It Is Time To Make Africa Rising Real

Africa_Rising_logoBY ALEX O. AWITI
November 10, 2015

After decades of slow growth, Africa has a real chance to follow in the footsteps of Asia. With these bold words in 2011, the influential Economist magazine declared that Africa was rising, surging under its own wings.

In the decade before 2011, six of the world’s 10 most vibrant economies were from the continent. In the same decade, African economies grew more rapidly than Asian economies, especially those in East Asia. A band of Afro-optimists, hugely evangelical about the fact this was Africa’s century, burst forth on the global discourse square.

A handful of African scholars and public intellectuals cautioned that the foundation of Africa’s growth was too feeble to support strong, inclusive and enduring growth. But as always, the voices of African intellectuals is often ignored, drowned out or scorned by governments or the dominant establishment Western knowledge brokers. We all drank the Africa Rising Kool-Aid.
africa-rising-bannerMoreover, Africa has failed to harness the demographic dividend. Africa’s large youth population is malnourished, poorly educated and lack skills. In many African countries, youth unemployment is about 55 per cent. With an unemployment rate of about 62 per cent among women, Africa’s labour markets are unfavourable for young women. If Africa’s slips into a sustained stagnation the implications for social and political stability, in a continent where the youth comprise nearly 70 per cent of the population, could be dire.

I believe in Africa and its people. Africa has a real chance to follow in the footsteps of Asia. Africa has a real chance to harness the demographic dividend, achieve a demographic transition and launch on a firm path of strong, enduring, inclusive and transformative economic growth. But Africa’s rise must be built from the bottom up, by the people and for the people of Africa.

Since The Economist regrettably labelled Africa “the hopeless continent” a decade ago, a profound change has taken hold. Labour productivity has been rising. It is now growing by, on average, 2.7% a year. Trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by 200% since 2000.

Dr Awiti is the Director of the East African Institute at Aga Khan University.
The Star | It Is Time To Make Africa Rising Real

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