Global Alternatives 2024
Rethinking the African Development Paradigm

Africa’s new economic strategy must unleash the energy of youth. It must do this by creating a favourable and stimulating business climate, introducing responsible economic management based on the promotion of equal opportunity in economic activity, fair competition, the rule of law and merit, as well as a ruthless fight against rent-seeking, privilege, clientelism, and the intertwining of business and politics.

The African continent has very significant development potential, although, of course, the situation varies significantly in terms of growth rates, development patterns and the progress of reforms at the national and regional level. However, there is a certain common denominator for the continent as a whole, the main features of which are:

- Continued deindustrialisation, which is a cause for concern since, according to the World Bank, the share of industrial value added in sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP fell from 30.3% in 1998 to 24.2% in 2016, and the share of manufactured goods in these countries’ exports fell from 29.4% to 28.6% over the same period. Worse, “the contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP is (with the exception of South Africa) less than 10%, and employment in industry does not exceed 1 million people, which is 3.5 times less than in South Korea alone.”

- Insufficient infrastructure is widespread, particularly in relation to roads, highways, ports, airports, industrial sites, energy, drinking water and sewerage, to name only the most strategically important sectors. 

Indeed, if the average road density in the world is estimated at 94.4 km per 100 km2 of land, in Africa it is only 20.4 km, less than 22% of the world average, of which only 25% is paved. The situation with air transport is not much better: in 2015, the number of passengers carried was about 45 million, while in the Asia-Pacific region there were 23 times more, and six times more in Latin America. In terms of other basic infrastructure, Africa consumes only 3.2% of the so-called primary energy used in the world.

In 62% of the continent’s rural areas, access to clean drinking water is limited. On the other hand, according to Felicien Ngasso, “if 40% of the world's population lives less than 100 km from the sea coast, then for Africa this figure drops to 30%, and in Sub-Saharan Africa it is even less. Thus, Africa is the least open of all continents and has a large number of landlocked countries (15, or almost a third).”

- Extroverted development, of a sort, driven by a few large foreign powers and a few multinational corporations rather than driven by internal dynamics.

The Return of Diplomacy?
Development Imperatives in Africa: What of Tech?
Mikatekiso Kubayi
There are many, ways to evaluate Africa’s expensiveness in the tech space and determine what drives African development. Conclusions may point to interests in robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and telecommunications. This paper attempts to add to the body of literary commentary on this issue a view of the nature of the African population demographics, the youth dividend, and the impact of geopolitics, geoeconomics, and current multilateralism on their potential and role in Africa’s development.

The consequence of all these paradoxes is the landlocked nature of many countries on the continent, the mobility restrictions faced by most African megacities, non-endogenous and non-inclusive development, the predominance of low value-added industries in the economy, the extremely low capitalization of the huge potential of natural resources and such a distribution of wealth, from which the local population benefits almost nothing and which ultimately entails a development model that does not create enough jobs for young people.

The data is very telling. Indeed, today about 13 million young people seeking work enter African national labour markets every year. In response to this demand, only about three million new jobs are offered across all sectors of the economy. As a result, the number of young job seekers each year is four times greater than the number of positions available. It is obvious that given the current economic conditions of Africa, it is objectively impossible to ensure full employment for all young people who enter the national labour markets annually.

Therefore, job creation is, first and foremost, the creation of a critical mass of new economic activities for the productive, sustainable and dignified integration of the maximum number of young people entering the labour market. This belief is based on two realities. On the one hand, there is an almost mechanical cause-and-effect relationship between the level of unemployment and the volume of enterprises created by countries, including small businesses. Additionally, while the United States created 2.5 million new businesses in 2015 with a population of over 300 million and France is estimated to have established over 540,000 new businesses during the same year with a population of 66 million, in Africa only 1.5 million new businesses were established despite a population of 1.186 billion people.

On the other hand, an analysis of the structure of the employed working population around the world shows that the private sector is the main provider of jobs, with a figure approaching 80%. Central and regional government agencies and enterprises account for only about 20%.

In addition, the basis of any real strategy for sustainable employment growth is indeed entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship; creative entrepreneurial initiative aimed at creating wealth is realised through economic development.

Based on this premise, Africa’s new economic strategy must unleash the energy of youth.

It must do this by creating a favourable and stimulating business climate, introducing responsible economic management based on the promotion of equal opportunity in economic activity, fair competition, the rule of law and merit, as well as a ruthless fight against rent-seeking, privilege, clientelism, and the intertwining of business and politics. This economic strategy should also include the creation of appropriate mechanisms for financing youth projects. In this regard, the economic and social responsibility of the African banking system lies at the heart of youth enterprise creation.

Finally, such an economic strategy must explore for and with young people the important opportunities created by sustainable development and the digital revolution. The continent’s nations must prepare generations of African youth for these 21st century economic opportunities. Hence the importance of radically rethinking the mission of the school in Africa, because the school must develop competencies that help solve the problems facing the African economy and its society. It must promote content and approaches to improve the match between education, training and employment on the one hand, and promote innovative approaches to key challenges to meet the parameters, demands and opportunities offered by the digital revolution and sustainable development for young people.

In addition, an extremely urgent and truly necessary task for the African school is to increasingly develop intelligence and engineering skills. These are necessary levers to create wealth and promote employment in the future. But it also suggests that Africa will somehow be able to cope with responsibility not only for its human resources, but also for its natural, mining and energy resources, which it has in abundance.

Africa is experiencing an unprecedented development situation compared to what is happening in the world. Indeed, while in Europe, South America, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East many problems are associated with managing the scarcity of resources, in Africa the problems are created by the need to manage their abundance. This abundance affects both human and natural resources, including mining and energy. All available data regarding African population changes, water reserves, agricultural land in use, forest area, plant and animal biodiversity including marine biodiversity, renewable energy sources and mineral reserves confirm this statement.
Indeed, accounting for 39.1% of the world’s population in 2100, of which nearly one in three will be between 15 and 24 years of age, Africa will have enormous demographic weight.

From this perspective, three out of every four new births in the world will be African. This population will live on an area of​​30,221,532 km2, representing 20.1% of the globe’s total land area, of which 42.2% is agricultural land and 25.7% is forested. This puts Africa in the position of being the true breadbasket and lungs of the planet.

Regarding mining, according to Apoli Bertrand Kameny, “Africa’s monopoly extends to a number of materials and above all to phosphates, one of the most important minerals for world food security, at the level of 80% of known reserves,” of which about 75% concentrated in Morocco. Even better, by 2100 Morocco will remain the world’s only producer and exporter of this strategic raw material. China, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, South Africa, the United States, Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia will exhaust their reserves by then. In addition, according to Frédéric Munier, the continent will have “30% of the world’s mineral reserves, including 40% of gold, 60% of cobalt and 90% of platinum."

These realities place the African continent in an atypical development situation compared to the rest of the world, as it will have to manage an abundance of human and natural resources. It is therefore important for Africa to create conditions for the effective management of its resources. Accordingly, the ability to successfully cope with the security challenges that Africa and its youth will have to face tomorrow will depend on the quality of this governance.

Global Alternatives 2024
Information Technology for Africa: A New Threat of Colonisation or the Road to the Future?
On May 22, 2024, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “Advanced Information Technologies as a Driver of Socio-Economic Development for African Countries.” Oleg Barabanov, the moderator of the discussion, called the formation of a new economy based on knowledge one of the key priorities of modern development, adding that it was especially important for developing countries. Many African states have achieved significant success in this area, but a number of problems remain, particularly those related to inequality between the developed and developing world.
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.