Africa continues to face major challenges. However, after an Africa Rising “false start” there are indications that a slower, but more deep-rooted upswing may be in the making. I have read all the Africa predictions I could find from IMF, World Bank, Brookings, AfricaPractice, Banks and others. I have found lots of good, sensible points about economic development, need for jobs, urbanisation, infrastructure etc.
However, once I started look beyond the usual sources and spoke to publishers, politicians, NGO leaders, entrepreneurs and analysed data on how mobile money flows I got the sense that a deeper trend around a more confident Africa is emerging. So, below my 8 suggestions on what to watch in 2017 and beyond:
- Africa taking charge: Positive signs around Ghana’s elections, handling of the Gambia crisis.
- A rising Africa-led narrative that Africans have to take charge of Africa’s issues. Examples around funding AU and AU peace-keeping work as well as the discussion to denounce or leave the ICC whilst still recognising the need to deal with impunity.
- Trump might be a positive; whilst short-term US policy and aid will be messy and likely have negative impact, the bigger story might be that a global war on values along new fault-lines is emerging – this time deeply dividing the West with Africa not seeing itself as the target and victim. Africans and their leaders will have to define themselves within this mess.
- Some areas will be hard hit by humanitarian crises. Possibly climate change related, but also clear that crises are much worse in poorly governed areas. Lots of academic and social media chatter about the need to address root causes (e.g. Nigeria, Somaliland) and over time change life-styles/structure of economy. Risks that deep crises will destabilise the weakest areas beyond 2017.
- Politics still primarily played by old rules of the game, but it’s less easy and more costly now. Increased urbanisation and social media accelerates the process. Kenya’s elections will be interesting to follow (August 2017) and Zimbabwe’s in 2018.
Some countries are well-placed to move fast, whilst others remain stuck in crisis and old-school leaderships – so expect an increasing gap in performance. To watch: virtuous policies and approaches spreading to neighbours and beyond.
- Donors and outside influence will only be effective when based on sufficient mutual understanding. “Western finger-wagging” will be even less effective than ever before and overt domestic western agendas will come at a cost.
- Debt and extractives failures. The hey-days with no debt and cheap credit are over. Ghana, Zambia and Mozambique have IMF discussions and Nigeria and Angola have massive economic challenges. All foreseeable during 2010-2014 but with collective, global denial. Whist messy and painful, some of the reforms are actually working and driving accountability and better value for money in public investment.
Issues not yet on the agenda + threats for the medium term:
- Nigeria and South Africa will be major drags on the overall Africa growth rates. Both know facts, but given the size of their economies
- Transition: Ethiopia, Rwanda and a number of other places will face transition challenges. Not only about democracy, but a wider discussion about inclusive politics and resource distribution. Each will likely happen through a degree of tension – with related risks of downward spirals.
- Demography: population growth is pretty uniformly around 2.5 – 3%, meaning that 3-5% economic growth rates are only just above population growth. Hard to address head-on for cultural and political reasons. Urbanisation seem to be the strongest driver of decreasing fertility rates (similar to Europe during industrialisation).
- Climate change: some of the models for climate change are highly alarming for Africa especially in light of population growth and food deficits.