“Keep hope alive,” a mantra propagated by United States Civil Right leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson, when he was campaigning to become the first Black President of America. Although he failed short of his ambition, yet his hopeful dream was kept alive and eventually Barack Obama became the first Black President of United States. This scenario can be liken to a hopeful Africa which at this point time is in transition, and arguably with Africa ascending economic buoyancy the future of the continent is hopeful and promising.
As World Economic Forum gathering in South Africa took off, the focus was on Africa with great emphasis on the sustainability of the continent‘s economic growth. The World Economic Forum’s leitmotif on Africa was called, “Delivering on Africa’s Promise.” All things being equal, it is intrinsic to recognize that delivering the promise of political and economic stability in Africa have core internal impediments that may inhibits its sustainability. These obstructions are corruption, insecurity, poor infrastructures and host of other problems. But for now let us celebrate Africa for the milestone reached despite these obstacles that grounded in mismanagement and massive corruption.
World Economic Forum detailed its description on Africa economic growth with a rosy observation: “With an expected annual growth of 5% in 2012-2013, sub-Saharan Africa continues its transformative journey from a developing continent to a hub of global growth. According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status. At the same time, the continent’s positive outlook is threatened by fluctuating commodity prices, rising inequality and youth unemployment. To build on its achievements, Africa’s leaders need to strengthen the continent’s competitiveness, foster inclusive growth and build resilience in a volatile global environment. Accelerating economic diversification, boosting strategic infrastructure and unlocking talent are critical success factors in this new leadership context.”
The noted key point is that Africa’s young and dynamic work force is its greatest resource and must be sufficiently trained to deliver the African promise.
Yes! Africa is heading to a better place, a hopeful Africa has not arrived to the promise land, but one can begin to see that Africa is gradually but steadily awakening from her deep stagnation and is now struggling to stand on her feet. I cannot be accused of overstating the reality or exaggeration on the state of Africa, but African century may be knocking at the door of 21st century. Africa has suffered long enough by her own hands and in the hands of outsiders. She has been through a massive abuse and humiliation – slavery, colonialism, dictatorship and health crisis but it is beginning to look like the renewal of the Africa has commenced. It may be a baby step; notwithstanding something interesting is taking place in Africa.
The hopeful Africa is getting attention of the world. International organizations, Western think tanks and media are high lightening Africa with positive stories and responsiveness never seen before. The World Economic Forum is in the vanguard of giving a positive attention and reflection on the emerging continent. This is not happening because they are enamored of Africa but there are arrays of good news coming to Africa that even Steve Wonder can see them. Moreover, in the era of interdependence and globalization, interested parties are not driven by charity.
Africa‘s rising economy is making believers out many prominent business executives and economists. Beyond World economic Forum, many others are calling attention to Africa’s rising tide including Mohamed A. El-Erian, the CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO. This is a big deal; Mohamed A. El-Erian is a force to be reckoned with on the global business scene, his PIMCO is a global investment management firm, which is among one of the world’s largest bond investors with approximately US$1.9 trillion of assets as of September 1, 2012.
And when El-Erian speaks the world of business listens, his words on Africa: “Not since the countries of Africa tossed out their colonial masters several decades ago has there been this much optimism and excitement about the continent’s prospects. While China’s economic expansion has slowed, and while Europe and the United States try to dig themselves out of recession, Africa has not only weathered an up-and-down global economy — it’s been booming. Consider Nigeria’s stock market, which gained 35 percent last year, or Uganda’s, up 39 percent. But even more important is that real gains are finally being made on the ground in Africa today — ones that speak to the possibility of a breakout phase that would lift millions out of utter poverty and great misery. Let’s start with the numbers. According to International Monetary Fund data, sub-Saharan Africa has grown at an annual rate of 4.8 percent over the last five years, a period that includes the trauma of the global financial crisis. That means it has outperformed other developing regions — like Latin America, for example, at 3.3 percent — and it blows out of the water the advanced economies, which expanded just 0.5 percent per year.”
There are facts and realities in Africa that cannot be neglected or easily set aside. For a while most of the industrial economies were mired in sluggish growth but Africa growth was unstoppable. While the rest of the global economic growth is 2.4 percent in 2013, African economic is hovering above 5.0 percent. The five of the ten fastest economies in the world are in Africa and the whole world is taking notice of that, even some of African countries economic growths are exceeding 7.0 percent. Nigeria economy is bubbling with foreign reserve over $50 billion US dollar. This is why the world is coming to Africa, to encourage a sustainable growth and participate in the bounty.
Five of the fasted growing economies in the world are In Africa but it must be highlighted that Africa rising economic tide was mostly driven by natural resources. But high scientific and technological manufacturing industries have not taken root in Africa due to myriads of circumstances; among them is absence of modern infrastructures. Moreover the growing African economies have not made a dent on poverty and unemployment.
Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, commented recently on this issue: “Natural resource exports have propelled Africa into the world’s high-growth league. Around one-third of the region’s economies grew by more than 6 percent in 2012. Strong demand in emerging markets is set to drive another decade of high prices for Africa’s natural resources, and foreign investment is on the rise. Mozambique and Tanzania are poised to emerge as major exporters of natural gas. Guinea and Sierra Leone stand to reap windfall gains from iron ore exports. Demand for Zambia’s copper and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s cobalt is booming. “
And Annan continued and emphasis on the issue of poverty, “Unfortunately, the rising tide of wealth is not lifting all boats. Poverty has been falling far too slowly, and in some countries — including Zambia and Nigeria — it has increased. Few governments have used the increased revenues generated by resource exports to counteract rising inequality, build better health care and education systems or strengthen smallholder agriculture. Moreover, corruption remains endemic.”
By no means have Africa enormous problems been solved but an emerging and hopeful Africa is not backing away from her responsibilities. Also, it must be noted that many small African countries are still struggling with debts, deficits, poverty and unemployment. The issue of joblessness is affecting all African nations without exception. Nigeria is struggling with big gap between the rich and the poor, compounded with large unemployment especially among the youths. Many active observers are blaming the rise of sectarian violence in Nigeria due to poverty and lack of jobs among the restive youths.
Corruption is bane of development in the continent. Corruption has not gone away and continues to impact negatively on the society. The only solace is that Africa is no longer denying the destructive effect of corruption and Africa is not defensive about corruption anymore. Even the corrupt leaders have acknowledged that corruption must be controlled and reduce to enable sustainable development.
One of the greatest gain made by Africa is the steadily rejection of indifference and nonchalance that have come to characteristicize old order and leadership. There is an emerging and flickering sense of responsibility that is gradually springing up. But yes there are still quite number of leaders that have refused to change but to erect a bulwark against wind of change. The old order of greed and life time presidency must be give way to the emerging democratic dispensations to make African progrsss sustainable.
The intellectual and talking workshop organized by World Economic Forum have already done a good job on the awareness of Africa’s enormous potential. The rising of Africa is being driven by natural resource; it is not a secret that Africa is natural resource-rich. From oil to natural gas and precious metals, name it, it is under African soil. But the key and operating word for a sustainable economic development is diversification. Africa has to move away from resources extraction to industrial and manufacturing economies.
Industrial Africa cannot be achieved without modern day infrastructures. These include modern roads and rails, uninterrupted electric power for manufacturing and development. Most of the airports in the continent are poorly equipped and Africa is becoming the dumping ground for outdated and second-hand aircrafts. All these can be attributed to many air crashes in Africa. It is quite logical to suggest that Africa’s promise cannot be realized without adequacy of up-to-date and durable infrastructures.
For Africa to become infrastructure sufficiency an enormous resource is needed and African cannot be able to afford it with incurable corruption and gross mismanagement running rampant in the continent. Paul Frimpong, Associate Chartered Economic Policy Analyst / Financial Economist at University of Ghana, recently commented on what it takes to improve the status quo: , “According to the World Bank, about $93 billion is needed annually to be able to fund Africa’s infrastructure for the next 10 years. Which is about 15 percent of the region’s GDP. About $60 billion would go to new projects and the rest would go into the maintenance of the existing ones. Infrastructure development and management is an aspect in which the efficient developments within a society rely heavily upon, and is the cornerstone for socio-economic development. The availability of infrastructure is of great importance in the realization of sustainable development desperately needed in Africa. Infrastructure development and management has become even more essential for Africa’s economic development and integration.”
Frimpong continued to put an emphasis on the public and private sectors working together to realize its objective: “Governments are looking to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to radically improve infrastructure networks in their countries and enhance service delivery to their people. They are hoping that this development finance model — where the state shares risk and responsibility with private firms but ultimately retains control of assets — will improve services, while avoiding some of the pitfalls of privatization: unemployment, higher prices and corruption. This is why Africa has identified the model of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in financing infrastructure. But the question asked is “do we have the necessary strategies in place to make this work in Africa, as we so desperately wants it”? I guess some individuals and institutions across the continent must answer this question.”
The conssus among African experts are centered on Africa attaing infrastructure sufficiency for a sustainable growth and development. Blogging on Brookings Institute, Mwangi S. Kimenyi, senior fellow and director of the Africa Growth Initiative, wrote that the WEF gathering that took place in South Africa should "focus on issues that are key to unlocking Africa’s potential and sustaining high rates of economic growth that are also inclusive. These include strategies to accelerate investments in infrastructure and agriculture, building resilience, strengthening partnerships for growth through investments, enhancing technological innovation, managing natural wealth, nurturing leadership, and creating strategies to enhance jobs and skills, among many other pertinent topics."
Africa’s promise I believed is to have a developed and sustainable economy that can make existence more palatable for her inhabitants. Therefore I will advocate an Infrastructure Bank of Africa, where African nations will borrow and deposit resources solely for maintenance and building of modern infrastructures. The enormous African resources must not be squandered; a reasonable portion of the fund derived from these resources should be deposited at Infrastructure Bank, where it will accumulate progressively with appreciable interest rate. African resources must therefore fueled and catalyzed African development and growth.
World Economic Forum with its global clout can immensely help Africa by giving a compelling reason for funds derived from natural resources to be targeted solely for building and improving infrastructures.
To routinely organize a talking workshop on Africa is without doubt a good thing, but it must be followed by tangible actions that can bring a real change in Africa economic and geographical landscape. World Economic Forum in Africa cannot afford to slide into an intellectual exercise and intellectual workshop where problems are analyzed and dissected without consequentiality.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at AFRIPOL. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org firstname.lastname@example.org