FALSE NARRATIVE OF “AFRICA RISING”
BY TONY KWAME ANSAH, JR.
There is a popular modern-day phrase going around about “Africa Rising.” A narrative saying that the African continent is now emerging and progressing to greater heights than in the past. However, when one takes a closer look at Africa’s urban and rural populations, affluent class, impoverished class and the economy as a whole, one realizes the African continent is barely able to stand on its own two feet to rise towards the level of prosperity for a majority. This article will reveal the narrative of “Africa Rising” to be false. For Africa to truly rise, it will require a mass of African people in the private sector to create and develop solutions that generate jobs and careers for the youth.
According to State of Africa’s Population 2017 by The African Union, countries in the Northern and Western African regions are more urbanized when compared to those in the eastern region. About 40% of the African population currently lives in urban areas, and that is projected to increase; which will lead to an urban population larger than the rural population in about twenty years. African urban growth presents major challenges for sustainable development because migration to cities requires access to land, infrastructure and basic services. This has also caused a strain on healthcare services. Moreover, this trend has a negative affect on the growing youth population. Therefore, it has implications for the overall demographic in Africa.
As stated by The Globalist 2017, in sub-Saharan Africa, 41% of the population lives in some form of extreme poverty and survives off just $1.90 or less per African per day. Half of all people living in extreme poverty worldwide can be found in Africa, which is one continent out of seven on our planet.
According to the AfrAsia Bank Africa Wealth Report 2017, there are 145,000 millionaires living in Africa today who have a combined wealth of roughly $800 billion. Mauritius is the wealthiest country in Africa, standing ahead of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Egypt and Angola. Wealth per individual living in Mauritius increased to $4,000 in recent years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, people living in Zimbabwe are the poorest, with about $200 per person. Other African countries in deep poverty are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Liberia, and Niger.
With this snapshot image of the urban and rural populations of Africa as well as the rich and poor segments of the same Africans, let us take a closer look at the cash flowing in and out this continent.
According to The East African’s business news 2017, African countries received about $162 billion in 2015 mainly in loans, personal remittances and grants. Specifically, African countries received about $19 billion in grants, $68 billion went out via capital flight, mainly by multinational companies. Although the continent received $31 billion in remittances, multinationals repatriated about $32 billion in profits back to their home countries. African governments received about $33 billion in loans and paid back about $18 billion in debt interest and principal payments. An estimated $29 billion is stolen each year in Africa through illegal activities (http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/world-profits-from-Africa-wealth-/2560-3956204-hcf4yl/index.html). Foreign direct investment (FDI) to Africa was $42 billion in 2017 (https://unctad.org/en/pages/PressRelease.aspx?OriginalVersionID=461). Venture capital funding in 2017 reached $560 million. As seen in previous years, South Africa (167.9 million), Kenya (147 million) and Nigeria (114.6 million) continue to dominate as investment destinations, which accounted for 76% of total funding for 2017 (https://qz.com/africa/1211233/how-much-did-african-startups-raise-in-2017-partech-disrupt-africa/). Thus, there’s an imbalance between money coming in and money going out of Africa, which causes setbacks to this continent being able to move ahead and prosper.
Regardless of location and financial status in Africa, the informal economy accounts for a high percentage of employment and contributes to poverty reduction. Income from the informal sector is what keeps many individuals and families across Africa out of extreme poverty. Even in countries where informal work is a small percentage of its workforce, such as South Africa, it has a significant impact on reducing poverty (https://oecd-development-matters.org/2017/04/04/the-informal-economy-in-african-cities-key-to-inclusive-and-sustainable-urban-development/).
For Africa to truly rise, it will require a mass of African people in the private sector to create and develop solutions that generate jobs and careers for the youth. “The continent’s population is estimated to increase from about 1.2 billion people to 2.2 billion people between 2015 and 2050. About 41% of the people in the continent are below 15 years old while another 19% are youth between 15 and 24 years old” (https://www.afidep.org/our-work/population-change-sustainable-development/current-programmes/regional-analysis-youth-demographics/). As you can see, there will be a new generation of young Africans in need of a prosperous and vibrant Africa to live in. A continent where food is healthy and nutritional for human consumption, water is clean to cook and shower with, shelter has running water and electricity 24/7, healthcare is easy to access and receive treatment from right away, education is preparing youth for a world full of technology and automation, institutions are working for the people and not for an elite few, infrastructure is built by natives to last a long time, and so forth.
Since Africa is considered a developing continent and an emerging market, it has a long way to go before it can see and experience an upward movement and progression toward this alleged Africa Rising notion. The day that the fictional story of “Wakanda” becomes an everyday reality in Africa, is the day that it’ll be safe to say loud and proud “Africa Rising.” But until then, a lot of work needs to be done, especially by those of African descent who care about the future and the generations to follow them. Africa shall rise in due time!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Ansah, Jr. is a self-published author, a public administrator by profession, and a social entrepreneur based in Rhode Island, U.S.A. He is also the founder and owner of Ansah Africa, a consulting and marketing startup established in 2017.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The African‘s editorial policy.