Over the past few decades, Africa has been portrayed in various ways, such as a helpless kid in need of development, a growing economic power, an immediate threat, and a tinderbox for terrorism, famine, forced migration, and disease. However, the truth is, like always, more nuanced. Indeed, the continent of Africa has changed drastically during the past few decades. Because the continent is actively defining its future, it should be seen as an opportunity rather than a danger. Ignoring this progress would be naïve, but it is still incumbent upon us to keep pushing for even more rapid and expansive positive outcomes. Governments, communities, and institutions on the continent and worldwide will be better prepared to tackle problems and strengthen favorable trends if they view Africa as a potential rather than a danger.
God has blessed Africa with a wealth of natural assets. This continent is home to over 30% of the world’s mineral reserves. The area contains significant oil and gas reserves. Cobalt, uranium, diamonds, and gold are many other resources available. The price of minerals and petroleum has risen over the past decade, making Africa an attractive mining location. The resource sector contributed more than 30% of Africa’s GDP between 2000 and 2008, while foreign direct investment (FDI) into the continent increased from $9 billion annually to $62 billion during the same period (most of this into extractive industries). Africa is either “rich” or “extremely rich” in terms of its mineral resources, including gold, diamonds, oil, and gemstones, accounting for more than 30 percent of the world’s total (Adika, 2020). I will name a few: Tanzania is well-known for its gold, the Congo for its copper, Namibia for its uranium, and Botswana for its gems.
Natural capital is a significant contributor to Africa’s GDP, and the continent’s share of global wealth is second only to that of the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC). Even wealthy sub-Saharan Africa has a more significant share of natural assets in total wealth than the resource-rich OECD countries. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this outcome directly means that human and physical capital contribute little to overall income in both resource-rich and resource-poor parts of Africa.
Africa is a very wealthy continent. New estimates put the net debt owed by sub-Saharan Africa to the rest of the world at more than $41 billion. Nearly $161 billion is brought in a year from loans, remittances (from Africans working abroad who send money home), and international aid. Twenty-three billion dollars, however, are being taken off the continent. Direct costs include the $68 billion in taxes that were mostly evaded. Ethically speaking, a sizeable percentage of money is “stolen” by multinational corporations who hide the true nature of their financial resources in tax havens. Some 6.1% of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is thought to depart the continent every year via these “illicit financial flows,” an amount that is almost three times larger than the help Africa receives. Another $30 billion is “repatriated” annually by these corporations, meaning that they earn money in Africa but send it back to their headquarters. This area of London has been swamped by the wealth produced by Africa’s land and labor. We also clandestine activities rob African countries of their wealth (Sachs, 2003). It is estimated that Africa loses $29 billion annually due to illegal logging, fishing, and wildlife trafficking. Since the region cannot use fossil fuels to progress in the same way as Europe, climate change has been projected to cost African communities and economies $36 billion.
Public health in Africa has improved dramatically over the past few decades, which is indicative of the continent’s prosperity. Child and maternal mortality rates have dropped dramatically since 1995, and chronic malnutrition in children younger than five has decreased by about ten percentage points during the same period. Many countries have made great strides in protecting their children from communicable diseases and other preventable health problems. Although HIV/AIDS and malaria continue to have widespread detrimental effects on Africans, more treatment options are becoming accessible. Across the board, both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy are increasing. Neglecting the significant progress made by various African governments and populations would be like painting Africa as nothing more than a breeding ground for disease and starvation (Bouchene et al.,2021). African governments and healthcare personnel are committed to disease prevention, especially for “neglected” and “overlooked” diseases so often that they pose a severe threat to the continent’s population. Corporations and new partners can now join government agencies in the fight against disease by creating novel technical solutions and enhancing current healthcare systems.
Throughout the last few decades, the proportion of Africans living in poverty has dropped, and the outlook for eradicating poverty is positive in the vast majority of African countries. This is evidence that Africa is wealthy. Poverty has decreased not just in monetary terms but also in other ways. Many countries, even some of the poorest in Africa, are on track to make significant progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forth by the United Nations by the year 2030. Since 2000, enrollment in elementary schools among African children has climbed from 60 million to 150 million, a threefold increase. Since 1995, there has been an almost 10-point increase in adult literacy rates, and the gap between the sexes in literacy is narrowing. Great strides have been made toward gender parity in school enrollment, which may be a contributing factor. The gender gap in African countries’ workforces, especially in the scientific sectors, must diminish further if economic, political, and social development is to be made.
The fact that Africa has made more significant strides toward gender equality than any other continent is evidence of the continent’s wealth. It is worth noting that women in eleven African countries make up a more significant portion of parliamentary representation than in Europe or the United States. Women, citizens of democratic countries, and workers are all gaining more independence and power due to this shift in attitude among African leaders. The next generation of African leaders is not a bunch of wimps who want to dodge the problems that still exist (Lebert, 2015). The leaders are building relationships with people in the diaspora to link Africa’s promise to the rest of the world. By doing so, they are proving that Africa is safe and successful. The people of Africa are today shaping a magnificent opportunity for themselves.
Despite Africa’s wealth of natural resources, about half of its population, mainly in the sub-Saharan region, is impoverished (making less than $1.25 per day). For instance, the Central African Republic has held the title of “world’s poorest,” “lowest in the Human Development Index,” and “unhealthiest” for several years running (Udeze, 2009).
First, Africa lagged behind other regions in implementing the Green Revolution. However, Asian nations successfully secured their food supply because of their commitment to agricultural development. This is because once agriculture is stable, surplus labor and capital are invested in manufacturing and services, which are the backbone of any economy. While this is happening, the African continent as a whole, and the sub-Saharan region, in particular, face significant difficulties due to their proximity to the equator, which brings about radically different land, climate, and weather conditions, as well as drought, flood, and a general lack of farming experience (due to the habituation of gathering and hunting). When you adopt a farmer’s mentality, growing things get more brutal. Despite nature’s rich soil and good climatic conditions (sub-Saharan Africa is not as hot as everyone thinks!), small-scale agricultural mentality and small households threaten to cultivate, resulting in low production (Siyum, 2018). A different school of thought holds that African leaders are not as enthusiastic about expanding agriculture as their Asian counterparts. Instead of focusing on agricultural growth, as is necessary, they seek to maximize profit from existing resources (such as the fact that many agricultural products in Uganda are imported from nations like China). The low cost of imported goods makes domestically produced items less attractive.
Secondly, inadequate resource management is caused by corruption, power abuse, and incompetence by competent authorities. National income is not fairly divided among the poorer classes, and most of the profits from resource extraction (oil, coal, gold, etc.) go to political elites. On top of that, the trickle-down effect is slow and, at times, nonexistent. Contrarily, in Asian countries, redistribution policies through taxation and social welfare programs have facilitated social development alongside economic growth. In the film Blood Diamond, we see how major economic contractors and corrupt local officials work together to abuse a country’s labor force and its rich natural resources. Governments in Northern European countries are good examples of resource management because they are transparent with their spending and hold themselves accountable. Before World War II (WWII), the economies of the Nordic countries were primarily based on agriculture and the poor. Although they suffered minor damage from selling off supplies to benefit Europe’s postwar reconstruction, they did experience some economic hardship. The left-leaning democratic party spearheaded this effort, resulting in the modern-day growth level in those countries. The term “the resource curse” is commonly used in development studies to characterize countries that are both resource-rich and prone to tragedy. The civil conflict in Nigeria caused by Boko Haram is such an example. To be clear, this is not always the case.
The impact of additional factors is the third factor to take into account. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted research. They then provided structural adjustment packages that included assistance for socioeconomic development with the condition that a market economy and democracy be established. However, it is evident that these projects were a colossal failure. Local businesses failed, there was a high unemployment rate, and output was low; these issues can be attributed to the privatization of domestic industries, supported by capital that poured in from Western nations and was later dubbed “neo-colonialism.” Instead of focusing on what people need, as is the case with bottom-up initiatives, these programs adopted a top-down strategy. Initiatives to promote democracy failed immediately because they went against the grain, nature, and customs of many distinct African ethnic groups. Nigeria serves as yet another illustration. There are more than fifty tribes or factions, and each has its political party (Bright & Hruby, 2015). Even though just four or five main parties are actively running for office, the government cannot allocate funds for long-term development initiatives due to internal conflict. Internal conflicts and political instability significantly affect investment, the implementation of policies, and the formulation of consistent policy, even though there is no conclusive evidence tying a country’s political structure (dictatorship vs. democracy) to its degree of development.
In summary, despite its abundance and the mining boom of the previous decade, Africa has reaped relatively few benefits from its mineral richness. It ranks among the world’s poorest continents, with nearly half its population surviving on less than $1.25 per day. “illicit financial flows” refers to unreported funds transferred between nations. A considerable amount of the continent’s resources and profits have gone to local and international elites rather than the ordinary populace due to corruption facilitated by exploiting mineral riches. The most prevalent method of sending illegal monies abroad is trade mispricing (specifically transfer pricing and trade misinvoicing). Companies engage in trade mispricing when they aim to artificially increase profits by spending more in high-tax countries and making more in low-tax ones. This way, companies can avoid paying their fair share of taxes and funnel their savings into lavish overseas operations. Illicit flows harm both by contradicting the goals of social progress and stifling economically-inclusive expansion. Political elites, sometimes in cooperation with mining firms, have siphoned off income from the continent’s mineral and oil wealth, enriching themselves at the expense of ordinary Africans.
Siyum, N. (2018). Why Africa Remains Underdeveloped Despite its Potential? Which Theory can Help Africa to Develop? Open Access C Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, 1(2).
Boucher, L., Cassim, Z., Engel, H., Jayaram, K., & Kendall, A. (2021). Green Africa: A growth and resilience plan for the continent.
Adika, G. (2020). Economic growth dynamics between resource‐rich and resource‐poor countries in sub‐Saharan Africa: The role of politics and institutions. African Development Review, 32(3), 303–315.
Udeze, B. (2009). Why Africa?: A continent in a dilemma of unanswered questions. Xlibris Corporation.
Sachs, J. D. (2003). A prosperous nation, a poor continent.
Lebert, T. (2015). Africa: a continent of wealth, a continent of poverty. New Internationalist, p. 24.
Bright, J., & Hruby, A. (2015). The next Africa: An emerging continent becomes a global powerhouse. Macmillan.