Will Africa Follow Asia's Footsteps?
The development of the next supercontinent
June 27, 2019, Bruno Jacobson
For many, Africa may seem like a continent with a sealed fate. But Africa is a vast continent, replete with nations growing and developing rapidly. Despite challenges that continue to assail it, Africa seems set to play an increasing role in world affairs. The question is, will African nations be able to follow the example of many Asian nations and do it sooner rather than later?
3 Reasons To Believe in The Rise of Africa
When you look at Asia prior to the 1960s, a great chunk of it was comprised of war-torn, underdeveloped or developing nations. Then something fascinating happened. A string of economic booms lifted the Asian economies, rapidly turning it into the largest economic zone in the world. Japan, followed by the Asian tigers (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong) and China have all contributed to the so-called "Asian miracle." Counting with 60% of the world population, it is also the fastest growing economic region in the world. It is no wonder, then, that many hope for similar booms elsewhere. And one particular good candidate continent is Africa. Will Africa follow Asia's footsteps?
There are 3 reasons to believe it will.
At the moment, there are 1.22 billion people in Africa. That's about 16% of the world population, currently sitting at 7.7 billion. After Asia, with 4.6 billion people, it is the largest continent by population. And better yet, it is growing.
With yearly population growth around 2% and 3%, it is estimated that by 2050 it will be home to twice as many people. And, by 2100, it will reach 4.4 billion people. If the world population by 2100 has grown to 11.2 billion people, almost 40% of everyone on Earth will live in Africa. That's close to half of the world population.
On top of that, Africa will be home to several megacities of proportions difficult to imagine. According to some estimates, cities like Lagos, in Nigeria, will be home to nearly 90 million people by 2100. That's almost 3 times the population of metropolitan Tokyo in a city of similar size. And Lagos won't be the only one. Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, will be the second most populous city in the world, with 83.5 million people. Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, will be third, with 73.7 million. 5 of the 10 most populous cities will be in Africa, 13 of the top 20.
With so many people and so many megacities, Africa is well positioned to be the center of influence worldwide. Provided the economy keeps up, of course.
A populous continent has little influence if it can't wield economic power.
Fortunately, the story of Africa is also one of growth. Far from the often gloomy portrayal of African economies, several countries are growing. Rwanda's GDP grew at a CAGR of 7.12%, Tanzania, 7.15%, Mozambique, 7.30%, Cote d'Ivoire, 7.80%, the DRC, 8.62%, and Ethiopia has a CAGR of 9.70%. As a whole, the continent grew 3.5% in 2018, the second-fastest growing economy, after Asia. In 2019, according to the African Development Bank Group, growth is expected to 4% and, in 2020, hit 4.1%.
The country is also looking to industrialize, and some countries such as China are there to help. In fact, China's economic presence in the region is so high that, according to the World Bank, only Uganda does not see the country as the world's leading economic power. And if one were to believe China is only after Africa's resources, a paper showed that the true picture couldn't be more different. China is investing more heavily in business services, wholesale and retail, and import and export.
According to an article published in Bloomberg, China is also using Africa the same way the West used China for a long time: as a factory. In Ethiopia, China is investing heavily in garment manufacturing - essentially turning them into a fast fashion factory. Like China, Taiwan, Korea, and other Asian nations have shown us; this is usually one of the first steps towards the rapid industrialization of a nation.
Given the growth in the continent, and the willingness of foreign nations to pour money into it, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume Africa has good prospects ahead.
Technology across the continent
Another way in which Africa as a continent is making strides is through the adoption and use of technology. Today, the vast majority of Africans have access to a mobile phone. In Kenya, Tanzania, and other places, mobile payments were already a big thing before they popped up in other parts of the world. One of the most famous services in the M-Pesa, operated by Vodafone and Vodacom, founded in 2007.
Just like in many other developing regions, as smartphones become cheaper and more accessible, they can become an important tool in helping Africa leapfrog and come closer to other nations in terms of technological advancement.
With a growing population, a growing and attractive economy, and the possibility to utilize technology to leapfrog development, Africa's future is bright.
Nevertheless, Africa is still not without challenges. Less than 1/3rd currently have access to modern wastewater systems. Only 63% have access to piped water, 65% have access to electricity, and 54% to paved roads. It is also home to the 15 poorest countries on the planet.
In addition to all of these challenges, Africa lacks a critical factor to push itself forward: good leadership.
The comparison with the Asian miracles is appropriate but can be misleading. The Asian counterparts had leadership programs in place focused on developing state institutions, innovation, stability, and the economy. These types of programs are a little harder to find in many African nations.
This sentiment is shared by some of the top leaders in the continent. Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State in Nigeria, explains that leadership incompetence in Africa is not only the problem of lacking education opportunities; it is a reflection of a leadership culture where leaders don't serve, but they are served.
Aging leadership is presenting another challenge for changing the leadership culture in Africa. According to CNN, the continent has an unusual number of long-serving leaders compared to other parts of the world. Specifically, the average age of ten oldest African leaders is 78.5, compared to 52 for the world's ten most developed economies.
Paradoxically, the continent has the youngest population in the world, with a median age of 19.5 years according to the U.N.
Will Africa Repeat Asian Miracle?
So the future may not be as gloomy as many have predicted over the years. Africa does have, after all, the potential to rise and create its own miracle.
It won't be easy, however. Some of the issues assailing it are systemic and could prove difficult to counter. Will Africa solve its own problems and reach its full potential? It is hard to say. But for now, we are keeping a close look at new developments of the continent.
This article is heavily inspired by the research "Africa's Rise" made by the Futures Platform content team. At Futures Platform, we are studying future phenomena and their possible impacts on the future.
The work will help companies have a better understanding of future trends and shape the future they want.
We take a deep dive approach into the topics and find the linkages that connect different phenomena. On the topic of Africa's Rise, we also study Chinese Dominance in Africa, the Belt and Road Initiative, and Change in Population, Demographics, Generations, Displacement and Refugees 2027.
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