Magazine article New African

Beyond 'Africa Rising'

Magazine article New African

Beyond 'Africa Rising'

Article excerpt

Greetings and happy new year. 2016 opened on the back of gloomy predictions of a tough year for African economies: with oil prices plunging, the Chinese economic slowdown, international financial markets in turmoil and the prospect of the US federal reserve bank raising interest rates, is this the year that the air will be sucked out of the Africa Rising story?

Not much at the moment supports a contrary view. Africa's economies continue to be woven into the fabric of a global order that has long dictated their function as a producer of mostly unprocessed commodities whose prices are massively discounted in the global marketplace, and whose people receive finished goods at inflated costs. Really, not much has changed since the likes of Walter Rodney, the Guyanese historian based in Dar es Salaam in the 1970s, were making these assessments.

Against what the more sanguine among the Africa Rising crowd would argue, the notion of an economic renaissance was rarely ever backed by fundamental transformations of individual economies.

Much of the Africa Rising cheerleading is organised outside the continent. It would take a snake-oil salesman of particular genius to sell this Kool-Aid to the sullen urban youths hanging around the corner and wondering why only the rich get richer.

As growth flat-lined in the Eurozone and the US, as the smart money sought new markets to park in, communications consultants, Africa market analysts and business reporters deftly shepherded investors to the continent's investment bomas.

All of this should be a very good thing. And it is. In African capital cities, bubbling over on a continent-wide real estate boom, young tech developers line up before rapt audiences of billionaire venture capitalists to pitch the Next Big Idea; market traders in remote outposts prepare for that life-changing encounter with Bono-minded American philanthropists determined to organise The End of Poverty, one village at a time.

All of this should be a very good thing--until it isn't. That day may well be upon us. After a decade of plenty--plenty foreign cash, plenty oil and gas selling at mind-bending prices--what happens if the smart money is shepherded elsewhere?

Are Africa's economies resilient enough to survive a global economic downturn? African leaders today can look back on a decade of high economic growth and low political accountability, in which they discovered a new argument to re-assert their national sovereignties. …

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