While 2009 saw the global economic crisis spread around the world, the story is more complex and more hopeful than many believe. For Africa, various trends are pointing to positive economic development in 2010, despite the continent’s numerous political, social and environmental challenges. Pragmatism is driving stronger economic ties between Africa and the rest of the world, while long-running trends are delivering opportunity to millions despite setbacks.
The Standard Chartered bank (http://research.standardchartered.com/Pages/home.aspx) believes sub-Saharan Africa will jolt itself out from the 1 percent growth it had in 2009, to reach 4.7 percent growth in 2010 and 5.7 percent in 2011 (http://research.standardchartered.com/researchdocuments/Pages/ResearchArticle.aspx?&R=66952). The reason? The world’s strong appetite for commodities and food, which will continue to draw in business. And much of this business will be done by that powerhouse of the global South, China.
The fact that China is trading better infrastructure – roads, rail and ports – for commodities means other businesses can also benefit from the improving environment. Throughout the downturn in 2009, China actually increased its investments in Africa.
The United States is also trying to increase its economic relationship with Africa. It wants a third of its oil imports to come from West Africa by 2015.
And the competition for food in the world, as countries address the global food crisis, has seen companies from the Middle East to Asia to Britain purchasing land in Africa to grow more food.
The Annansi Chronicles blog on African business and culture trends (www.annansi.com) has come up with a list of the big trends to watch out for on the continent in 2010. They build upon many of the patterns that have emerged in the past few years in Africa.
The blog predicts that Africa will increasingly be an innovation incubator. Concepts like the bottom of the pyramid – where the poor are seen as an unserved marketplace of needs – will draw more private companies in to innovate new products and services. Already, products and services trialled in Africa are then launched in other places in the world. One example has been mobile phone banking. The blog sees the challenge for Africa as finding ways to increase innovation and harness its economic benefits within the continent, and to direct resources to the African pioneers out there who need money and infrastructure support to grow their ideas.
Mobile phones will continue to be the source of opportunity in Africa in 2010. Get ready for more businesses to take advantage of the move from analog to digital in Africa, as fibre optic cables continue to expand. Just as the introduction of broadband internet in developed countries gave birth to new businesses like You Tube (www.youtube.com), so it will create new opportunities in Africa. The key to growing the prosperity from this is to see governments and the private sector better connect with African technology pioneers, as can be found in hot spot countries like Ghana.
Along with technology comes content. And the people to make the content interesting and attractive will be Africa’s so-called ‘creative class’: savvy young African entrepreneurs and thinkers. They have drawn on the rising urbanization of the continent and greater international travel to explore new ways of representing African culture. This has come forward in the explosion in media, fashion, music and design. The blog believes the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup) is going to thrust the world’s attention on to Africa’s creative class: a global media burst that will be an opportunity not to be missed.
And this will also challenge global perceptions of “brand Africa.” Already, the world’s tourists flow to Africa in greater numbers, defying decades of negative media publicity. Brand Africa will be up for grabs in 2010.
And finally, while China has been the big story in terms of economic investment in Africa, India will start to make more moves to catch up by flexing its information technology muscles. Look for more joint partnerships between African countries and Indian technology companies.
In short, Africa has as many positive trends for 2010 as negative ones. It is just a matter of focusing on the good so the negative will not have a fighting chance in 2010.
Published: January 2010
1) Design Indaba: See the latest on the catwalks in all-day fashion shows; attend short films, talks and product launches; be enticed to buy from more than 260 exhibitors and hobnob with the designers in person. Above all, be awed by the creative spirit of innovative South Africans. Website: http://www.mobileactive.org
2) Maker Faire Africa: African pioneers in grassroots innovation offer inspiring inventions. Website: http://makerfaireafrica.com/
3) Arise Africa Fashion Week: The place to be seen and to see. Website: http://www.africanfashioninternational.com/africaFashionWeek/
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.
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