AFRICA DOOMED? THE AFRICAN CHALLENGE
December 2, 2000
B.M. Quenum / Editor of Africabiz
Sub- Saharan Africa is endowed with huge natural mineral resources (Diamonds,
petroleum oil, copper, iron ore, aluminum, coal, tungsten, cobalt. Etc.). It is
listed in top five world producers of many commodities (Coffee, cocoa, timber.
Etc.). This is a well known fact. No need to provide figures and charts.
Unfortunately, Sub- Saharan Africa is also home to several civilwar conflicts.
As reflected by the map (courtesy of MSNBC)
large portions of African territory are battlefields for warring parties (Democratic
Republic of Congo, Congo, Angola, Sierra-Leone, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan,
Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia - Click
here to choose any of these listed countries and view briefs).
Currently, political and economic tensions exit in other countries around
the continent which might degenerate into conflicts if not addressed properly.
Namely, the religious problem in Nigeria (Charia had been adopted by some Northern
states); the long lasting struggle for power in Ivory Coast, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau;
the land ownership / black farmers' empowerment problem in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Click here to choose any
of these listed countries and view briefs.
The continent is also
plagued with the most spectacular and devastating disease of the 19 th century:
here for "Facts and Figures about Aids in Africa"); and many
other diseases as well - not so spectacular but nevertheless as devastating: Malaria,
Ebola. Etc. AIDS is killing million per year throughout the continent; disrupting
social and economic fibers of many nations (Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ivory
Coast, Rwanda, Burundi. Etc. Click
here to choose any of these listed countries and view briefs)
Africa represents only 2% of the global volume of international trade. Only
2.2 millions Africans (Click
here for more) - are connected to the World Wide Web.
above outlined bad performance, one is tempted to issue a final judgment: Africa
Few months ago, a well known European magazine - The
Economist - had not hesitated; it released a special delivery in which the
continent was painted as doomed.
We at BusinessAfrica / Dr. Quenum and
Associates - Investment And Business Planners - deeply think that that judgment
is excessive. In the contrary, we are of the opinion that there is plenty
of room for hope.
That optimism is based on the economic findings reported
in "Countries Briefs"
One can see, reviewing each of the 48 sub-Saharan African's countries-briefs,
that not a single African country is really poor. All of them do have tremendous
dormant business opportunities. You name it, you have it: mining, energy (hydropower
and coal), agribusiness, food processing, manufacturing, transport, global infrastructure,
and tourism development. These opportunities - if well implemented - are capable
of generating a sustained economic growth, in the double digit range - taking
into account the catch-up effect. That is why we are convinced that nothing
is lost yet.
The only problem reads as follows: How to convert
/ transform / use / magnify and develop these business opportunities into an economic
The three main
arguments of those who are of the opinion that the black continent is doomed are:
| 1- Bad governance and
3- Lack of basic infrastructure.
review, one by one, these arguments and see if they are final hindrances on the
road to recovery and sustained economic growth for Africa.
Governance and Mismanagement:
It is a fact that, till the
end of the 1980's, most African countries - the sheer majority; Senegal
and Botswana being the two only exceptions
- have been governed under the one party system. In each sub-Saharan African country,
decision-making power, information and communication means were under the supervision
of a small circle of people. Decisions were secretively taken; parliaments standing
just as "rubber-stamp / registering houses". Elections / ballots for
presidential position or parliament membership were just plain joke.
There is no doubt that the one party system had heavily contributed to the huge
debt load of most sub-Saharan African countries. Investment decisions were based
on the level of commissions / fees available to decision-makers; regardless of
the usefulness of project in question and their profit making potential. Many
"white elephants" have been established throughout Africa, due to the
one party system; contributing to the increase of the debt load.
nowadays, one cannot, sincerely, state that democracy is not making progress throughout
the continent. Multy party system is the prevailing rule. Ballots are held and
screened - most of the time - by "Ballot Commissions" independent from
the acting government.
Sure, there is certainly room for some improvements.
Some African governments are not yet playing a fair game with the opposition
parties. Nevertheless, an impartial observer cannot deny the fact that democracy
is making progress in Africa.
Everywhere, throughout the continent,
governments are now accountable to local opinions. African political rulers think
twice before taking any political decision and acting consequently. Members of
parliament exercise their full power of controlling government decisions and actions.
On October 26, 2000, we all have been witnesses to an event (which occurrence
was unthinkable few years ago) that, undoubtedly, will exert a long lasting impact
for a better democracy in Africa. That is to say the downfall of a nascent dictatorship
in Ivory Coast: Robert Guei had
been toppled from power by a popular upheaval. Many African rulers are regularly
challenged by national independent newspapers. In Zimbabwe,
right now, Robert Mugabe is having hard time, with the main opposition party,
in implementing his erratic land reform policy.