The latest figures released from the World Bank suggests that many African economies are certainly booming. Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya head the growth list and are among the fastest growing economies in the world. However when you travel around these countries there are two questions that naturally come to mind – is this growth both sustainable and is it genuinely helping all sectors of society.
One of the problems with classing a country as a boom economy is that this often obscures genuine problems. Just because a country is experiencing high economic growth doesn’t mean that the benefits are being distributed fairly. For example in Nigeria, the riches are being made by the few with much of the benefits being taken out of the country.
A better measure of success is often to see how much of that growth is filtering into projects which can benefit all. Africa is plagued by lots of problems and investment in roads, infrastructure, electricity and technology is needed practically everywhere. The secret to sustainable success is to invest profits, to invest in Africa and the African people.
It’s when Africa sees positive benefits for normal people through improvements in their lives that you can feel that the growth is real and a positive force in the continent. Growth which includes profits made by foreign countries, led by foreign CEOs supported by foreign investment is normally of little benefit. In fact watching African resources plundered for profits made by outsiders can be quite depressing.
There are some very positive signs, you can now access the internet in most major African towns, something that was unlikely a decade a go. People use the internet regularly and it’s not uncommon to see the BBC iPlayer being streamed to a mobile phone or tablet in Africa now using this technology to watch British TV online.
There is a growing appetite for business within Africa yet there is still much need for improvement. It is difficult to start businesses and create wealth in Africa especially in areas where corruption is rife, yet this needs to happen. Governments can encourage employment and growth but they can’t create employment directly – vast centralised economies are not really an option here.