News / Africa

Africa's Bright, Dark Economic Spots Get Attention

Economists say more outside investment is needed to boost Africa's recent economic growth
Economists say more outside investment is needed to boost Africa's recent economic growth

Multimedia

Audio
Nico Colombant

As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank spring meetings kick off in Washington this week, Africa's economies are the talk of both guarded optimism and cause for concern.

Since the mid-1990s, economic growth in Africa has accelerated. The upward trend is continuing now despite sluggish recoveries elsewhere. World Bank officials expect the region's economy to grow 5 percent this year.

Economists and experts warn however against considering Africa as a homogeneous entity.  Brookings Africa Growth Initiative Director Mwangi Kimenyi is among these.  He spoke at a conference in Washington last month organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"It is very important to disaggregate these countries, remove the oil countries, because the drivers are different," said Kimenyi.  "Coastal [countries] are sometimes different from the landlocked, North Africa, and so on. But if you look at the countries that are doing well and they are not natural resource rich countries, they have tried to diversify their economies and they have become competitive in particular sectors."

Bright spots in African economies include Ghana's agricultural sector, Kenya's mobile banking, Lesotho's light manufacturing, Cape Verde's tourism and Botswana's mining.

Major obstacles in most African countries include insufficient schooling beyond primary levels, huge gaps between a small rich elite and the majority of poor, a lack of outside investment and limited regional integration.

Harry Broadman, the chief economist of U.S.-based Albright Capital Management, says the main impediment to better growth is poor governance.

"We can have all the other reforms that we want in the world, whether it is trade reform, whether it is education or the like, but unless we have a confluence between civil society and the political and economic leadership, we are not going to get very far in a sustainable way on the continent moving forward," said Broadman.

Shanta Devarajan, the chief economist of the World Bank's Africa region, also points to low labor productivity, which measures the ratio of output per hour's work.

"You see 70 to 80 percent of the labor force in the informal sector, mostly in single family household enterprises working on very low productivity activities and also unable to take advantage of any economies of scale, even of the type where you have a firm of 50 people you might be able to buy a machine that can increase your productivity," said Devarajan.

Devarajan says Africa's labor force is getting bigger and bigger, which is both a source of potential but also problems.

"We have seven to 10 million young Africans entering the labor force every year adding to a total stock of about 200 million," added Devarajan.

Beyond the overall numbers which point to strong growth, economists say there are more than a dozen African countries which are extremely fragile economically.

They also say most Africans continue to be extremely vulnerable to external shocks which can severely affect their livelihood, from soaring food and fuel prices, to climate change induced natural disasters, and the outbreak of health epidemics and recurring political violence.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid