“Do you really think Africa is going to take off?” This is a question I often get both from Africans and from people in the West. My answer: “It’s not going to happen tomorrow but I’m convinced it will happen.”
At any typical introductory talk about the continent chances are that the speaker will show two popular covers of The Economist: “The hopeless continent” (2000), and “Africa rising”(2011). The latter came about a year after McKinsey published their report “Lions on the move: The progress and potential of African economies.”
Last weekend I read an interesting article in Foreign Policy: “Africa’s boom is over,” by Rick Rowden (thanks to my colleague Ulf Richter from Nottingham University who shared the article with me). The author’s main point is that without manufacturing industries, and under the current trade and investment treaties, Africa’s growth will not take off. He points to the fact that the IMF’s 2015 projection for growth in sub-Saharan Africa has been revised downwards from 4.5 to 3.75 % given the persistence of low commodity prices. He also offers an interesting discussion about why Africa has not industrialized, and the need to renegotiate treaties for industrial policies to be effective.
The one point I want to highlight is this comment: “In Africa and Latin America, industrial policies often failed because they were focused inward on small domestic markets. Companies were often given support based on corruption or nepotism, rather than their efficiency. On the other hand, the successful East Asian countries focused on international markets, and they instilled discipline in companies by cutting off support to those which failed to improve.”
This is where I see hope for Africa’s development: it needs to come from within. Colonization, foreign aid, and NGO support have failed in this – with my due respect, especially to the well-intentioned efforts of people collaborating with NGOs: these are still needed, especially so in the educational and healthcare areas.
It’s due time for Africans to take the leading role, and to do so in their own style. The creation of indigenous companies that undertake internationalization initiatives within the continent is a critical part of the game in Africa . It will contribute to the creation of jobs for a growing population that is full of energy, and to marketing growth. I have met many African entrepreneurs who are working in this direction. Africa needs more of these, and management education is an urgent need. This is why I’m convinced that Africa will take off even if it doesn’t happen tomorrow.