It's a common phrase that many thought leaders and general media use often, "Africa Rising!" The idea behind the phrase is to suggest that the continent, and its countries, are on a trajectory of growth, especially economic growth since the advent of the 21st century.
It's not exactly clear who first coined and publicized the phrase but it has been widely (initially) publicized by such international media such as The Economist, Financial Times, Time, and the BBC.
It is when you observe who uses this phrase regularly that you have to sometimes ask: for whom is Africa rising?
Economic development and growth of Africa
A brief look back at the economic development of Africa, a trend emerges. If you look at the industries that have contributed to a sizable chunk of economic activity across the different countries on the continent, you will find that they are extractive.
It's not rocket science.
At a time when African countries were colonized, the primary aim of the colonizers was to extract as much resources from the continent. Added to this extraction, was exploitation that ensured that Western countries maximized profits from their colonies through measures such as slave labor which was free or paid terrible wages, and acquiring the natural resources for free or at prices that barely benefited African countries.
This is also evident in the rail networks that the colonizers developed at the time. Looking at an overview network of these rail networks across Africa, you see that most of them existed to transport resources to ports where they could then ship them out of the continent.
This, among with other factors, further highlights the fact that colonizers had no interest in the economic development of Africa through intra-Africa trade. They were more interested in exploiting the continent, even with the infrastructure they put in place.
Since most countries gained independence, these colonial era systems appear to still persist even though looking at annual GDP growth, some African countries appear to be outperforming other countries around the world.
This begs the question: who is all this growth benefiting?
Illicit financial outflows
As mentioned, despite the apparent GDP growth of some African countries, the standard of living of citizens and infrastructure that benefits citizens doesn't seem to have improved much from the colonial. This is despite African countries having all gained independence from colonizers.
One of the biggest ways that Africa's economic development is being sabotaged is through illicit financial outflows. As the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently highlighted in a report, more money leaves Africa in the form of illicit capital outflows than the continent receives in aid funding.
These illicit financial outflows include:
- Illicit capital flight
- Tax+ Mis-invoicing of trade shipments
- Illegal markets
It also highlights a question raised earlier, i.e. it is not only the foreign companies and individuals that are benefitting from the exploitation of Africa anymore but now also some of the corrupt ruling class.
These colonial-era systems of exploiting Africa also persist in another way as far as technology and business is concerned. While some international brick and mortar organizations that have offices across Africa use sophisticated methods to avoid paying tax in Africa, Big Tech companies use a different method.
By only incorporating their companies in the USA and countries like Ireland, they channel all revenues generated through their economic activities in Africa to their corporation in Ireland (this applies for Facebook, Twitter, Google. In the case of Uber this goes to the Netherlands). As a result, they pay no taxes at all in African countries despite generating millions in revenues from people and businesses in Africa.
Thus, as can be witnessed across the continent with young people regularly complaining about bad governance and lack of opportunities, it is eventually us as regular Africans who suffer while many can opportunistically proclaim, Africa is rising.
Quote of the day
It is when you observe who uses the phrase "Africa Rising" regularly that you have to sometimes ask: for whom is Africa rising? (Tweet this)
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