Africa Rising: The perspectives of aid and trade – Japheth J Omojuwa


Is Africa truly rising? It depends on where you are looking at it from. If you look at it from where we used to be then you’d say we are indeed rising because we are far from those days. If you take a look at this perspective from where Africa ought to be then you realize Africa Rising is not enough to really shout about. One truth though, the conversation around Africa has changed for good and these are indeed interesting times for the continent.


At the just concluded World Economic Forum on Africa, it was interesting to see a word that used to go with Africa at every forum not find its way into the conversation at WEF Africa 2014. Aid had always been seen as the only way to move the continent forward but 50 years of aid left Africa more or less worse off. The recent positivity around Africa has mostly been about trade. Many would say most of this trade has been about commodities but then again Africa is doing business and that is a refreshing starter. We can always improve on the terms of trade but how do you improve on the terms of aid? With aid you just stretch your arms and take what you are given, with trade you make your choices. The future looks even brighter for the continent.


About 50 per cent of the African population is under 20 and with China’s ageing population, Africa will offer the world its biggest labour pool by 2040. If governments move to diversify their trade portfolios the African conversation would actually begin to attain the levels of absolute optimism. We need not be carried away though; Africa’s growth has been essentially jobless. Nigeria, one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one major reason Africa is said to be rising is home to some 112 million poor people. The bulk of its young population is jobless and just yesterday the president declared a state of emergency in three of its thirty-six states. South Africa is politically charged with land distribution issues even though this has not come to the fore.


Dem talk say our economy dey grow, na grow we go chop? Na grow go put food for my belle?*– This complaint by a taxi driver in Abuja puts the whole African growth in its proper perspective. We cannot afford to pretend there is a true story behind this growth that politicians would rather see relegated to the background. Inequality remains a seamy reality. We can change this. We can look at developing the educational system to meet the needs of the new Africa. Colonial styled curriculum cannot meet the needs of today’s Africa. We need to educate thinking minds to create jobs and not just feed bodies what gets them prepared just to take jobs.


Africa’s development will always be limited by its foundation. There would be no development without the right infrastructure to drive it. Governments must look at involving the private sector in the construction of the infrastructure that’d drive this continent toward economic integration. We cannot be talk about African unity if the volume of intra Africa trade is only 12 per cent of Africa’s trade. The right words were used by presidents and their representatives at the just concluded WEF Africa Forum. It’d help to see some of these commitments come into practice. African integration was a central theme at the sessions and one would begin to trust Africa a lot more if this is advanced in the coming months.


As a continent, we are not where we used to be and we can be grateful we are indeed moving forward. We cannot be carried away though because we are indeed running late. Yes we are moving forward but we should have been past this a long time ago. The world left us behind so apart from having a lot of catching up to do on that front, our people cannot eat these promises any more. It is time to make Africa work.


Pidgin: They say our economy is growing but will I eat growth? Will growth put food on my table?

There is a story behind the current conversation around Africa