Is this Africa's or Africans' Century?

Published on 31st January 2012

The fact that Africa is on take-off cannot be disputed. Intra Africa Foreign Direct Investment is growing steadily; from major investors such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia (before Arab Spring) to Nigeria which is reported to have invested over $1 billion in neighboring Ghana. South Africa invested over $1.8 billion in Sub Saharan African countries. Kenya businesses are already spreading tentacles to Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Southern Sudan. The optimism of an African century hovers in the horizon but the dark clouds of an Africa's century with great infrastructure and poor inhabitants threaten to scuttle this great momentum.  

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi might have been alluding to this scenario when he argued that the Western economic model of the late 20th century was "Medicine that turned out to be worse than the disease." It is now in the open for debate on whether Western prescriptions fronted through institutions such as The World Bank and The International Monetary Fund ever yielded an African responsible enough to utilize his/her resources to improve his/her livelihood.  

New partners are at Africa's door. Huge infrastructure project driven by China; huge business financing initiatives are already in place by countries such as Turkey, Brazil, India and South Korea; but the question remains: how involved are the people of Africa in driving the wealth creation momentum? Will the simple switch from West to East finally liberate the African person or will it simply develop Africa as a continent and leave its citizenry to languish in poverty? 

Both East and West are here; but it is not their responsibility to make this an Africans' century. African leaders and people must learn to navigate this new-found ocean of opportunity in order to transform this century into an era of African productivity.

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