"The Midweek Read": Charles Robertson & Africa's Next Boom

By: Deonta Wortham

In 2013 Charles Robertson discussed  what he called the "inevitable" rise of the African economy by the year 2050. In his  projections Robertson states one surprising   that by the year 2050 the African economy would have an output of nearly $29 trillion.


At face value this number is staggering - yes, it is a lot of money - but the hidden implications of that projection mean so much more. 

Today the  economies of the United States and the European Union has respective gross domestic product (GPD) - or relative purchasing power - that total $32.57 trillion combined. Robertson is stating that by the year 2050 the African economic - in a comprehensive sense - will have a thriving base that mirrors that of the worlds most advanced societies. That alone is exciting!

That tells me this: that Africa is going to go from a $2 trillion economy today to a $29 trillion economy by 2050. Now that’s bigger than Europe and America put together in today’s money.
— Charles Robertson

Though, to simply note these forecasts prevents a concise understanding of how the African economy move from have a current GDP of $2 trillion to the massive $29 trillion that Robertson feverishly champions. 

In his intriguing discussion Robertson that governmental reforms- spurred by the spread of democratic values- and introduction of  increasing levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) are injecting energy into economies across the African continent.

I too would agree that these two instruments are contributing to the growth of emerging economies across the continent. I mean the spread of democracy is ideal, it encourages civic participation on the part of all citizens, and enables the establishment of sound social structures (ie. education, medical, legal etc. )  which are the bedrock of any stable society.  Likewise, capital flowing into developing nations provides needed financial support that goes on to spur the development of private firms and ultimately leads to inclusive investments on the part of "local" citizens. Reform and investments are good, hell I'd even say they are absolutely necessary. 

However in the scope of long-term economic development, that is both sustainable and felt by every individual, these two ideas are simplistic short term fixes. 

The presence of FDI in the African context has in fact been shown to hinder effective means of economic growth across the continent. Additionally, the presence of the presence of democratic structure immensely effects the manner in which a society operates, but fails to inherently address the manner in which policymakers can transform their "elected-ness" to tangible means of transformative means of economic growth and increased levels of output. 

The presence of additional factors that ensure these things will propel the African economy into the 21st Century. 

The task at hand is heavy. The process of true economic transformation across the African continent will be riddled with numerous trails and errors, but that should not deter the undeniable fact that Africa is on the rise. 

With strategic reforms that ensure the lasting strength of African economies, coupled with the development of sound financial institutions, and the skill development of the African continent's large youth population, the African economy will not only poised to achieve Robertson's forecast, but it will undoubtedly surpass it. 

African economies simply need to invest in economic mechanisms that will ensure long-lasting results. Failing to do so will not only hinder the development of the entire African continent, but it will additionally entrench the continent in economic behavior that will ceaselessly prevent the establishment of the robust African economic system. 


"Insights" : The Need to Invest in Africa's Emerging Economies

There are few people that I admire more than Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the globally renowned economist who currently serves as Nigeria's Finance Minister.

In a thought provoking TedTalk Okonjo-Iweala details the importance of comprehensive economic development across the African continent that includes the critical need for investment in emerging firms. Framing her argument she uses the economic transformation of her native Nigeria.

Nigeria's story is amazing. A nation that underwent decades of corruption,  in both economic and governmental spheres, has implemented a range of economic reforms that have included industry privatization - particularly within the telecommunications and extraction sectors, firm development, and liberalization of the Nigerian economy thereby increasing competitiveness across all economic sectors and raising the nations GDP to a robust 8.67% growth rate this year. 

This is the Africa of opportunity. This is the Africa where people want to take charge of their own futures and their own destinies. And this is the Africa where people are looking for partnerships to do this.
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala's presentation encompasses the immense opportunities that that lie within the borders of the African continent. Members of the African economic community are read and able to expand innovative industries that have the possibility to transform the continent's economic development. As Okonjo-Iweala states, 

The best way to help Africans today is to help them to stand on their own feet. And the best way to do that is by helping create jobs.

Let's take note of this call. Let's invest in exciting, and innovative firms that are eager to transform the economic trajectory of societies across the African continent. 

In short, let's think with Foresight 

"Insights": Architecture & Education

Italian architect Tomà Berlanda, co-founder of Active Social Architecture, has brought his talents to Rwanda, to assist in the nation's development of quality education environments that place an emphasis on design and community engagement. 

Design Indaba has highlighted his work, it simply is amazing. Enjoy!

You need to make sure that early on in life they have chances – because it is too late to recriminate that students have come from a bad school when they are 20 years old. . . [a]nd so it really brings full circle a range of things that I’ve been interested in – how architecture as a discipline should practi[c]e and operate for everyone.
— Tomà Berlanda

"Insights": iHub, Inside Kenya's Tech Innovation incubator

Design Indaba has highlighted iHub “Kenya’s Tech Innovation Hub,” an innovation incubator in Nairobi that is assisting in the development of 152 emerging tech start-ups in the Kenyan capital.

Image Credit: ihub.co.ke

Image Credit: ihub.co.ke

In five years iHub has connected a variety of these firms with international investors, implemented a cross-sectional educational program that has introduced the scope of tech related jobs to young students across the Nairobi metropolitan area, and has been directly involved in the employment of 1,265 jobs!

The monumental growth of iHub’s efforts illustrates the progress – specifically in technology related industries – capable of being replicated across the African continent.

Africa is on the precipice of rapid economic development expansion. Ensuring that viable firms have the capacity grow, and are assisted, and supported, by innovation entities such as iHub will play a pivotal role in realization of a dynamic trans-continental African economy capable of competing on the international economic stage. 

Explore more of iHub's work by venturing over to ihub.co.ke, it certainly will not dissappoint!