Ex: Jonathan Power.

Subject: What Obama will see in Africa.

Date: June 24th 2013.

In June,1994, Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, spoke at a

summit meeting of the Organisation of African States: “We

must face squarely that there is something wrong in how

we govern ourselves. It must be said that the fault is not

in our stars but in ourselves.” At last Africa seems to have

taken his words of wisdom to heart.

This week President Barack Obama will be in Africa to see for himself how most of Africa over the nine years since that speech has taken the high road.

One by one throughout the 1990s governing elites

began to come to their senses. Twenty-five States 

established multi-party democracies.

Approximately two-thirds of the people of Africa

own a mobile phone. In many African countries phone 

technology is ahead of Europe and North America. Money

can be transferred from the city to an upcountry village.

Bills can be paid. In Ghana farmers can receive text

messages reporting the price of yams and corn two towns

away and thus find the best market without a middleman.

In Kenya residents of small villages can receive texts to say 

when the perambulating doctor will next be coming. In parts

of West Africa nurses are storing patients’ data on phones.

It may be more difficult to build up fast internet

penetration on PCs but in some countries 40% of mobile 

owners are using phones for email and the internet.

Black Africa has come late to the party but a majority of

its 48 countries is charging ahead. One advantage of being 

late is that one can leapfrog over old concepts and tools and

get today’s version at cheaper prices than the old. This is

true for everything from state of the art well digging

equipment to new seeds and mineral mapping.

Welcome to the new Africa! Lions roar and poverty drops!

All over infant mortality rates are falling, literacy is

improving, longevity is rising and infectious diseases 

including AIDs are falling steadily, as is malaria.

A number of African countries have oil and valuable

minerals sold at good prices. But East Africa, which is the

fastest growing region of sub-Saharan Africa, has little of

these- at least until very recently, when there have been

significant oil and gas finds. And even landlocked resource-poor Mali is doing well.

Paced by the Chinese and Indians, Western firms are

now getting in on the act. Some countries are floating bonds on Western exchanges.

African stock markets are flourishing and home grown

banks are pushing out their tentacles to small towns whilst

making good profits. Micro-lending is on the up, pulling

distant villagers into the modern economy.

For the first time a middle class is emerging in

significant numbers. Consumer products are in high 

demand. Motorbikes fill the roads. Good private schools,

universities and hospitals are in high demand. The upper

middle classes send their children to school and university 

in Europe and North America. Increasingly these graduates

and the some of the rest of the Diaspora are returning to

their land of opportunities.

Debt is down – partly thanks to write-offs by

Western countries which were prodded into action by 

Western NGOs. Inflation is falling. Corruption is being

tackled even though it is very much an uphill fight. 

Countries are finding new non-traditional items that they 

can export- flowers from Kenya and Zimbabwe and out of

season vegetables from a number of countries. Intra-African

trade has gone up from 6% to 13% of all trade.

High commodity prices for everything from palm oil to

cocoa to soya beans have given most countries a boost, yet

commodities provide a smaller proportion of exports than

they did a decade ago. Only about one third of Africa’s

recent growth is due to commodity exports. A decade ago trade with Brazil,

India and China made up only 1% of total trade. Now it is


When the world economic crisis of 2008 hit Africa,

sub-Saharan Africa weathered it. Commodity prices fell but

the structure of the reformed African economies was strong

enough to resist the pressure. Banks had been self-disciplined and are not over

exposed to the ailments of Western ones.

Growth rates (GDP) are today very encouraging. Last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, the average growth rate for sub-Saharan Africa was a handsome


These are the top-performing ones: Niger is 14%,

Angola 9.7%, Mozambique 9%, Sierra Leone 9%, Liberia

9%, Ghana 8.8%, Zambia 7.7%, Nigeria 7.1%,Congo 6.5%,

Tanzania 6.4%, Gabon 5.6%, Lesotho 5.2%, Kenya 5.2%

and Gambia 5%. Unfortunately, mismanaged South

Africa, the continent’s largest economy, is a lowly 2.7%. 

Nigeria will soon overtake it. Six of the top ten fastest growing countries in the world are African.

Ten years ago The Economist labelled Africa as “The

hopeless continent”. Much has changed. But don’t go out in in the bush unaccompanied! The lions are roaring!

Copyright: Jonathan Power

Views: 333

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Replies to This Discussion

Obama's African trip is some vacation or safari adventure, and nothing close to stimulating economic or political development. Candidate Obama's 2008 speeches in N. Africa which propelled revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt had little or no impact on Black Africa. I thought the president would spent sometime in his first four years to realize the peculiarity of this region and would initiate moves that will jolt some of the world's worst seat tight leaders in this region. Unfortunately, the president's second term will elapse even without a single frank statement. It's mind bugling that US presidents' African trips applaud countries that have  attained high levels of advancements,, while ignoring those that really need a push. I think the rest of the world will have to realize the vulnerability of weak, impoverished and ethnically fragmented African people in the face of very wealthy, powerful and foreign-backed dictators. The reverse of this would mean inaction, in the face of genocide.

That Africa has made some strides in its developmental efforts is indisputable. President Obama's visit should be seen, among others, as America's endorsement of the African agenda. Yet there are issues of governance that need to be addressed in some African states. Human rights abuses continue unabated, blatant corruption is going on in some hitherto democratic and corrupt-free countries. The politicians and top public servants continue to pillage. Don't mention poverty! Indeed the poor are always with us, apologies to the Master Christ. That is the more reason that we need to be careful about China's overturres. The country's 'care free' atitude towards poor governance should be a cause for serious concern. We need its investment, yes. But not at the cost of endorsing poor governance. Better the devil you know than the angel you don't know.



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