BY Omoy Lungange, 1:00am March 21, 2012,

Africa Is Moving On Up!

There is an extraordinary transformation taking place across Africa and key players are beginning to see this. I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion last week hosted by the Foreign Policy Association in New York. The panel discussion, centered around the tagline "Africa Emerging: Trade Investment and Opportunity across the Continent,"  focused on how Africa has emerged as one of he fastest growing economies in the world, and the immense opportunities that remain untapped.

The event, moderated by CNN Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi, featured distinguished panelists Teresa Clarke, Chairman  & CEO of,  Tony O. Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings Limited and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Joseph Wilson, Ambassador and Chairman of Symbion Power Africa.

The following is a recap of the panel discussion, which highlighted a wide range of topics including: foreign investment, the emerging economic growth, the Diaspora, education, trade, development, information revolution, tourism, and many other growing trends revitalizing the African continent.

Africa Is Moving On Up!Africa, the Cradle of civilization and the birthplace of humanity is moving on up! It is rising and by and by, it is getting a taste of peace, order, and good governance. Glimpses of democracy and development have been steadily (re)taking their deep roots throughout the continent and making the most promising strides.

According to the Economist, poor, landlocked Mali is combining slow but steady economic improvement with political stability. Ghana, at independence in 1957 one of Africa’s richest countries but then damaged by dictators and long gripped mismanagement is making a comeback. Mozambique, rich in minerals and recuperated from war, is also progressing slowly in the right direction. In South Africa, the struggle for freedom and equality, which was invigorated by the legally ingrained injustice of apartheid, has lost its force. After unswerving commitment and reform, Rwanda ranks eighth in the world in the “Starting a Business” category of the global “Ease of Doing Business” index, creating a new storyline away from war and “one of the poorest countries” clichés that often accompanies press on the country.

As one can see, various facets of African countries are changing quite significantly; and this also includes the position of the continent’s economy.

According to Goldman Sachs economists, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Africa could average 5% over the next decade, compared to less than 3% over the past 30 years. In other words, debt levels are much lower in Africa and surprisingly, fiscal management in many cases has enormously improved. It is documented that recent growth in GDP has increased mainly due to infrastructure, wholesale and retail, agribusinesses, tourism, finance and natural resources, as well as sales in commodities, services, and manufacturing that many African countries are beginning to develop.

Africa’s zeal for technology for instance, is boosting such extreme growth by spurring tremendous innovation in mobile phone networks. Furthermore, since roads are more often than not horrendous, advances in communications have become a huge boom. Currently, approximately a tenth of Africa’s land mass is covered by mobile-internet services —a higher proportion than in India, leading Africa to have much more mobile-phone users than America or Europe.  Mobile innovation in Africa has also fostered a new generation of technology entrepreneurs.  Kenya for example, now hosts iHub, a digital and physical open source center providing community resources to tech entrepreneurs to develop ideas and connect to investors.

The increased rate of foreign investment or doing businesses in Africa has also proved to be a positive story for the continent, with African citizens among the most upbeat.  The Economist affirms that, many African countries have been helped by better macro-economic management and big inflows of Western aid, and European debt relief.

According to Jake Bright, a Whitehead Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, American multinational companies such as Wal-Mart for instance, completed a $2.4 billion acquisition of South African retailer Massmart; GE’s Immelt named Africa as a priority growth region, and IBM announced a $1.5 billion investment in African focused technology company Bharti Airtel. U.S. private equity giant the Carlyle Group has also launched a Sub-Saharan Africa investment group, adding to overall private equity investments on the continent of $3 billion in 2011. 

It is also worthy to note that the recent growth in Africa, in a phenomenal way is mainly due to China’s very considerable involvement in the continent starting some seven or eight years ago.  Other countries, from Brazil and India, Turkey to Malaysia, have begun to take notice and are also following their lead. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) actually estimated that foreign investment to Africa rose from $11 billion in 2000 to $53 billion in 2007.  It recently predicted economic growth in Africa will reach 5.5 percent in 2012, higher than that of most western economies. Sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to grow at a faster rate than Brazil and India and will be seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies by 2015. Oil-producing countries such as Angola and Nigeria, and even war-torn Sudan, have supplied the highest growth figures, and much of their foreign investment has gone into developing industries. Cross-border commerce is also growing throughout the continent; as tariffs fall and barriers to trade are taken to pieces.

Education thus far, has been the most valuable investment in breaking the cycle of poverty. It has significantly improved living standards and conceived a new generation of Africa’s best and brightest driving private and public sectors. There are various pockets of improvement within the education system that has traditionally been the back-bone of the continent’s social and economic progress.

Take for instance, the African Leadership Academy (ALA) a residential, secondary institution for academically gifted, underprivileged 15–18 year-olds located on the outskirt of South Africa. ALA is doing extremely well with its students consistently ranking amongst the top performers in the world, and with its first graduate’s class being accepted into universities globally. Secondly we have the University of Ghana; one of the best universities in Africa and by far the most prestigious in West Africa. It is also doing extremely well. Recently, it instituted a Graduate school of nuclear and allied sciences making it one of the few universities in Africa offering programs in nuclear sciences.

New sets of Diaspora entrepreneurs are also emerging, including many young professionals who attended the best universities in the U.S. Asia, and Europe. These entrepreneurs see Africa’s business class driving private and public sector reform, and are leaving eminent jobs to start businesses in the continent or to take leadership positions in existing firms; bringing with them both financial and intellectual assets. Across the African continent overall, there are full forces, technical and vocational education and training facilities set up in various regions by foreign corporations in order to train the youth and other individuals the skills needed to engage in meaningful employment that will contribute to economic and social development within their communities.

As one can see, Africa is moving on up! Yes It is. Of course, we cannot ignore the setbacks Africa has and all the enormous challenges which trouble its societies. Yet In the midst of all this brouhaha, there is a hum to the world, a regenerating pulse rising out of the Cradle, accompanied by a steady rhythmic drumbeat of optimism hammering…. Africa Is Rising!  Africa Is Rising! Africa Is Rising!

Last Edited by: Updated: June 19, 2018


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