actions and policies, which will affect the continent overall. In 2006, they noted that with the exception of Africa, the continent’s largest countries were not regional and continental leaders. Although in the past decade, we have seen the emergence of some of Africa’s largest countries, notably Nigeria, many still have not embraced such leadership roles. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an example of a large state which has yet to achieve a commendable rate of development, and thus is unable to act as a leader. Unless in the next four years, the DRC can promote economic growth, political stability, and social equity, it is likely that Herbst’s and Mills’ second scenario will hold true for Africa in 2020. In order to achieve this development, the DRC must engage positively with the world.
Political reform is necessary for the DRC to achieve political stability. With the democratic crisis currently underway as Joseph Kabila nears the end of what should be his final term in office, it is important that the country not only allows for but encourages monitoring of the political situation by developed countries both African and otherwise. It is clear that the people of the DRC desire a well-functioning democracy; the ongoing protests in and around Kinshasa make this evident. In order to assure that the democratic processes which are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution occur, it is important for the government to engage with strong democratic powers, especially those on the African continent, such as South Africa, and to allow these countries to monitor and perhaps even facilitate elections and the transition of power.
In terms of economic reform, the DRC is in desperate need of developmental aid from the international communities. I would recommend that the DRC’s leader first secure stable and functioning democracy, in order to promote investment. While Herbst and Mills recommend change as a result of African initiative, in order for the DRC to catch up, I think that assistance from other countries is necessary. In particular, the DRC should establish better bilateral relations with China, leveraging its mineral resources, which Chinese industry so desperately needs, for the types of infrastructure projects that China has been so successful with in other countries across the continent. With improved infrastructure, the DRC will be more able to focus on diversification, thereby reducing dependence on mineral resources. The DRC must stipulate that foreign development projects utilize Congolese labor, thereby helping the citizenry to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for industry diversification.
Finally, the DRC must improve social equity, in order to reduce conflict and encourage productivity. As it stands, Kinshasa operates almost separately from the rest of the country, leaving many outside of the capital feeling alienated, and without opportunity. This leads to civil conflict. Improved infrastructure through partnerships with China will link the rest of the country to the capital, and the use of Congolese labor will, again, improve the workforce. This allows for better social equity, and thus a more cohesive country overall.
With international help, the DRC can establish a stable democracy, improve and diversify its economy, and promote equitable growth. At a certain point of development, the DRC will be able to reduce its need for foreign aid and investment, and can better serve in Herbst’s and Mills’ vision a large country with positive continental influence.
Herbst and Mills. “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future.”