Emerging Africa

A new optimism is permeating much of Africa. The past 10 years of unprecedented growth in sub-Saharan Africa has helped fuel this positive attitude even when most of the rest of the world faces global economic crisis.

As more Africans move out of poverty and become middle-class consumers, they are increasingly in a position to drive investment, support entrepreneurship, and improve education.
According to a panel of African experts, the IMF confirm the upbeat outlook for the continent and, while acknowledging continued and deep-rooted poverty, spell out what Africa needs to do to further spur opportunities for growth.

The increasing middle-class growing (now over one-third of the population according to the African Development Bank) is shifting global perceptions about Africa’s prospects. The traditional focus on eradicating poverty in Africa distracted both African authorities and international donors from serious consideration of ways to promote prosperity infrastructure development.

The African middle class still has comparatively little to spend by Western or Asian standards. But better economic policies, governance, and use of natural resources, coupled with more business-friendly policies and stronger demand for Africa’s commodities from emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India have led to Africa’s consistently high growth levels.

The new middle class is young (nearly 70% under the age of 40) and in the acquisitive stage of their lives, spurring consumer spending.

Today, across Africa, change is in the air.

The story is not all rosy of course. Poverty will be a fact of life in Africa for a long time: one-third of all Africans will still be extremely poor in 2060, living on less than $1.25/day. While it helps those who are in immediate need, an emphasis on aid does not encourage Africa to aspire to higher economic performance. The change in focus that Africa watchers are noticing (from poverty to gradually growing prosperity) represents a deep shift in the perceptions of Africa’s economic future, with profound policy and practical implications.

Africa is projected by the IMF to grow faster than Brazil between 2010 and 2015. But the lack of adequate infrastructure is now one of the big factors holding Africa back. Africa’s poor roads, ports, and communications isolate it from global markets, and its internal border restrictions fragment the region into a myriad of small local economies. It is neither regionally nor globally integrated. But with better underlying economic policies, a rising middle class in Africa will fuel growth.

It is one thing to bring prosperity to a region, but what counts is growth that benefits the poor and the young, and growth that lasts. Growth is not enough. . . . For young people in particular school plus experience is essential for true inclusion in society.

Patrice de Boeck is director for Business_Network Consulting | A consultancy focused on providing fresh and innovative approach to investment and development in Central Africa, through the provision of services covering Finance, Marketing, Strategy and Sports Sponsorship.