WASHINGTON, DC – Despite apocalyptic predictions, Africa may be better positioned than many think to weather the combined shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, collapsing commodity prices, and global economic recession, assuming its leaders act wisely. While African economies’ performance has varied, overall progress during the last two decades has made the continent more resilient than ever before. The Main Street Manifesto Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images Hard Data for Hard Choices PS OnPoint Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images
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WASHINGTON, DC – Despite apocalyptic predictions, Africa may be better positioned than many think to weather the combined shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, collapsing commodity prices, and global economic recession, assuming its leaders act wisely. While African economies’ performance has varied, overall progress during the last two decades has made the continent more resilient than ever before.
In my book Unlocking Africa’s Business Potential, I analyze the continent’s ongoing transformations and new economic opportunities. Applying that analysis today, six trends in particular will help to reduce the impact of the current crisis.
First, African economies are becoming increasingly competitive. Although the majority of African countries rank toward the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Index 4.0, Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco, the Seychelles, Tunisia, Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Namibia, Kenya, and Rwanda are all in the top 100. In addition, improved macroeconomic policies have enabled countries such as Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana to achieve significant GDP growth rates in recent years.
Second, Africans support the ongoing trend toward better and more accountable governance resulting from democratic elections, term limits, and increased civic participation. Over the last five years, Afrobarometer surveys have indicated that 68% of Africans prefer democracy, 75% support two-term limits for leaders, and 62% think that citizens must hold governments accountable, even if it slows down decision-making.
Recent political leadership changes and overall governance improvements reflect not only the vertical accountability that citizens exercise through elections. African countries have also made progress on horizontal accountability, involving government checks and balances, as well as what might be called diagonal accountability, or the effect of personal responsibility on institutions.
The third positive trend is demographic. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is expected to increase from 1.1 billion to 1.4 billion by 2030, 2.1 billion by 2050, and about 3.8 billion by the end of the century. In 2030, over half of the continent’s population will be concentrated in seven countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. The first four will each be home to more than 100 million people.