Africa is often derided as the world’s perennial backwater, the continent that will never really lift itself out of poverty and self-destruction. Alternatively it is considered the exclusive victim of an imperialism and colonialism that never ends and from which it will never escape. Both perspectives are lies built on a kernel of truth, as all good lies are. In reality Africa is the single greatest economic opportunity in the world. The public may be blind to that many are not, not least the Western and Eastern powers of the world.
First let’s dispel the lies.
Is Africa forever condemned to a life of economic squalor? Absolutely not. Africa’s diverse populations and low average IQ do contribute to a more difficult working environment but do not necessarily condemn them to economic death.
Consider Botswana. Botswana is an ex-British colony. It is dominated by the Tsawana people who make up roughly 80% of the population. By comparison the White Afrikaner population stands at 3%. Botswana is characterized by sparsely populated territory, stable political institutions, and a GDP per capita of $14,000. The country maintains a very small military and for some time had none at all. And its economic growth is to die for at over 8% currently. All this is combined by some of Africa’s most advanced and competitive banks.
Botswana is of course the exception to the rule. Most of Africa remains mired in the problems resulting from the backfiring of nature’s gifts and a lack of strong, dominant cultures. And the country is not without problems such as an explosive HIV rate. But it is impressive. It’s what Africa could be, expertly and patient managed, with Western technology adapted to the African situation demographically and geographically.
Second, Africa is still subordinated to colonialism that supposedly hampers their growth? Well yes and no, it depends where you go. Africa, having no powers developed and capable enough to stand on their own, has always been a playground of empires. There are some exceptions, like Algeria, Libya, South Africa, and Egypt, but most of these countries have been consumed by internal difficulties of one kind or another. Libya, which had the strength to look outwards and make significant progress in strengthening the till-then toothless African Union, was thoroughly demolished by the West not so long ago. It will require years of intensive economic input to restore it’s former glory. South Africa worsens every year as the ethnic divide and poor leadership of the country encourage the flight of Afrikanners there. And it isn’t going to end well.
And there’s no escaping the fact that France still utterly dominates its former West African colonies. Their central banks have about as much freedom as a franchise branch to operate. The French never really abandoned West Africa; They simply changed the shape of their control, from overt to covert, from judicial to financial.
But the bulk of Africa has escaped the confines of so called Western colonialism. Take Angola. Angola and Portugal have a complicated relationship. The Portuguese still maintain significant influence and strong economic ties to the country, while the Angolans clamor for further independence every so loudly every once in a while. But the Angolan leadership isn’t blind to the fact that the Angolan oil and gold industries were largely planned and developed by the far-sighted Salazar dictatorship during the 60s and 70s. Today the two countries enjoy a unique and fascinating relationship, one of distrust on one side and mutual economic benefit on the other.
Likewise for a variety of African nations. Africa south of the Sahara and East of the French possessions can be reliably characterized as independent nations in their own right, free of any real colonialism. Their failure to grow is their own complicated responsibility.
And this takes us to opportunity. Because Africa is economic opportunity incarnate. It is a continent of vast territories, vast populations, and little in the way of infrastructure or industry. The whole continent cries out not for foreign aid, but for investment, for entrepreneurship, for the challenge of development and the creation of prosperity.
This would not be easy. Kenya, the Jewel of East Africa, has attained considerable growth in the last few decades. This has come at a cost. It requires sacrifice, collaboration, and a recognition of the facts of nature especially as they apply to human beings. But when one makes human nature a feature, and not a bug, these difficulties become opportunities.
The young and ambitious should remember their home and love their countries. Their peoples, especially those of the West. But for those committed to economic development and the attainment of resources necessary to make such drastic changes possible then Africa is more than an option. It is the greatest, riskiest, and most dangerous market in the world. It is opportunity, and it is calling the opportunists.
Whoever answers is going to be mighty powerful.