Is Africa Rising?
'Africa is to be both a contributor to, and consumer of, innovation and global knowledge'
Matt Radu | 21 January 2016

In recent times, the development of countries within Africa has fascinated economists. The working population of Africa has doubled to one billion in the last decade alone. Economic development has been said to occur in correlation with economic growth, but nowadays economists regard this normative method as insufficient in portraying the standard of living.


Improved standards of living commonly consist of higher literacy rates, along with improved healthcare, infrastructure and access to basic needs. Thus, 41% fewer mothers in Africa are dying from childbirth now compared with two decades ago. This gives economists a glimpse into the improvement taking place inside the continent. Another key characteristic of economic development is ensuring the freedom of choice. Improved political stability has given certain African countries the opportunity to freely elect a leader in a democratic manner, resulting in more efficacious spending projects.


Although economic growth and development go hand-in-hand, GDP alone cannot distinguish income distribution or poverty levels; inequality is still a prevalent problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. If African countries continued at their current growth trajectory, the continent’s poverty rates would not fall beneath 3% until 2075. One in two Africans live in poverty, four times more than the world average, and central African countries are now among the top 10 most unequal countries. Distribution of income is key in economic development. Considering Bangladesh and Nigeria, both of which are low income countries, Nigeria’s mortality rates are three times higher, despite Bangladesh being poorer. This is mainly due to a highly unequal income distribution, leading to a lack of basic medical care in parts of Nigeria.


Gender inequality is mirrored in this economic inequality, so it is no surprise that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, women earn on average 30% less than men. Discrimination against women is rife in African countries such as Uganda, but no one dares to challenge the custom, for fear of violence. Women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa spend 40 billion hours per year collecting water, the same as the entire workforce of France spend working. An enormous 70% of Africa’s homegrown food is produced by women, showing the continuing gender inequality, however this is no longer at the expense of economic growth.


Illicit financial flows alone make Africa a net creditor to the rest of the world and, in a recent report, South Africa’s former President wrote that, in 2010 alone, MNCs were responsible for $40 billion. Trade mispricing and harmful tax competition has made it difficult to quantify the total value of tax dodging. In addition, wage arbitrage is still a rampant problem throughout Africa. In Kenya, the green bean sector faces poor quality working conditions, together with very low wages for women. Every £1 spent on green beans rewards growers with a shockingly inadequate 5 pence.


The Education and Health sector in Africa has seen a significant change, with $100 billion being spent on education and health to revamp the continent and allow for the growth of infant industries. Nairobi has seen enhanced methods of farming, allowing small scale farmers to grow, and trade, on a larger market than was possible purely domestically. African universities have been improving, with adult literacy rates in countries such as Zambia growing exponentially. Zambia has seen a successful 3% gross domestic product (GDP) increase from 2004 to 2010, shifting them into the middle income country bracket after previously being stigmatised as a low income country.  

It is clear that Africa is rising. Although the continent still faces several large problems, solutions are finally being discussed to resolve the current economic and gender inequality. Oxfam and other international organisations are making attempts to resolve the process of tax dodging and evasion. Oxfam is set to move their headquarters to Nairobi. The rich and poor divide is closing, economic growth is obvious and the IMF says that such growth is reducing levels of inequality. Africa is to be both a contributor to, and a consumer of, innovation and global knowledge.  


Image sourced under the Creative Commons license

James Routledge 2016