The 2014 Africa Prosperity Report offers a comprehensive overview of the performance of 38 countries on the continent beyond economic considerations. This year’s report examines three key actors: the middle class; the educated; and female entrepreneurs.
Speaking in December, Solene Dengler presented the findings of the Legatum Institute’s 2014 Africa Prosperity Report, explaining its focus on three principal actors—the middle class, the well-educated, and women entrepreneurs. These three agents of change could promote a new era of African prosperity, she suggested.
Richard Dowden examined in detail the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative providing an interesting historical perspective and a comprehensive contemporary picture. (Dowden pointed out that, if released 10 years ago, the Institute’s report would have been entitled ‘Africa Poverty Report’). Nowadays, optimism about the continent and the role that Africans can play in solving problems in their continent, abound. The mantra across the Globe has moved from ‘Save Africa from Africans’ to ‘African’s empowerment’.
Economic growth is high, driven by demand for commodities; the middle class is expanding; use of technology is widespread and almost all countries have elections.
Problems persist, in some countries: Nigeria’s economic boom seems unsustainable and poverty is still very widespread. Safety and Security issues are a serious concern to future prosperity: Nigeria ranks at the bottom in the 2014 Africa Prosperity Report‘s ranking and South Africa is not performing well either. Small countries such as Botswana and Namibia rank higher in the report and larger ones, such as Congo (DR) and Sudan are at the bottom. This could be explained by the more inclusive policies implemented in small countries that are more efficient in delivering progress for all the people.
Despite these issues, Dowden confirmed his optimistic view about Africa’s future: it will be the place where the rest of the World will go in 20-30 years, not just for its rich natural resources but for its ideas.
In her talk, Marieme Jamme, a Senegalese entrepreneur, pointed out that Africa is progressing, although not rising yet. To achieve its real economic potential Africa needs to unlock its incredible human capital. This means a more active role of the well-educated diaspora in the Continent, larger involvement of women in entrepreneurial activities, and better education for all children. Jamme hailed the 2014 Africa Prosperity Report as a unique tool in spreading this message using the voice of Africans. Marieme emphasised that the future of Africa should be decided by Africans and female’s empowerment is a critical asset. Social norms that impede girls to get education need to be removed. In addition to education in schools, female entrepreneurs need mentors to support their business decisions.
Increasingly, successful business women (such as Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, The Mining Iron Lady) are investing in female business activities and provide key role models for female entrepreneurs. ICT is booming in Africa and woman involvement in this sector is remarkable. Nowadays there are 59 tech women networks and young women produce innovative tech products that tackle local problems such as the ‘mobile app for family planning’. In total in Africa there are 92 tech hubs for ‘apps’ development, suggesting the critical role of innovation in Africa future development. Venture capitals are increasingly investing in African start-ups.
Finally, Jamme pointed out that we cannot forget the critical role of policies on science and technology to provide students with the right set of employable skills. Rwanda is a role model for other countries in policy making and especially in promoting STEM subjects. International organisations are still investing a lot of money in Africa’s development projects but these investments need to be channelled in the right direction.
After the informative and entertaining speeches, Cristina Odone, Legatum Institute Director of Communications, opened the floor to a vibrant Q&A session that gave the opportunity to the public to explore in depth some issues with our speakers and investigate in more details the Africa Prosperity Report’s content with the Legatum Institute’s Novella Bottini. Among the issues raised: the crisis in Northern Nigeria; the role of Chinese influence in Africa and the role of the middle class.
Bottini linked all these issues to the content of the report, which given its multidimensional approach provides a more comprehensive view of what’s happening in Africa beyond traditional economic indicators.