Economic Growth In Africa: The Unheard Success Story

Perhaps rapid development of Asian countries and the simultaneous downturn in Europe and the United States overshadows growth rates in Africa, which are projected to be the fastest growing over the next decade. However, growth has spread throughout Africa, and while poverty and corruption are still rampant, millions of people are doing better economically speaking than ever before. Strides in commodity production have been made and the use of information technology such as phones and personal computing has exploded. The continent enjoys a demographic advantage in the form of a majority of young, working age populations that are increasingly becoming tech savvy. Perhaps more remarkable is that these young people are not just consuming technology, but producing it as well.

Graphic from The Economist
Graphic from The Economist

Apps for mobile phones are being developed to improve economic activity, so that customers can easily find things to purchase and owners can easily sell products. Banking has become more convenient because social networking and messaging have connected Africans. Fiber optic cables and mobile data have proliferated as well, linking entire regions to the rest of the world. Such rapid technological growth has in many ways become the backbone of broader economic growth throughout Africa. One illuminating example is that Kenya has recently announced its plans to build a “Silicon Savannah,” just a few miles away from its capital city of Nairobi. According to plans, the site will provide homes, a university, and tens of thousands of tech related jobs. What is perhaps even more striking is that the European Union was calling for more tech workers to fill labor gaps at roughly the same time.

Commodity production, from minerals to agriculture to natural energy resources, has skyrocketed as well. Exports of such resources are of course valuable, though they are also vulnerable to declined global demand and changing market conditions. Fortunately for Africa, China has been a huge customer of resource exports and business between the two partners has boomed (something the United States should be watchful of). However, manufacturing production has not kept pace and still remains rather consistently low throughout the continent. This factor, combined with a fickle global market for exports, can easily turn into a spot of economic contention for Africans. Still though, commodity and natural resource production remain economically fruitful.

Furthermore, investment in human capital has improved as well. Micro loans, such as those given via organizations like Kiva, are increasingly being issued to Africans in various countries, driving local growth and businesses. This money often comes from foreign capital, but much of it also comes from local banks, indicating greater economic responsibility. Political situations, which was perhaps Africa’s worst affliction over the past few decades, have largely, but not completely, stabilized as well. The number of civil wars has decreased, leading to a corresponding increase in peaceful transitions of power and political stability. Most recently, Sudan was able to split off into two sovereign nations, a northern and southern Sudan. This partition did not result in a full scale revolt as many had feared and what little violence that did occur only slightly overshadowed the largely successful parting.

News regarding Africa is usually about the famine in Somalia, the resurgence of terrorists in northern Africa, or the obscene rapes of South Africa. Throughout the continent, however, there is a quiet yet emerging story of successful economics, increased trade, and people being lifted out of poverty. Of course, if nations that are already considered as rapidly developing, such as China and Brazil, still have a ways to go, then Africa certainly still has a mountain to climb. However, for once in a very long time, that mountain seems a little more surmountable for Africa.

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