Prosperity: Is it another “buzz’ word? What is prosperity for you?

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The term “prosperity”, according to is defined as “having or characterized by financial success or good fortune”, including health and happiness, and by Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the condition of being successful or thriving, especially economic well-being.” The word can describe persons, communities, or businesses, all of whom collectively make a nation. So, a prosperous nation is one that enjoys the outcomes of economic development and wellbeing. Iterations of the term “prosperity” are found in the Vision Statements of many African countries, and sub-regional and continental organizations, for example, the Rwandan Vision 2050 and the East Africa Community (EAC) Vision 2050. The question is, does it mean the same to all of them? Let’s look at some vision statements closely.

  • Rwandan Vision 2050: “The Rwanda we want: Prosperity and High Quality of Life for all Rwandans”. The vision articulates economic growth and prosperity that will lead Rwanda to the living standards of an upper middle- income country by 2035 and high-income country by 2050. The vision is anchored around social development, economic growth, good governance, rule of law, peace and stability.
  • Kenyan Vision 2030: “To create a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030”. The vision aims to transform Kenya into a newly-industrialising, middle-income country, providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment. The aim is further articulated in the political, economic and social pillars of the vision where economic growth, cohesive and equitable social development and a people-centred, result-oriented, and accountable democratic system are envisioned.
  • Cameroon Vision 2035: "Cameroon: an emerging, democratic and united country in diversity". The vision articulates one of the aspirations and hopes of the nation as a prosperous economy with good infrastructure by 2035.
  • The Ethiopian Vision 2030: “Ethiopia: An African Beacon of Prosperity”. The vision articulates prosperity as ensuring material needs, dignity, equality, and freedom. This implies that prosperity encompasses economic growth, social development and political participation which are expanded in the strategic pillars of the vision to include health. 
  • Ugandan Vision 2040: “A Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years”. The vision articulates Uganda’s aspiration to become a competitive upper middle-income country by 2040. The vision is anchored around economic growth, human development, peace, security and defence.
  • Namibian Vision 2030: “Prosperity, Harmony, Peace and Political Stability”. The vision articulates Namibia’s aspiration to be an industrial nation enjoying prosperity, interpersonal harmony, peace, and political stability. The vision further elaborates on “prosperity” by defining it as “It pertains to existence of a condition of sustained high economic growth that places Namibia in the ‘high income’ category of nations, eliminates duality in the economy and ensures equity in the pattern of economic growth”.

As seen from the many examples of prosperity being a key theme of many African nations’ vision statements, the interpretation of being a “prosperous nation” differs with nuances to fit the country’s specific ambition. Whether it be articulating political freedoms (such as Ethiopia’s statement) or improving economic trajectories, the general goal is to provide a future in which all citizens can enjoy an improved quality of life in all areas (economic, social, political, peace & security). This is in line with the UN Millennium Declaration of 2000 which stated that both peace and stability are enablers and outcomes of development. So, could the given definitions and their use in the vision statements give prominence to the term “prosperity” as being wholeness in the development discourse?

Similarly, the Vision Statements of intergovernmental bodies employ the word “prosperity” as follows:

  • ECA: “Ideas for a prosperous Africa.”
  • AU: “An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” This vision is articulated in one of the aspirations of the AU Agenda 2063 as “A Prosperous Africa, based on Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development”.
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): “A community of peoples fully integrated in a peaceful, prosperous region, with strong institutions that respect fundamental freedoms and work for inclusive and sustainable development.”
  • East African Community (EAC): “A prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically-united Community.”

The vision statements of these intergovernmental bodies reflect their mandates vis-à-vis their member states’ endeavour to achieve their development ambitions and goals. They employ a holistic perspective to “prosperity”.

The word “prosperity” is employed widely and serves as a very important affirmation of Africa’s pursuit of achieving its development goals. As established by the definitions and exhibited by the vision statements, prosperity is a fairly comprehensive term, describing many facets of development, but notably economic well-being. Could this be an incentive in the development discourse to place equal emphasis on the different dimensions of prosperity? Food for thought!

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