“Africa: Between Hope and Despair” David Pilling, Financial Times, 24 April 2016

“Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will be 3.3% this year, less than half the average of 6.8% in 2003-2008. Because of growing populations, most African states need 3% growth just to stand still in per capita terms. (...) Success stories are too rare and progress --economic and political-- too fragile, to be confident that Africa has changed decisively”.

Whatever happened to “Africa Rising”? From about 2009 a hopeful, narrative began: Africa as the next investment frontier. “Africa was about to become the new Asia”, says Richard Dowden (Royal African Society) It was “absolutely ridiculous”. That exuberance has evaporated. Nigeria and South Africa (together half of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP) are in deep trouble. Nigeria’s petroleum-dependent economy will barely growth 3% this year, not enough for population growth. South Africa is convulsed politically, with high unemployment and facing a downgrade of its debt to junk. Other commodity producers --Angola and Mozambique-- are struggling. The grotesque use by politicians of windfall profits shows that corruption is alive and well. Exceptions: Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ivory Coast, resurgent after years of civil war. In country after country, growth is slowing, external positions weakening and fiscal deficits widening. “You’ve gone from huge over-exuberance to uber-pessimism without anything much in between”, says David Cowan, Africa Economist at Citibank. That begs the big question about Africa today: is there a sensible view between hope and despair? With the cold war over, there are fewer full-blown civil wars, like those of Angola or Mozambique. Africa has avoided genocides like Rwanda-1994. Lower-level conflict remains in South Sudan and Somalia, and Africa faces Islamist terrorism. Hav African leaders changed? Look at those clinging to power: Robert Mugabe, in Zimbabwe for 36 years; Cameroon’s President Paul Biya (34 years) and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda (30 years). The African middle class is also fragile: many scrape by on a few dollars a day in insecure jobs. Economically, Africa hardly makes anything. The economic model: dig stuff out of the ground and sell it abroad. Moeletsi Mbeki: “African economies are getting more sophisticated. But Africa is still not yet in the manufacturing age”.

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“Africa: Between Hope and Despair” David Pilling, Financial Times, 24 April 2016


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