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The news from Africa is often very good

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.

6 comments to The news from Africa is often very good

  • F0ul

    So agree with this.
    Africa will be in the same place as China today, in 20 -odd years. It will slowly move from being the basket case of the world, to becoming the sweatshop. The speed of the change does depend on how quickly the Chinese tire of making silly plastic things.
    Ironically, all that aid money which is being used to tie the governments in debt to the west, might not work. If the wealth goes back to China legitimately, bypassing the government, the west is knackered! ;)

  • Runcie Balspune

    The greenies have long tried to kill off African trade with Europe by imposing unrealistic anti-GM and anti-DDT regulation, but I believe the main force in Africa has been regional (internal) trade as the countries grow, they probably don’t need Europe any more to prosper. Does the article show where the money is being made ?

  • MajikMonkee

    Strangely enough the Chinese seem to be the new Americans. My local is full of people from the DRC and Zambia and all of them mentioned anti-Chinese sentiment during the elections in each respective country this year.
    This week the new Zambian government just quite wittily told Amnesty International to go F@#k it self and welcomed George Dubya Bush’s visit.
    Strange times

  • John B

    Amazing what a bit of Chinese and Indian investment, often backed by western stupidity, can do for a place.

    Well, not quite stupidity by everyone. No doubt there are benefits doled out to those who look the other way, as well.

    At the end of the day, when true productivity has been flogged to death, then perhaps will be the dawn of night.

  • I don’t know about Africa as a whole, but Nigeria is going precisely nowhere. No two people in the entire damn country will cooperate with each other.

  • I can see the article free here (from my experience with the likes of WSJ, these paywalls tend to be geographically oriented, so to speak, so that link may not work for everyone).

    I wondered about Nigeria myself, and Tim’s take on it…Thanks Tim:-)