Metropole Magazine

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27 May Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

Africa’s March to Prosperity

Africa was about wars, misery and misrule. Nigeria, Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, and Congo Brazzaville are just a few of the many African countries where wars once defined the news. Apartheid reigned in South Africa for decades. Famine was once the symbol of the continent. Malnourished children were its image. Political instability, military rule and unpopular governments were the norm. Foreign aid and corruption were its twin realities. HIV/AIDS came and immediately stole the show. It was dark in here. Africa looked helpless and hopeless.

That was then. The continent is experiencing unprecedented economic growth in a world where growth was a rarity. More than half of the world’s top ten growing economies are now domiciled on the African continent. There is an increasing middle class that is beginning to attract global brands. The aid conversation is giving way to the one on trade. Representative democracy has become the norm and military rule has since gone out of fashion. There is a general optimism about Africa that is founded on more than just intangible hope: this new optimism is founded on the tangible realities of today’s Africa.

Africa at 40 per cent of the population is more urbanized than India at 30 per cent and is only just less urbanized than China at 45 per cent. The rapid rate of urbanization and population growth has ensured that Africa has one of the fastest growing labour forces and consumer markets in the world. Consumers and opportunities are like sugar and ants, they find each other. The United Arab Emirates has invested about $100b in Africa over the last decade…Nigeria’s Etisalat is one of those. China’s direct investment into Africa reached $14.7b in 2011, a 60 per cent leap on its 2009 numbers. South Africa’s Stock Exchange is the 18th largest in the world, Nigeria’s Stock Exchange is one of the world’s most profitable. The European Union has more investment in Africa than any other region with over 40 per cent of total foreign investments.

China will age within decades! Only 28 per cent of the Chinese population is under 20, while in Africa 50 percent of the population is under 20. China will lose 10 million jobs over the next decade. Africa is poised to attract these jobs. In 2040, there will be more young people in Sub-Saharan Africa than there will be in East Asia. In 2012, Africans living outside Africa sent $60b (about N10 trillion) home. A lot of them are returning and more will return with their expertise. Nigeria is experiencing some sort of reverse brain-drain. The African Diaspora will become a socio-economic force going forward.

Economic liberalization and privatization are creating more efficient and effective market systems in Africa. War and military coups are no longer the norm; democracy and representative governments have become the new continental consensus. Intra-African trade is set to grow from its current 12 per cent due to a consensus on regional integration. There is a belief that if trade in the informal sector is captured the numbers would be higher. Africans Investing in Africa has become an African reality. South Africa and Nigeria are running the show.

The world will need to feed 9 billion mouths by 2020; Africa can be its food basket. According to McKinsey and Company, Africa’s agricultural production has the potential to reach $880billion by 2030, from $280billion in 2008. A sizeable number of the world’s arable land is domiciled in Africa; Africa could become the world’s farm. Africa was built to ship its resources to the world because of colonial realities; it must now build to trade with itself. African integration will be built on necessary new infrastructure; why do you think Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote is either in or has plans to be in 33 African countries?

Many have not woken up from the old image of the continent so they are not open to reaping from the new fruits of Africa’s bloom. There is a lot more to be done but unlike some of its people Africa is not the one sleeping this time. Africa’s march to prosperity is a genuine and the least we can do as a people is be at the forefront of this renaissance.