30 October 2017

Africa and the not so self-fulfilling prophecy

Linda Martin, Communications Officer, Quantum Global Group | Articles

Contemporary wisdom has it that Africa is leading the way in the Global economy. Some are still nervous about doing business in the continent and might even avoid travelling to African countries for business or even pleasure. This to me, highlights a number of prevalent assumptions about its image. The continent’s “Image” is therefore malleable, powerful, and controllable and will eventually affect reality. These images of famines, genocide and helpless Africans have become ingrained in western imaginations. Therefore in order to transform the current image, particularly where we would like to see ongoing and inclusive growth in Africa, it is imperative to speak about Africa – to enhance – and transform its current reputation.

The political impetus derived from the impact of inter-European power struggles and competition for pre-eminence of Africa, are the early indicators of Africa’s potential. From diamonds, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum and cocoa beans, but also woods and tropical fruits. It is clear that the continent is abundant in wealth, resources and of course has tremendous investment potential. This is clear. But other more significant factors have played a transformative role in Africa’s progress which extends beyond the resource boom which erupted in 2008, which is only half of the story.

Africa is now one of the engines of global economic growth, clocking in over 4 percent annually. And, as the next frontier for growth, economic opportunity and investments, the global community must take part in telling a new African story. A story which shows Africa’s true potential.
For instance, we are seeing a rebound in the continent’s growth this year (2.6%) and it is showing great recovery – including the larger economies such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, which rebounded following the decline in commodity prices.

Many non-resource sectors have attributed to the continent’s growth and development. From wholesale and retail, to transportation, telecommunications, and manufacturing – all of which of course is only permissible with the vast improvements to government policy and legislations, regulatory and legal systems and improved infrastructure. This also includes an increase in privatised and state-owned enterprises.

The fundamental argument here is that China views African countries as long-term business partners, as opposed to a place that needs saving.

The Chinese for example have become very well known for their enduring confidence in doing investments in Africa. Infrastructure developments, highways and railways are popping up all over Africa. China’s trade with Africa topped $149.1 billion in 2016. Partnerships and trade between Africa and China has been skyrocketing from the onset of the twenty first century – when the Chinese really began to recognise the continent’s true potential of being a vast untapped market with tremendous strategic long-term value. Specifically, where industrialisation, commodities and natural resources are concerned.

The fundamental argument here is that China views African countries as long-term business partners, as opposed to a place that needs saving. Public perceptions not only confirm China’s important economic and political role in Africa but also generally portray its influence as beneficial. The “Image-application-realisation” nexus is seeing results and success in the shape of huge developments, and as a result further investments are being carried out. Successful investments after all, are the best advertisement for other potential investors.

Africa is already the world’s youngest population, and by 2034 will have a working-age population of 1.1 billion, making it the largest in the world. This number will increase by 2050 to 4bn people. But why isn’t there a focus on Africa’s young working population. This, combined with increasing urbanisation and industrialisation to drive economic and consumer growth in the continent, is making Africa one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.

But instead, the media is polluted with images of the probable effects Africa’s population boom will have on food and water security – which as we all know is true. But instead why don’t we focus on the narrative that surrounds Africans taking advantage of the new demographic dividend. The continent is at a cross-road. And the prerequisites to meet this huge challenge are education and better healthcare, met with continued investments based on stable economic and political conditions. But this can only be achieved if a different image is presented to the world.

The demand for another narrative on Africa to be told can seem like an enigma at times. The continent does not currently have its own microphone of which a global audience can and will listen to. But if we would like to see further growth one must somehow already know it, be willing to learn about it or be a part of it.

Linda Martin, Communications Officer, Quantum Global Group

A Masters in International Relations and Globalisation, a Bachelor in Communications, Media and Cultural Studies, Linda supports group-wide communications activities by working to maintain the group’s reputation by advising and building effective corporate messaging, supporting media relations, editorial outputs and promote an enhanced standing among a range of global audiences.

Linda has worked for both private and public organisations in areas of Marketing and Communications including, the Government of South Sudan, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and SAB Miller.

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