If you really want to know if Africa is rising, ask Africans.
The Africa rising slogan is not African. The narrative is a Western view of Africa.
Africa is under-performing. Is Zimbabwe doing better today that it was in 2000? Even South Africa is heading into a recession. The most industrialized country in Africa is registering negative growth. How do you explain that?
Ali Mufuriki makes some good points about making clear distinctions about hype versus reality and hope versus achievement.
Africa is indeed “rising”, but the hype is overrated when you look at quantifiable measurements. The following points are all taken from his Ted Talk.
- Low Expectations. In the 80’s and 90’s, China was growing at 18% per annum at the peak of its growth. What is Africa’s growth today? 7–8%. When China’s growth is less than 10%, Economists call it a “ recession”. What is considered a “recession” in China is praised as a huge growth for Africa. Why are bars set too low? Something tells me because we are Africans.
- You cannot rise without enough electricity. Ask Nigerians about their power cuts. In fact, France (65 million people) consumes 4 times more electricity than Sub-Saharan Africa (850 million people, 2015). Is Africa really rising?
- Huge costs for transportation. Transporting one ton of fertilizer from a US port to Kenyan port ( Mombasa) costs about $ 40 per ton for a 9,000 KM distance. Can you guess what it costs to transport the same cargo from Mombasa to Kampala ( Uganda)? It costs $ 120 per ton for a 1,000 KM distance. Per KM, it is 30 times more expensive to transport commodities inside Africa. How can Entrepreneurs thrive in this environment? Are we not setting them for failure? This can’t be a sign for rising.
- Has anybody flew inside Africa? Flights are super expensive on the continent. We still have visa issues between countries. In my region, check out the price to fly from Kigali to Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, and Addis-Ababa. Similar journeys in Europe or Asia are three times cheaper. How can we trade with one another when flying is reserved for politicians, diplomats, NGO workers, and rich business people?
- How about energy security? As of 2015, Sub-Saharan Africa was importing $ 19 billion worth of oil from OPEC countries. Why can’t we refine the oil reserves in Africa to be self-sufficient? Meanwhile, Nigeria, one of the largest oil producers in Africa lost about 136 million barrels of oil between 2009–2012. Most of the oil was lost through theft, sabotage, corruption, and other self-destructing phenomena. That’s one billion USD in loss of revenues. The same amount Nigeria used to import grains such as wheat, maize, and other cereals in the country. Are we really rising?
- Mechanization of Agriculture. We are still practicing agriculture the same way people did it 500 years ago. Africa is under-performing in irrigation and introducing modern techniques to ensure food security. An African farmer harvest 2 tons of maize per one hectare of land. Meanwhile, an American farmer gets 10 tons per hectare. Are we really rising?
- Zimbabwe is a good example in this case. Take the land from commercial farmers and give it to subsistence farmers. How is Zimbabwe today? A once food basket and a net exporter of food in Africa faces food shortages and mass emigration. South Africa is heading in the same direction. I hope they prove me wrong, but things are not looking good there either. Are we really rising?
- In education, what are our literacy rates? Basic education of primary and secondary education. 70% of Africans are a young population under 35. Are we empowering the youth to equip them with the skills and knowledge to cope with the challenges of today and tomorrow? I don’t think so.
- In the end, nothing seems to be changing in Africa. Our leaders are illiterate and don’t care about reading and learning from others. Not too long ago, some Asian countries were behind Africa. South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. Our folks just don’t care.
- For Africa to rise, we need the magic of 6M theory of management. Man, material, money, market, management, and motivation.
- Man (people): a skilled and well-trained workforce.
- Material: Infrastructure to facilitate economic growth ( transportation, electricity, roads, railways, etc).
- Money: Access to capital.
- Markets: Access to global markets ( Africa Intra-trade).
- Management: Leadership that is visionary and forward thinking.
- Motivation: Hope and excitement for today and the future. Are African countries doing enough to get African youth excited? I don’t think so. We are talking about 70% of the African population, who are under 35.
From the outside perspective, we might be “rising”, but from an inside perspective, we are under-performing. I am always positive and hopeful, but sometimes, we gotta be real.
Any Africans think we are really rising as a whole continent? In my honest opinion, the bar for us has been set too low. Such a shame! As Ali from Tanzania said, there is a big difference between hype and reality.
The hype is that Africa is rising. The reality is that Africa is underachieving.
Follow Africa is Home to learn more.
Is Africa really rising? Ali Muturiki ( Ted Talk).
Your articles are really interesting.
For once because I’ve already made a paper titled “Poverty in Africa” that you can read on Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/11340021/Poverty_in_Africa
Second because I intend to develop kind of a continuation to it, with more updated data from Gapminder: https://www.gapminder.org/
Feel free to contact me (email@example.com) or leave a comment on the paper if you wish.
Dear Fernando, thanks very much for sharing this article. I will check it out. Best regards.
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