Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Africa: The next dream! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A significant economic study conducted by a prominent research institution has shown that the face of the world economy over the next ten years will be shaped by new trends.

In this study, the African continent appears to be the obvious option to become a center for low-cost industries, a status that previously alternated between several states in south-east Asia, from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. This is because the labour market in Africa is cheaper, not to mention the clear improvements and developments that have been made in the business climate and infrastructure there.

The past few years have seen sustained capital investment into African projects in places including, but not limited to, Nairobi, Lagos and Accra.

Sub-Saharan Africa has begun to attract investments and portfolios from major financial institutes. This has resulted in direct foreign investment rates in Africa increasing by 50 percent since 2005.

Several prominent international banks are now looking closely at Africa and seriously investigating investment opportunities there. The most notable such bank is “J.P. Morgan” which has placed Nigeria on its index of states with promising economies. Furthermore, J.P. Morgan anticipates that the Nigerian economy will gain over 1.5 billion US dollars in revenue from selling Nigerian treasury bonds to assist towards the implementing of necessary national projects.

At the same time, there are “ skeptics” about this idea and view the belief that Africa is moving towards a “golden age” as something that is highly exaggerated and immersed in misleading optimism. This argument is based on the assumption that the majority of African states are captive to a destructive blend of poverty, corruption and misery. As evidence, these skeptics cite a major study carried out by a prominent international institution that revealed that 9 of the 11 major countries threatened with famine are African.

However there is another language that cannot be denied or underestimated; that is the language of numbers. This language gives precise information about the African continent; information which requires scrutiny and examination. According to the World Bank, Africa enjoyed an annual growth rate exceeding 5 percent in 2012, although this was below previous estimates of 5.4 percent. Of course, this rate is much higher than the growth rates of the aging European continent which is suffering a severe economic catastrophe.

Africa has numerous economic prospects that make it attractive for investors. It has a young population who enjoy high-levels of education, whilst the continent’s mortality rate and living standards are also on the rise, not to mention an increase of populations in urban centers at the expense of rural districts. This makes investment more effective and dynamic, not to mention the various cultures and languages across the continent, which gives Africa a striking competitive advantage whereby it can function as an industrial bridge for other markers.

Advanced technology is playing a key role in narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor as well as between services and clients. Thanks to mobile phones and the internet, money transfers, methods of payment, services and shopping are now available in even the remotest locations. Educational and health services are accessible and on offer to people who once never believed they would enjoy this.

One last significant issue has seen vast improvements and deserves mention here, namely good governance. Present-day African governments are elected in a strikingly democratic manner that is admired by international political bodies as well as by social organizations. Today, the media and the judiciary function as two eyes for the people to fight and combat political corruption as much as possible, even if there is still a long way to go. Yet these are all significant steps in a long process, and they have all made Africa a target for capital and effective human cadres. Major international recruitment firms have announced that the salaries of their executive managers in Africa have increased by 30 percent compared to last year.

To summarize, Africa today is akin to China and India ten years ago.