AFRICA’S SUCCESS LIES WITHIN
Africa’s narrative has been one of incessant pain and struggle. Almost all African nations have suffered in one way or another; be it military dictatorships, corruption, civil unrest, war, underdevelopment or profound poverty ;The majority of the countries classified by the UN as least developed are in Africa. Numerous development strategies have failed to yield the expected results. Although some believe that the continent is damned to eternal poverty and economic slavery, Africa’s narrative is changing.
In the past decade Sub-Saharan Africa was the third fastest growing region in the world after China and India. Global demand for Africa’s oil and other natural resources has fueled a continuous surge in exports, dramatically changing the fortunes of historically underdeveloped countries. The income gap has narrowed: For the first time since the 1970’s, per capita income in Africa rose faster than that of high-income countries.
Europe, North America and China are Africa’s biggest trading partners. Africa’s merchandise trade jumped 24 percent in 2010 and accounted for 3.2 percent of world trade, up from 2.1 percent in 2000.
However, even when statistics like the ones above paint a positive image of the continent the vast majority of Africans rarely benefit. There lies a serious dilemma within Africa’s rising success. According to the African Economic Outlook 2011 Report (AEO), during the past decade, especially in the fastest growing economies in Africa, good economic performance due to investment in oil and other extractive industries has had little effect on poverty.
One major cause of this is the continual bias towards external trade at the expense of African integration. It is sad that in some regions of Africa it is much easier to trade with Europe and America than it is with a neighboring country. We have been reduced to observers of our own success story.
There is intense competition for foreign markets amongst African countries which leads to mistrust and even animosity towards each other. Political influence, corruption and greed blind us from seeing the best avenues towards real and sustained economic development.
Consider this; Africa has a rapidly growing marketplace of approximately 1billion people yet trade between African countries accounted for less than 10percent of overall trade in the period 2000-2008.
Former British PM Tony Blair once said “trade and enterprise have the power to change people’s lives”.
Pan-African trade is the solution to Africa’s vicious cycle of short-term gains and relentless poverty. There is a call for African leaders to not only reiterate the need for Africans to unite and work together but to also accelerate regional commerce. Economic inclusion is not a far-fetched ideal. With sound macroeconomic policies and forward thinking leadership, the continent can transform from needing ‘development-aid’ and ‘debt-relief’ to having sustainable socioeconomic growth and eventually eradicating poverty.
The economic revolution currently happening in Africa is undeniable. It is now possible to imagine an Africa no longer dependent on aid. With a strong and unified voice in global trade, Africa can deliver a better deal for its citizens, and be a significant driver of growth for the world. This can only be made possible by freeing up the wealth creating power of trade and enterprise through promoting unity amongst African countries.