Businessafrica.net Newsletter ISSN 1563-4108
Dr. QUENUM & ASSOCIATES
INVESTMENT AND BUSINESS PLANNERS

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THE AFRICAN CHALLENGE - NOTHING LOST YET

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Africa's flash points

IS AFRICA DOOMED? THE AFRICAN CHALLENGE
December 2, 2000
By B.M. Quenum / Editor of Africabiz

Sub- Saharan Africa is endowed with huge natural mineral resources (Diamonds, petroleum oil, copper, iron ore, aluminum, coal, tungsten, cobalt. Etc.). It is listed in top five world producers of many commodities (Coffee, cocoa, timber. Etc.). This is a well known fact. No need to provide figures and charts.

Unfortunately, Sub- Saharan Africa is also home to several civilwar conflicts. As reflected by the map (courtesy of MSNBC) large portions of African territory are battlefields for warring parties (Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Angola, Sierra-Leone, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia - Click here to choose any of these listed countries and view briefs).

Currently, political and economic tensions exit in other countries around the continent which might degenerate into conflicts if not addressed properly. Namely, the religious problem in Nigeria (Charia had been adopted by some Northern states); the long lasting struggle for power in Ivory Coast, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau; the land ownership / black farmers' empowerment problem in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Click here to choose any of these listed countries and view briefs.

The continent is also plagued with the most spectacular and devastating disease of the 19 th century: AIDS (Click here for "Facts and Figures about Aids in Africa"); and many other diseases as well - not so spectacular but nevertheless as devastating: Malaria, Ebola. Etc. AIDS is killing million per year throughout the continent; disrupting social and economic fibers of many nations (Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Burundi. Etc. Click here to choose any of these listed countries and view briefs)

Africa represents only 2% of the global volume of international trade. Only 2.2 millions Africans (Click here for more) - are connected to the World Wide Web.

Based on above outlined bad performance, one is tempted to issue a final judgment: Africa is doomed.

Few months ago, a well known European magazine - The Economist - had not hesitated; it released a special delivery in which the continent was painted as doomed.

We at BusinessAfrica / Dr. Quenum and Associates - Investment And Business Planners - deeply think that that judgment is excessive. In the contrary, we are of the opinion that there is plenty of room for hope.

That optimism is based on the economic findings reported in "Countries Briefs"

One can see, reviewing each of the 48 sub-Saharan African's countries-briefs, that not a single African country is really poor. All of them do have tremendous dormant business opportunities. You name it, you have it: mining, energy (hydropower and coal), agribusiness, food processing, manufacturing, transport, global infrastructure, and tourism development. These opportunities - if well implemented - are capable of generating a sustained economic growth, in the double digit range - taking into account the catch-up effect. That is why we are convinced that nothing is lost yet.

The only problem reads as follows: How to convert / transform / use / magnify and develop these business opportunities into an economic growth's launching-pad?

The three main arguments of those who are of the opinion that the black continent is doomed are:

1- Bad governance and Mismanagement.
2- Corruption.
3- Lack of basic infrastructure.

Let's review, one by one, these arguments and see if they are final hindrances on the road to recovery and sustained economic growth for Africa.

Bad Governance and Mismanagement:

It is a fact that, till the end of the 1980's, most African countries - the sheer majority; Senegal and Botswana being the two only exceptions - have been governed under the one party system. In each sub-Saharan African country, decision-making power, information and communication means were under the supervision of a small circle of people. Decisions were secretively taken; parliaments standing just as "rubber-stamp / registering houses". Elections / ballots for presidential position or parliament membership were just plain joke.

There is no doubt that the one party system had heavily contributed to the huge debt load of most sub-Saharan African countries. Investment decisions were based on the level of commissions / fees available to decision-makers; regardless of the usefulness of project in question and their profit making potential. Many "white elephants" have been established throughout Africa, due to the one party system; contributing to the increase of the debt load.

But nowadays, one cannot, sincerely, state that democracy is not making progress throughout the continent. Multy party system is the prevailing rule. Ballots are held and screened - most of the time - by "Ballot Commissions" independent from the acting government.

Sure, there is certainly room for some improvements. Some African governments are not yet playing a fair game with the opposition parties. Nevertheless, an impartial observer cannot deny the fact that democracy is making progress in Africa.

Everywhere, throughout the continent, governments are now accountable to local opinions. African political rulers think twice before taking any political decision and acting consequently. Members of parliament exercise their full power of controlling government decisions and actions. On October 26, 2000, we all have been witnesses to an event (which occurrence was unthinkable few years ago) that, undoubtedly, will exert a long lasting impact for a better democracy in Africa. That is to say the downfall of a nascent dictatorship in Ivory Coast: Robert Guei had been toppled from power by a popular upheaval. Many African rulers are regularly challenged by national independent newspapers. In Zimbabwe, right now, Robert Mugabe is having hard time, with the main opposition party, in implementing his erratic land reform policy.

Click to view continuation to the article.

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