One of the continent’s greatest challenges is that many of its older leaders are yet to grasp what it means to truly love their people and the lands for which they are custodians. It has become undeniably apparent that, tired of waiting for decades to be led into its post-colonial promised land, Africa’s civil society is pushing old boundaries, challenging old ideologies, fighting neo-colonialism and baying for change.
Change has been a long time coming but a younger generation hungry for opportunities, brimming with innovative ideas and willing to do what it takes to create a better and more dignified future for the continent can no longer be denied their dream. From the horn of Africa down to the southern tip of the continent, the last few years have seen an over-50% increase in protests and uprisings as the new generation claims that it deservers better.
The Fastest Growing Continent
By 2030, more than 50% of the population of Africa will be living in cities and over 60% will be living in cities by 2050. Urbanisation is creating significant opportunities for social and economic development and more sustainable living but is also putting pressure on infrastructure and resources, particularly energy.
Four out of ten of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa. According to the World Economic Forum, Ethiopia (no1), Tanzania (no5) , Djibouti (n6) and Ivory Coast (no9) have witnessed exponential growth. It is therefore unsurprising that another international scramble for a piece of the African pie is underway with the most economically agile capitalising through strategic partnerships. However, over the years the results of some partnerships between Africa’s emerging economies and external players have often raised silently asked and not so popular questions.
There is widespread assumption that investment in emerging markets offer more education, job and business opportunities for many. Though true to a certain extent, the opportunities favour the more privileged and the few with means to access them. The reality for the majority is starkly different.
In many cases, where good job opportunities do arise expatriates or Africans returning home from diaspora tend to be preferred over local talent creating an even bigger divide than the one that already exists between the ‘haves' and the 'have-nots'. Where business opportunities become available, the playing field is not level especially for those with few or no connections with ‘the right people.'
A Strong Youth Potential
Advances in global education, health and technology have helped empower individuals as never before, leading to increased demands for transparency and participation in government and public decision-making. These changes will continue and are ushering in a new era in human history in which, by 2022, more people will be middle-class than poor.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has transformed society in the past 30 years. A new wave of technological advances is creating novel opportunities as well as testing governments’ ability to harness their benefits to provide prudent oversight. For Africa to survive and flourish and for Africa's young people to play a key role in writing their own history, old minds and new minds need to somehow work in synergy.
Collaboration has not always been fruitful but the hope is that this time it will be aided greatly by a commitment by governments and policy makers to create enabling environments for growth and development, the private sector and good-will partners unreservedly investing in training young leaders and entrepreneurs, creation of job and business opportunities by the private sector, and enforcing of regulations on how social and commercial organisations behave in Africa.
There is a long way to go and a lot of work to be done. But what is clear is that Africa has reached a tipping point and if change does not happen soon, ongoing unrest is certain.
Scandals and Corruption Issues
Information and communication technology (ICT) has transformed society in the past 30 years. A new wave of technological advances is creating novel opportunities as well as testing governments’ ability to harness their benefits to provide prudent oversight. However, corruption is Africa’s cancer eating away at the core of its society.
It is impossible to ignore the countless reports of corruption in governance, embezzlement of public funds by leaders more interested in personal gain than the development of their people, bypassing of the rule of law by those who want results at low or no cost, and ‘looting’ of much-needed revenue by many international organisations that avoid paying taxes in Africa. According to Goldman Sachs, companies and investors cheated out of an estimated US $6 billion in 2010 through just one form of tax dodging.
Africa is haemorrhaging billions of dollars because multinational companies, many with headquarters in G7 countries, are cheating Africa out of vital tax revenues. If this tax revenue were invested in education and healthcare, societies and economies would further flourish across the continent. The G7 economies have invested heavily in their own infrastructure and development of their people.
Ironically, the Goldman Sachs report implies that whereas these economies are benefiting from their investment in Africa, the young continent is losing revenue that could be invested in developing its people and infrastructure. African leaders are not without blame. Failure to uphold and enforce regulations that protect resources and civil society has left Africa vulnerable to exploitation both from within and without.