SEATTLE — It is undeniable that Africa has seen astounding growth and development in the past decade. In 2011, The Economist reported that seven of the fastest growing economies in the world were in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, its growth rate reached 4.9 percent, a number above and beyond anything experienced by Western nations.
This astounding development has not been ignored by world powers, especially not the United States. America’s trade with Africa has grown by 200 percent since the year 2000, with agricultural exports constituting $3 billion of the U.S. market.
The Obama administration has paid special attention to Africa through its “Power Africa” initiative, which seeks to “promote affordable, reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by engaging the private sector.” The Electrify Africa Act passed in Congress in early May, and the increased access to affordable electricity is expected to spur an additional 2-5 percent growth each year.
African growth is astounding, but the impact of growth on poverty is minimal. Almost one out of every two Africans lives in extreme poverty. A report by Africa’s Pulse suggests that by 2030, most of the world’s poor people will live in Africa. In order for Africa to experience growth with equity, more money must be invested in poverty reduction measures.
Interestingly, African countries with the highest abundance of natural resources breed the worst human development scores. As oil-rich nations such as Nigeria and Angola increase their dependence on mining, inequality increases as well. The elite members of the African business industry are worlds apart from the impoverished citizens living in the slums outside the walls of their opulent homes.
In addition to inequality, food security in Africa is a pressing political concern. At the Global Food Security Symposium on May 22, 2014, world leaders discussed the importance of sustainable farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. If African growers don’t properly manage their rapidly expanding farms, the global food supply will crash under pressure from climate change.
Obviously, the economic growth in Africa has made no impact on the crippling poverty that faces this region. Ineffective anti-poverty measures by the African government call for intervention and assistance from other nations. President Obama will come together with over 40 Africa leaders in early August to deliberate about security and trade in the continent. Unless these leaders tackle the issue of poverty, the future of Africa may not be as prosperous as the numbers may suggest.