The ‘Why’ and ‘So What’ of Africa Rising

Published on 23rd September 2014

As the 4th IREN Eastern African Thought Leaders concluded in Arusha, Tanzania, one Key question emerged-Why is Africa rising? One of the panelists posed this question in an infograph that placed the 'why' question at the apex of a concentric circle. But before the issue dissipated, I annexed another question: 'so what?' The twin questions quickly generated a heated debate among the select few African elites attending the Think Tank forum.

In context, the two questions are mutually exclusive propositions. Logically, they cannot be true at the same time depending on context. The overarching reason behind the questions is what the narrative that Africa rising portends as the next global economic frontier. What would it mean to the World and Africans by deductive logic? If Africa is rising, will it herald the dawn of universal freebies from education, primary healthcare, reduced energy costs to food security as a social safety net for its bulging population? Will the rise benefit select few financial behemoths or oligarchs?

When asked why Africa is rising, some people attribute it to its vast natural resources and traditional relations with China. Others advance the leap in growth to mobile phones and sound macro-economic policies, which for instance helped Tanzania’s economy to tend toward stability. The technological development has increased the public’s access to internet and social links and induced new digital businesses and e-governance across the continent through collective dispersion. 

While all the arguments are right, what the ordinary African wants to see is the knock on benefits induced by the growth dividends. So, whether the proposition is true or false is food for thought. What is important to ask is the socio-economic implication that the rising continental growth would mean to the ordinary African.  Africans want to reap the benefits of Africa rising in terms of improved economic and political liberalization that will ultimately give birth to a homogenous and democratic United States of Africa.

We should avoid pre-emptive celebrations of Africa rising and craft a formula to sustain the economic growth and increase relations with mutual partners keen to support us to uphold the growth. Today, we have good news to share with the World that Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Mozambique are experiencing a boom, a complete reverse of what is happening in Europe and America.  Kenya and Botswana are also emerging as the next economic frontiers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Africans are now positioning to create their global space. Indeed, this was one of the key Outcomes of the 4th IREN Eastern African Thought Leaders Forum on How to Make Africans’ Dreams Valid in Arusha, Tanzania, September 19, 2014 which assessed the AU Agenda 2063 and identified possible core interest for Africans in the global space. The professionals recommended that Africans create their global space.

Although the professionals caucus applauded the African Union’s Agenda 2063, they criticized it for failing to focus on the continental trauma spanning several centuries that deterred Africans in the past and likelihood to render Africans irrelevant in the global space due to its failure to assess Africans’ position in the international division of labor and Agenda 2063’s apparent assumption that the world is homogenous. 

The increasing discovery of natural resources in Africa validates the need for a just and cohesive Africa. But worrying, is the sheer fact that still we lack the technological skills, hence our dependent on foreign experts. I therefore largely agree with the resolution that Africans need to be guided by a galvanizing core interest to enhance its shared values; serve as a compass on why Africans exist; facilitate efficiency and organize African societies in a coherent and sustainable manner. We must train more geologists to avoid massive profits that are expatriated by involving experts to extract our natural oil and gas. This is why the dream of isolation in the global space is still far from reality.

By Kepher Otieno

The writer is a consulting editor and Kenya bureau Chief of  East African Digest Magazine.

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