The Nations of Africa: The New Deal
In the world of international economics, TPP and T-Tip are in the limelight. These two mega trade deals aim to reduce barriers and facilitate economic cooperation - the former is between 12 Pacific Rim countries*, the latter, often referenced to as its “companion”, between the USA and the EU. Both on-going deals have sparked much controversy and debate making it highly dubious whether a conclusion will be reached anytime soon. Are political leaders and policy makers being shortsighted? All that they need to do is take a step back and look at an often neglected part of the world - the continent of Africa.
Yes, Africa. A place so poorly represented in Western society thanks to the “tales” of disease and disorder that circulate the mainstream media. Most of us subconsciously think of Africa as it was described in the post-colonial 1960s - a third world “country” (note the use of the term “country”), a cradle of political turmoil, poverty and chaos. And although it may be true that Africa still remains the poorest region in the world despite its rich and vast natural resources, much of present-day Africa has in fact evolved well past our outdated preconceptions.
As a matter of fact, particular countries in Africa are an equal match to most OECD nations. According to the 2014 World Bank global rankings of cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP), Mali, Ivory Coast and Rwanda faired better than France, the USA and Japan. Intra-national organizations such as the African Economic Community (AEC) have spurred economic development through the liberalization of trade, the harmonization of policies and the establishment of a common market.
Moreover, modern African nations have proved to be perceptive and consistent - a trait which can be seen from the booming mobile networks to the strengthening of government democracy. Combine the present developments with an entrepreneurial spirit, future technology and the proper harnessing of her natural resources and the continent of Africa will in my opinion be a major (if not the biggest) player in the market economy.
The AEC was created through the Abuja Treaty. Signed in 1991, it has many parallels to the Treaty of Rome (1957), the founding document of the European Economic Community, that saw Europe’s economies rise to unprecedented levels of success. The AEC aims to achieve economic integration within a timeframe of 34 years from its creation. How will it achieve this? the removal of custom duties and tariffs, the construction of an external trade block, the creation of a monetary union and the free movement of goods, capital and labour are some viable options. What is worth noting is that the AEC has realized that in order for economic integration to succeed some form of political assimilation is also necessary. Thus it has called for the creation of a Commission, a Court of Justice, and a Pan-African Parliament as well.
As outlined in the “2015 African Ecological Futures report” Africa can be a testament to an ecologically sustainable future. With more than 85% of the continent's landscape receiving at least 2,000 kWh of solar power per m² a year and winds exceeding the speed of 3,750 kW·h on the Western coast, Africa has the unique chance to leapfrog ‘brown growth’ and become 100% “green”, ideally self-sufficient. The heavy reliance of Western economies on fossil fuels is nothing but the result of poor economic planning that has trapped them in a vicious circle of destruction. Africa can overcome this. And of course at a greater magnitude that any other continent.
A person strongly believed in Africa’s future was politician and idealist, Thabo M. Mbeki, South Africa’s second post-apartheid president. He envisioned a point in time where the nations of Africa would heal from the scars of decolonization and be re-born, fulfilling their true ambition. The 21st century would be an “African Century”, an era of peace, prosperity and evolution marked by the “African Renaissance."
Instead of the rest of the world wasting time on flimsy deals of little public approval perhaps it should focus on the bigger picture. As argued above, Thabo Mbeki’s “African Century” is not too far off. If global warming and greed don't get the best of us, the nations of Africa will prevail.