Is Africa really growing?

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Africa is now considered one of the fastest growing and emerging continents in the world.
Africa’s economic pulse has quickened, infusing the continent with a new commercial vibrancy. Real GDP rose by 4.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2008, more than twice its pace during the 1980s and ’90s. Telecommunications, banking, and retail are flourishing. Construction is booming. Private-investment inflows are surging.

Despite this magnificent growth, many of Africa’s 50-plus economies face serious challenges, including poverty, disease, and high infant mortality. Yet Africa’s collective GDP, at 1.6 trillion USD in 2008, is now roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s, and the continent is among the world’s most rapidly growing economic regions. This acceleration is a sign of hard-earned progress and promise.
Africa has also benefited from the surge in commodity prices over the past decade. Oil rose from less than 20 USD a barrel in 1999 to more than 145 USD in 2008. Prices for minerals, grain, and other raw materials also soared in response to rising global demand.
Yet the commodity boom explains only part of Africa’s broader growth story. Natural resources, and the related government spending they financed, generated just 32 percent of Africa’s GDP growth from 2000 through 2008. The remaining two-thirds came from other sectors, including wholesale and retail, transportation, telecommunications, and manufacturing. Economic growth accelerated across the continent, in 27 of its 30 largest economies. Indeed, countries with and without significant resource exports had similar GDP growth rates.
From Angola to Ethiopia, Ghana to Mozambique the past few years have seen annual growth rates race along at over 6 percent. That success is bringing hope of a brighter future, but huge problems remain as the benefits of the boom are matched by the persistence of chronic inequalities.
Africa’s poverty rate has been falling by 1 percent a year, good news for sure, but way off the pace of economic growth.
Experts on Africa explain that Africa is a rich continent, 30 percent of the globe’s natural resources are vested in its land mass, as is 60 percent of the world’s arable land. However, little of this has benefited the people of a continent where some 400 million are still near or below the poverty line.
Of the two billion additional people on our planet by 2050‚ half will be born in the slums of African cities – the rapid urbanization means cities not only need to be sustainable but have to look at ways of providing housing for the growing population.
We have to take the opportunity and make Africa central to this next era in the development of mankind – we need a sense of Africanism and togetherness – we need strong political institutions for Africa as a whole.
That is, instead of the continent being a recipient of handouts, it should, through its various governments and governance structures put in place measures that will ensure foreign capital is used effectively.
“Africa is the last investment frontier and the world is looking for ways to profit from its transformation – the key is in making that investment sustainable.”
Jason Drew, international business leader, environmentalist and author says, Africa is the last investment frontier and the world is looking for ways to profit from its transformation – the key is in making that investment sustainable.
“We have to engage formal settlements in the solution – if cities are to be sustainable for all their inhabitants – education and opportunities are essential to this – China’s mixed development new cities are the way forward – but the old sanitation and energy intensive solutions are not.”
According to a recent World Bank report, Africa’s farmers can potentially grow enough food to feed the continent and avert future food crises if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.
It would also create more jobs in services such as distribution, while reducing poverty and cutting back on expensive food imports. Africa’s production of staple foods is worth at least 50 billion USD a year.
According to Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst, authors of the book entitled: Africa’s Third Liberation – The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs “The current political environment in Africa offers the possibility – but it is not an inevitability that leaders will develop the kind of productive economic politics that have led to growth and development elsewhere.”
The authors say African countries face two challenges in particular – firstly they must transform their wealth in minerals and other natural resources to benefit their entire society. Secondly, many African leaders need to end their public and private animus towards business.
“The biggest challenge of all remains the gulf between those who favour a distributional model of growth over the model based on enterprise through entrepreneurship and the creation by government of an enabling environment.
“Until now, African entrepreneurs have made progress by circumventing their government,” according to the authors.
All in all the 21st Century belongs to Africa and its people. It is not a handout but our responsibility to manage and make the most of its development opportunities.
Recently the new African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (Phd) also questioned the claims of growth in Africa comparing it with the opportunities and the benefits available to the people. She said that if the continent is growing, why is it not creating enough jobs for its youth, and why are the jobs of the people of Africa low level and poorly paid?