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At the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, the colonial powers drew up the main features of the map that still applies to Africa today. The driving force was the need for expansion and supply of raw materials. During the 20th century, especially after the end of World War II, Europe faced growing competition from the United States and for decades, the Soviet Union also made efforts to make allies in Africa. After the fall of the Soviet Union, American influence became even more prominent, with the help of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the WTO.
IMPORTANT EXPORT GOODS. Africa’s most important exports are oil, natural gas and minerals, especially gold, diamonds and other precious metals. On the agricultural side, the most important exports are palm oil, chocolate, tea, coffee and timber products.
AFTER THE COLONIZATION. By the 1980s and late 1990s, many African states had stalled. The ambitious development plans created in connection with decolonization and independence was not completed. GDP per capita growth was negative in many countries. Interest payments on the debt was high which made, according to some critics, real growth impossible.
FROM WASHINGTON TO PARIS. During the second half of the 1990s, the World Bank took new initiatives where debt relief could be implemented in exchange for a more responsible macroeconomic policy and more prudent debt management (Washington consensus). The reform policy was later nuanced in order to allow the African countries to lead their own development and not to force reforms from outside. The Paris agenda was negotiated between the donor community and the partner countries.
PROSPERITY, URBANIZATION AND FDI. In 2000, there were 59 million households in Africa with an annual income of $5,000 or more. In 2014, this figure had increased to 106 million households. In 2012, 40% of Africa’s population lived in cities or urban areas compared to 25% in 1980 (urbanization is estimated to reach 50% by 2030). At the same time, foreign investment in Africa has increased from $9 billion to $62 billion from 2000 to 2008. In 2012 six of the world’s top ten emerging economies were in Africa and a third of Africa’s 54 countries had annual GDP growth of 6% or more. The total value of Africa’s economies has more than tripled since 2000. Often, however, private African assets have been placed in international tax havens.
CHINA’S MOVES ITS POSITIONS. From 1980 to 2005, trade between China and Africa increased 50 times. The value of this trade grew from $10 billion in 2000 to $55 billion in 2006 and is now estimated to be close to $200 billion. Today, more than a thousand Chinese companies are active in various parts of Africa, with over a million Chinese as guest workers or entrepreneurs. China (but also India, Japan, Brazil and Turkey) are skilfully playing on the contradictions that exist between Africa and the West. China does not set any political conditions and wants to be considered a generous partner. The appearance is less ideological and more pragmatic: to get over market shares and raw materials in the future market Africa.
THERE ARE PLENTY OF CHALLENGES. Economic growth during the 2000s has benefited from high commodity prices, good harvests and increasing oil exports. The African Development Bank estimates that approximately $360 billion will be required by 2040 to eliminate the existing infrastructure gap. Africa with 15% of the world’s population currently consumes only about 3% of the world’s energy production. Nearly 600 million people, almost three-quarters of the sub-Saharan population, lack electricity through national electricity grids. Expenditure on infrastructure is more than African governments or regional and international lending institutions can afford.
POPULATION BOOM. Africa’s population will increase from 900 million in 2012 to over 2 billion by 2050 (from about 1/7 to 1/5 of the world population). By 2030, the workforce will be larger than in China. African leaders must employ their own labor and create more efficient food production (needs to be doubled by 2050 to meet the needs). With an annual population increase of about 2% per year, growth must be high to have an impact on poverty reduction.
CONTINUED CONFLICTS. Growing problems with ethnic and religious differences cut like a knife through a number of West African countries: Chad, the Central African Republic, Niger, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali. There are good, stable and relatively democratic countries in Africa with positive growth and a favorable investment climate: Ghana, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and perhaps even Mozambique. After independence, Botswana has succeeded in reconciling the traditional kgotla system, where consensus is sought but cannot always be achieved, with Western parliamentary democracy.