Series - #1 "Knowing to predict”. An overview of a continent with multiple challenges
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Series - What future for Africa? Prospective of a continent endowed with wealth and battered by challenges
African is the source of many covetousness. Europe and then China are the leading investors. While many resources remain unexploited, how can the continent take the turn towards sustainable growth? What are the main challenges and possible solutions? This series of articles provides decoding and answers about Africa of tomorrow.
#1 - "Knowing to predict”. An overview of a continent with multiple challenges
Africa is a territory where strong disparities remain between the economic performance of coastal countries among other things, and areas of widespread instability in the equatorial center and the Sahel. In the light of two experts in African forecasting, sociologist Sall and macro-economist Nubukpo, what could the destinies of this multifaceted continent be ?
Africa's deadly place in international trade
The world's major economic powers are aware of the potential that Africa represents. The European Union and China are the leading investors and trading partners. The European Union accounts for 40% of investment flows to Africa and remains the continent's leading trading partner. In 2018, the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) became China's second largest investment country straight after the European Union with $28.11 billion invested. Thus, the continent seems to crystallize new covetousness and carries major geopolitical challenges.
So how can Africa's economic sovereignty be guaranteed? How will the continent take the turn of growth in the face of the neo-mercantilist sirens' call of the economic Chinese model? According to Kako Nubukpo, macroeconomist and former Togolese Minister of Prospective and Public Policy Evaluation, its insertion in international trade is mortifying. Indeed, African economies were not historically conceived as vectors of shared prosperity for African populations. Consequently, since colonial slavery until today, the market has been structured with the aim of supplying the various European metropolises with low-cost labor and raw materials. This is what the Cameroonian economist and sociologist Martial Ze Beling calls "economic coloniality". Moreover, Africa is the scene of an economic war between the United States and the Middle Kingdom, while China is trying to develop its new "silk roads". The continent is therefore still constrained by the primary patterns of insertion into international trade.
A continent with a weak industrial sector
Most of the major African powers have based their economies on fossil fuels. Of the six largest economies of the territory, which account for about 65% of African Gross Domestic Product (Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Angola), three of the six countries depend almost exclusively on oil. This is the case for Algeria, Angola and Nigeria in particular. While the other 48 countries contribute 37% of the rest of the African GDP, there remains a strong imbalance in the distribution of wealth on the continent.
Moreover, there is a strong disparity between the different sectors of the economy. The contribution of value added in African economies is respectively 51% for the tertiary sector, 30% for the primary sector and 16% for the secondary sector. Consequently, out of ten jobs created in the continent over the last ten years, 6 were in agriculture, 3 in the tertiary sector and only one in the secondary sector. Hence, according to Kako Nubukpo, the industrialization process is a major tool for structurally absorbing labor surplus. For him, developing the industrial sector is an opportunity to reduce unemployment thanks to the training of youth.
"The African Emergency"
In addition to economic issues, the continent is plagued by strong social and peacekeeping issues within its territories. The size of the population doubles every 25 years. For the sociologist Sall, director of the African Futures Institute, if there is no economic change, there will be no possible resolution. Faced with the “African emergency” of exponential population growth, it is time to rethink the development model of Africa, according to Kako Nubukpo.
The future of the Africa continent appears to be shaped around three main issues. From an economic point of view, it seems to have to take up the challenge of its integration into international trade. The territory will also have to develop a labor market efficiently, while the continent's demographic curve is growing exponentially. The preservation of peace is also a central issue in the African outlooks and remains essential to its prosperity. We will see in a future article of this series what scenarios could be envisaged for the future of this continent endowed with plethora riches.
To go further :
-Forbes, What China Is Really Up To In Africa, Oct 3, 2019
-Conference at the Quai Branly Popular University: " “Prospective : Quels futurs pour l’Afrique ?”", March 24, 2021 https://www.quaibranly.fr/fr/expositions-evenements/au-musee/universite-populaire/details-de-levenement/e/prospective-quels-futurs-pour-lafrique-38986/
-Le point, « Si l'Europe manque son rendez-vous avec l'Afrique, elle manquera celui avec l'Histoire ».
-Le Monde,« L’investissement de la Chine en Afrique du Nord et au Moyen-Orient est devenu spectaculaire », May 22, 2019,
-Chine-Afrique: « Les nouvelles routes de la soie seront aussi militaires », May 8, 2029