simply hope that all kind of economic crimes committed in Africa under
the so-called industrialized nations aid are behind us. So Africa can
positively look forward with a new chance of economic development and
private foreign investments.
The New York Times
November 2, 2007
Amid an AIDS epidemic, against the drumbeat of regional conflicts,
overshadowed by the most abject poverty, it is easy to miss the glimmer
of hope in sub-Saharan Africa. Rising prices of raw materials are
helping the region achieve its best economic performance since
This vitality has fragile foundations. Africa’s past commodity
booms turned to busts, which means Africans must carefully manage their
resources. The United States and others must not use the good news as
an excuse to shirk their commitments to the region.
In 2005, the Group of 8 leading industrialized nations pledged to
increase aid to Africa by at least $25 billion by 2010. Since then,
according to the International Monetary Fund, official grants to
sub-Saharan Africa have actually declined as a share of its economy.
That is shameful.
If Africa’s growth is to be self-sustaining, the wealthy countries
must also end their most harmful subsidies on products like cotton and
sugar, and aggressively expand market access for the products that
African countries can export competitively, like textiles and shoes.
Not only do the offers on the table in global trade negotiations fall
short of what is needed, the talks seem at risk of collapsing over
disagreements between rich nations and the bigger developing countries.
Growth in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to exceed five percent
this year, which would be its fifth year in a row of doing so. That’s
because of the surging price of oil — a boon for Nigeria and Angola —
and rising demand for metals like copper and aluminum that benefit
nonoil exporters. Africa has gained substantially from debt reduction.
That has freed resources for public investment and underpinned a surge
of private foreign investment.
Resource-hungry China has quickly become the region’s
second-largest trading partner after the United States — and an
important investor. There is a dark side to China’s role — providing
financing and political support to despots like Zimbabwe’s Robert
Mugabe or Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir — but it is becoming an
important engine for the region’s economy.
Africa is still dirt poor — with an average annual income per
capita of merely $600 and 300 million people living in poverty. Every
year, nearly a million children die of malaria and more than two
million die before they are a month old.
The region is also still locked in the vulnerable role as a
supplier of basic commodities. That means its growth will falter if,
say, China’s economy cools and its demand for raw materials wanes. Over
the long term, Africa must move its way up the chain of commodity
exports and into the worldwide networks of manufacturing that account
for a growing share of global trade.
The immediate challenge requires investment to deal with historic
bottlenecks: dismal health, poor education and derelict infrastructure,
notably in transportation and power generation. And it must invest in
bringing new technology to agriculture, an essential step to combat
entrenched poverty in rural areas. Western aid will be crucial for
making progress in all these areas.
Nobody can know for certain whether Africa south of the Sahara
might be on the cusp of shaking its endemic destitution and starting up
the ladder of development. But it has its best chance in decades, and
it would be a crime not to try to grasp this opportunity.
The New York Times