Africa – a Continent on the Rise Part I

As researchers, we still see bright spots and great optimism when we work in Africa. But when we come home and watch news on TV, read newspapers and UN reports, it’s mostly about misery. Both are correct, but there is an imbalance in how the situation on the continent is portrayed in the West. The picture is dominated by the fact that Africa is a continent in continuous crisis.

  • How accurate are our images of today’s Africa?
  • Which African countries are experiencing growth?
  • What factors can explain the growth in Africa?
  • What challenges does Africa face?

In this article, we will therefore focus on an Africa on the rise. We present an overview of positive trends on the continent. Although Africa is a continent with enormous variations (see map) and a total of 54 different countries, we will look at the continent as a whole. In parallel, we point to trends with the help of glimpses from the various countries. Recent developments are highlighted in five areas : growth, technology, health, war and violent conflicts and governance.

2: Economic growth

Seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies in the last decade are in Africa. From 2000 to 2008, gross domestic product (GDP) on the continent grew by 4.9 per cent per year – more than twice as fast as in the 1980s and 1990s. Although growth in China, India and Brazil largely dominates the media image in the West, it was Angola that experienced the highest growth figures in this period – 11 percent annual growth. Growth was also high in other African countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Morocco.

The high growth in Africa is not a result of a few countries raising the average, or oil and minerals driving growth. Almost all countries have solid growth , including those that do not have oil or other key resources.

Professionals from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute seem quite convinced that the arrows will continue to point upwards. When they explain the growth, they point to high commodity prices, Chinese investments, but also a healthier economy in many countries. The IMF, which is known for being very critical of most countries’ governance, seems almost enthusiastic about the changes in economic policy in Africa.

The vast majority of countries have control over inflation, and many have adopted quite ambitious business policies. A rapidly growing middle class provides increased growth in demand and thus more jobs. In fact, the consumer market is growing 2-3 times faster in Africa than in OECD countries. Africa has also emerged relatively quickly and well from the financial crisis, better than other regions.

Of course, there are differences between countries – also between African countries. The oil countries stand out by having a lot of growth, but there is a “narrow” and therefore uncertain basis for growth. In addition, we have the so-called fragile states , which have very poor governance and internal conflicts. We calculate approx. 12 countries as “vulnerable”, somewhat dependent on definition. But even most of these countries are experiencing growth.

3: Technology and infrastructure

According to, many African countries are making violent leaps and leaps straight into wireless telephony . In this way , they avoid the cost and effort of laying out networks of expensive copper cables. The development is confirmed by figures from the UN: seven out of ten in Ghana, six out of ten in Kenya and four out of ten in Uganda and Angola have mobile phone subscriptions. At the same time as these figures tell of growth in Africa, the increase in mobile telephony also contributes to further growth.

When a small business owner in Kenya can receive and transfer money securely without the risk of being robbed, it becomes easier to run a shop. By being able to quickly check the prices in different markets at different times, farmers or artisans can get better prices. The technology has also been used to strengthen cohesion internally in Kenya, among other places. There, gifts collected via mobile and on social media have resulted in large sums of famine in the northeastern parts of the country. Such an internal mobilization would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Rwanda has also thrown itself into the information technology wave . The UN has named the country East Africa’s leader in the field, and in 2009 Rwanda spent as much money on IT as an average OECD country. More than 10 percent of Rwanda’s secondary schools have access to wireless internet, and 70 percent of the population can read and write.

In 2009, a 17,000-kilometer-long submarine internet cable along the coast of East Africa was completed. This cable currently provides high-speed internet to Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Madagascar.

Electricity production has also risen significantly in the last ten years. The Tekeze dam in Ethiopia and the Bujagali hydropower plant in Uganda are concrete examples of the development. Some countries have managed to use surpluses in the economy to build new infrastructure. China’s investments in Africa have accelerated this trend, which in turn stimulates economic growth.

Africa - a Continent on the Rise 1

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