Africa Must Avoid Scoring Own Goals in Its Economic Rise Reach for the Top

Cape Times (South Africa), March 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Africa Must Avoid Scoring Own Goals in Its Economic Rise Reach for the Top


BYLINE: Kuseni Dlamini

Africa's moment of glory is now. The narrative on Africa has shifted from a "hopeless dark continent" to an "Africa rising". Africa is reinventing itself from within. It's as long overdue as it is a necessary precondition for the continent's rise to being a First World continent within a generation.

Africa is basking in the glory of positive investor perceptions. This is a moment of historic and significant opportunity. Africa must leverage this to the maximum sooner rather than later as the world's interest may not last long.

The challenge is to retain global investor interest on the continent and reinforce and deepen it. This can and must be done and requires bold, visionary and disciplined leadership.

Countries and continents compete fiercely for their share of global investment flows. Africa needs to craft and advance a compelling investment proposition on a sustained basis to attract and retain investment for generations.

African leaders in government and business across borders need to develop and promote a collective strategic concept and vision for the continent's economic rise and triumph in a globally competitive investment and trade landscape that is in a state of constant, if not chaotic, flux.

Investors are spoiled for choice. Capital has no border restrictions and moves with fickle investor sentiments at the click of a button. Managing investor perceptions should be one of the core skills all leaders in government and business in Africa should have. This is an area that needs improvement. Leaders must avoid scoring own goals through irresponsible public utterances or policy interventions and actions, such as Uganda's unhelpful anti-gay legislation, which will inevitably limit the global/geographic mobility of gay professionals employed by foreign companies in that good and lovely country.

There is a compelling need for policymakers to learn to consider both the intended and unintended consequences of their policies. The reality is: what may be good in winning the next election may be bad for winning massive inflows of investment on a sustained basis.

There is a need for caution and balance as leadership is, in the ultimate analysis, about crafting a fine balancing act on controversial issues.

The dismissal of the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Lamido Sanusi, spooked markets and sent shares tumbling on the Nigerian stock exchange as the country's currency, the naira, also took a pounding.

South Africa's protracted strike on the platinum belt is another own goal that does not help in inspiring confidence.

With the improving fortunes of the US and EU economies comes a golden opportunity for Africa to position itself to produce and export more to these traditional markets and, in the process, grow its economies.

If we do not get our act together we run the risk of missing out on opportunities presented by improving growth prospects in our traditional markets in the developed world. Other countries and continents will seize the moment and gain and retain market share. It is easier to lose market share than to regain it.

The Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other key emerging markets such as Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand and Mexico, are facing challenges as investors are beginning to look for value opportunities in the developed markets, whose fortunes look rosier this year and beyond than those of emerging markets. …

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