I have entitled my remarks today “Reframing Africa,” meaning talking about the region differently, and respecting its multifaceted dimensions. I would like to begin with what I think of as Africa’s value-chain contribution to both the Continent and the global community -- using the phrase "value chain" in an atypical manner -- meaning whatever progress each and every African country makes going forward has a positive ripple affect Continent-wide and for the global community writ large.
In fact, I have been urging (through my blog) that we re-coin the term BRICS which focuses on the economic prowess and growth rates of Brazil, Russian, India, China and in Africa only South Africa (currently with a projected 3.2% growth rate for 2012 according to World Bank reports) to BRICA in order to be more inclusive of the success and influence of other African nations that are enjoying positive growth rates at 5% or more over the last 3 years. There is a wave of economic growth and development for Africa’s emerging markets at a time of global economic downturn or slow recoveries in Europe, in the U.S. and elsewhere. On top of this, the average 2012 projected collective growth rate for SSAfrica is hovering between 6-7%, with the Financial Times forecasting this to be on order for the region over the next 20 years (http://tinyurl.com/FT-Africa-Rising).
Equity and institutional investors are increasingly seeing the region as a haven for investment and a range of new Africa-focused equity funds are cropping up everywhere on business, infrastructure, ICT, agriculture, health or with a Diasporan focus like Homestrings (https://www.homestrings.com). The importance of the African Diaspora being involved in the Continent’s economic growth cannot be underestimated. Wall Street Journal notes that there are more than 79 investment funds which have been created in recent years exclusively focused on Africa paying 5-6 times earnings after taxes, depreciation, and amortization[with projected 2011 year-end estimates of funds raised at over $8-10 billion (http://1.on.wsj.com/AFequity).
On the development end of the challenge scale are: poverty and all its elements such as lack of education and strong health services; tmore focus on youth and women; the need for the right kind of agricultural development (including improved use of water, land, and renewable energy); improvement in infrastructure, access to electricity and transport; and, regional trade
All of these issues add to the negative indicators and poverty levels. Parts of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 are to improve the lives of 50 percent of Africans living on $1.25 to $ 2.00 per day down to 29 per cent. With three years to go toward the MDG deadlines, we are not near these goals.
The reason agriculture makes the “way ahead” list is that its potential to employ and create jobs for women and youth is enormous. Protecting small farm holders by using appropriate technology and encouraging them to form cooperatives to produce sufficient yields will be vital. This needs to be coupled with protecting more arable agricultural land from long term foreign leases (which are on the rise) and in some cases have little-to-no benefit to the surrounding communities. Keep in mind that there are only two regions of the world with remaining sufficient arable land and water resources – Africa and Latin America.