A causal link exists between economic development, governance, and security—or insecurity—in Africa, Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) told a group of more than 50 African officials June 19, 2013, at the ACSS Senior Leader Seminar in Arlington, Virginia.
Dr. Gilpin said African countries spend an average 2 percent of their GDP on military expenditures. Accordingly, sustained economic growth across the continent over the past decade has meant significant increases in military expenditures in real terms. However, African armed forces still struggle to ensure citizens’ safety.
“The problem is not how much the security sector is receiving. The problem is how the money is spent,” said Dr. Gilpin. “So far, most of the funds are spent on wages and salaries. There is no strategic investment on equipment and training. That explains why, when a crisis occurs like recently in Mali, [the government] finds itself scrambling to get the troops ready.”
Dr. Gilpin added that smart and strategic investment in the security sector could yield better results for countries that can deliver on citizens’ safety, because insecurity increases the risk for investors, who in response demand a greater rate of return prior to any investment in African countries.
“It is all about strategic choices,” said Dr. Gilpin. “Budgeting for the security sector is not a year-to-year thing. There is a strategic need to look for a long term.”
Problems in managing security resources reflect broader challenges associated with economic management across the continent, Dr. Gilpin said, emphasizing that African governments have relied mostly on income generated by natural resources and less on investment in human capital and infrastructure.
Dr. Gilpin stressed that effective management of security resources will require strong budget processes and capable oversight institutions. Although he acknowledged that some parts of the security sector’s budget should remain classified, he stressed that parliaments should work with senior executives of the armed forces to build a budget process that is comprehensive, accountable, traceable, and predictable. There needs also to be a selected committee in the parliament that could understand, interpret and evaluate armed forces budget, processes and practices.
Overall, Dr. Gilpin said, there has not been a linkage in Africa between countries’ economic growth and their economic development—which affects the quality of life of people leaving in those countries. He said African decision makers and scholars still need to work on how to translate growth into development and, more importantly, how to utilize the proceeds of that growth to build a robust security infrastructure that works for everyone. “The effective use of scarce resources is crucial to success in the security sector,” he concluded.
The Senior Leaders Seminar, running June 16-28, provides a forum for more than 50 senior-level military officers and civilian officials from 36 African countries, the United States, and Europe, as well as representatives from international and regional organizations, to review and analyze the evolving African security environment and to discuss strategies for addressing challenges and enhancing Africa’s security. ACSS is the pre-eminent institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 14 years, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in over 200 ACSS programs.