Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
A land of opportunities, a rising giant, the growth region of tomorrow and many other phrases are used to describe Africa today, a giant continent with more than one billion people.
As the continent celebrates Africa Day, a day that marked the formation of the Organisation of Africa Unity on May 25 1963 before it was renamed the African Union, it would be logical for the continent to take stock of where it is today vis-à-vis where it intends to be tomorrow. A study of its past is also helpful.
In most part, Africa has largely been referred to as a dark continent fraught with poverty, disease and armed civil wars which should just be a lame recipient of development aid, donor assistance and other forms of assistance and experiments by the developed world. Development practitioners will confess that this is a well-documented stance on the continent and has, therefore, laced relations between the continent and the First World.
But this discourse has changed dramatically over the past few years, with the continent becoming more aggressive in pursuit of more relevance and a better appeal to the outside world. The continent has stood up, with increasing confidence, to tell the world that there is more to it than disease, poverty and wars. That it has what it takes to become an economic powerhouse, albeit at a slower pace than would be ideal.
Indeed, civil wars in some pockets, diseases in others and other forms of conflict continue to afflict the continent but the rate of occurrence has gone down and more attention is focused on how the continent can become a better and more respectable global player.
Its voice is becoming increasingly heard on the global area. From a nauseating shriek to a more solid bass tone, Africa has refused to be silenced but has instead gone out to demonstrate that it does matter and the world would surely be a poor place without its involvement in the global developmental discourse.
The African Union has played a critical role in promoting peace and stability and fighting disease and poverty to churn out a brighter continent that can no longer be considered black but brown to light-skinned. There is vast room for improvement and more oomph can be added to the drive so that the continent occupies its rightful position on the globe.
Focus in this instalment will be more on the economic front where the continent has progressed somewhat in recent years.
The United Nations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other commentators are upbeat about the continent’s economic performance.
Abundant natural resources and increasing political stability are cited as major reasons for improved performance by Africa. In its recent review and outlook, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs states that economies of Sub-Saharan Africa are surpassing global rates, with Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.
Africa’s economic growth is predicted to reach 3,5 percent this year and 3,7 percent in 2019.
“The economies of the fastest growing African nations experienced growth significantly above the global average rates . . . many international agencies are increasingly interested in investing in emerging African economies especially as Africa continues to maintain high economic growth despite current global economic recession,” said the report.
The continent is said to have the highest return on investment in the developing world.
It is believed that with expanding trade, improved literacy and education, availability of natural resources, improved English language skills, cheaper labour force, Africa will perform even better in future.
The AfDB concurs that African economies have been resilient, with production levels rising significantly. This is attributed to good macroeconomic policies, infrastructure development and generally “sensible” policy frameworks.
The bank predicts that output from the continent will rise to 4,1 percent this year from 3,6 percent last year.
“Many African economies are more resilient and better placed to cope with harsh external conditions than before. But the end of the commodity price super-cycle has cut earnings from primary exports in many countries, undermining planned investments. Weaker external conditions have exposed fiscal vulnerabilities in natural resource-dependent economies as well as several others.
The World Bank predicts a 3,1 percent economic growth this year and 3,6 percent in 2019, stressing that resource-intensive countries will remain robust while public debt levels will constrict others. Total poverty headcount at the international poverty line of $1,90 per day is projected to drop slightly.
These positive projections by key institutions augur well for the continent.
Initiatives to promote inter and intra-regional trade will certainly boost economic activity.
At the end of the day Africa needs to resent a strong and formidable force to fend off the effects of a global slowdown. Market conditions out there are quite harsh hence an improved intra-African trade regime will certainly present key market for respective countries.
Value addition has long been established as a viable route, particularly in face of unstable prices for primary exports.
Africa certainly has the wherewithal to call the shots on the international stage given its wealth of resources and such advantages as relatively cheap labour but much more needs to be done to ensure that pockets of challenges are dealt with decisively.
A number of individual countries such as Rwanda and Angola are doing well but at continent level, challenges in some countries tend to neutralise the effects of the high growths rates. But the good thing is that there is hope. The continent has in the last few years developed critical muscle.
Economic relations with such countries as China continue to boost performance with trade between Africa and China expected to have risen significantly to breach the $166 billion recorded in 2011.
Thawing relations with the West in such countries as Zimbabwe will boost economic performance going forward.
But for a more effective and consistent upward trajectory, Africa needs to collectively work on its strengths, identify areas of mutual benefit and collective work to subdue any negative undercurrents such as civil wars and political instability where these are identified.
Africa has a bright future but a change of the mindset, a change of attitude and a change of the way we perceive relations amongst ourselves will certainly make a world of difference.
Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent, bodes well for past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development. Africa will emerge bigger and better from it.
In God I Trust!