Legitimately self-made African billionaires are harbingers of hope. Though few in number, they are growing more common. They exemplify how far Africa has come and give reason to believe that its recent high growth rates may continue. The politics of the continent’s Mediterranean shore may have dominated headlines this year, but the new boom south of the Sahara will affect more lives.
From Ghana in the west to Mozambique in the south, Africa’s economies are consistently growing faster than those of almost any other region of the world. At least half a dozen have expanded by more than 6 per cent a year for six or more years.
The Economist, 3 December, page 77. (Behind the magazine’s paywall, so thank me for typing it out for you). The magazine has a nice study of the continent, laying out the continued problems but also the many bright spots. There is a handy map showing which countries have the fastest and slowest GDP growth rates, with the fastest rates in black (Ethiopia, at 7.5 per cent), then red, lighter red, all the way down to the deadbeats, in white. Of course, in looking at percentage rises or falls in growth, it pays to remember that statistics can be highly misleading (hardly a surprise to any skeptics of government, of course) and it is easy to rise fast from a low base. But still, these numbers are indicative of a more positive picture.
Needless top say, Zimbabwe came at the bottom of the growth league. It remains a grim lesson in how collectivism, cronyism and debauchery of money spell disaster. If parts of Africa are beginning to understand the follies of this and start to make serious money, that is excellent news. For a start, refugees from the hellholes of the continent might, instead of entering sclerotic Europe, choose to make a life in a more congenial place elsewhere.
Of course, there have been false dawns before. But with the flood of money entering the continent from China (after all that commodity wealth), I have a feeling that the rise of Africa has some staying power, particularly given the young demographics. Of course, it could all be messed up from things such as a rise of global protectionism.