Discordant development and insecurity in Africa

RICHARD JOSEPH explores how "discordant development" - deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress - is often one of the root causes of uncertainty, insecurity and violent conflict in Africa. For example, Mali and Ghana have experienced similar growth rates but Mali is sundered and in disarray, while Ghana has experienced both political and economic progress. Joseph discusses the causes of discordant development and provides recommendations for how policymakers can begin tackling this problem in order to address broader issues of insecurity. He warns development officers and political leaders against viewing Africa solely through "polarising lenses," either screening out security challenges in growing economies or overlooking axes of growth in conflict-plagued societies.

The good news about Africa is that many countries are now showing sustained economic growth. Not to be overlooked, however, are the persistent security dilemmas in many parts of the continent exacerbated by "discordant development." Addressing these troubling problems of security and social unrest requires an understanding of the complex factors involved and the need for innovative approaches. The idea of discordant development conveys more than just "unequal development," but rather how deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress can generate uncertainty and violent conflict. Unfortunately, continued discordant development is in the forecast for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.

The International Monetary Fund's 2011 World Economic Outlook shows a score of fast-growing African economies.While such statistics reveal successful economic growth, they also often conceal discordant development. For example, in terms of GDP growth, over the past two decades Mali tracks just behind Ghana: 3.8 percent vs. 4.4 percent growth in the 1990s and 5.6 percent vs. 6.5 percent growth since 2000, respectively. The two countries do not seem that far off from each other in terms of economic growth. Yet, this is the same Mali that is now sundered and in disarray; meanwhile Ghana has experienced both political and economic progress while at the same time strengthened national unity.

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