There are many reasons to celebrate the current progress in Africa: the economy is growing, there is more peace, more children are going to school, mobile phones are ubiquitous, HIV infection rates are decreasing, life expectancy is increasing, foreign direct investment has tripled, and incomes are on the rise.
Much of the credit for this goes to Africans themselves, who have created change by engaging in democratic processes and embracing new technologies, although Western aid, Chinese companies and international organizations have played a role in this as well.
Although substantial, this progress is not sufficient for Africa to reach its potential. The danger at this point is of losing momentum and becoming complacent. It is therefore critical for Africans to continue through the hard work ahead. The following are the key areas that should be prioritized because, if not addressed, they could hamper or reverse the positive trajectory that the continent is currently on.
- The fight against poverty, hunger, and inequality: Although these factors have been greatly reduced, they continue to represent significant social problems and restrict economic growth.
- Economic diversification: Currently, one third of Africa’s GDP growth comes solely from commodities. This is unsustainable for several reasons, such as the danger of cyclical collapses in commodities markets and the threats posed by climate change. For Africa to become globally competitive, it needs to reduce its reliance on raw materials and agriculture and expand its economy to include manufacturing and other industrial sectors.
- Political instability: Several sources of potential instability need to be addressed, such as violence surrounding the Kenyan elections or the spread of Islamic extremism in the Sahara.
- The growth of cities: The massive migration of people from the countryside to cities must be managed properly to prevent the rise of an unemployed urban class.
- Laws and governance: There need to be reductions in corruption, improvements in infrastructure, such as roads and electrical grids, and reductions in regulatory restrictions and bureaucracy, including the removal of trade barriers.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez