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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid