"The Midweek Read": Charles Robertson & Africa's Next Boom

By: Deonta Wortham

In 2013 Charles Robertson discussed  what he called the "inevitable" rise of the African economy by the year 2050. In his  projections Robertson states one surprising   that by the year 2050 the African economy would have an output of nearly $29 trillion.


At face value this number is staggering - yes, it is a lot of money - but the hidden implications of that projection mean so much more. 

Today the  economies of the United States and the European Union has respective gross domestic product (GPD) - or relative purchasing power - that total $32.57 trillion combined. Robertson is stating that by the year 2050 the African economic - in a comprehensive sense - will have a thriving base that mirrors that of the worlds most advanced societies. That alone is exciting!

That tells me this: that Africa is going to go from a $2 trillion economy today to a $29 trillion economy by 2050. Now that’s bigger than Europe and America put together in today’s money.
— Charles Robertson

Though, to simply note these forecasts prevents a concise understanding of how the African economy move from have a current GDP of $2 trillion to the massive $29 trillion that Robertson feverishly champions. 

In his intriguing discussion Robertson that governmental reforms- spurred by the spread of democratic values- and introduction of  increasing levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) are injecting energy into economies across the African continent.

I too would agree that these two instruments are contributing to the growth of emerging economies across the continent. I mean the spread of democracy is ideal, it encourages civic participation on the part of all citizens, and enables the establishment of sound social structures (ie. education, medical, legal etc. )  which are the bedrock of any stable society.  Likewise, capital flowing into developing nations provides needed financial support that goes on to spur the development of private firms and ultimately leads to inclusive investments on the part of "local" citizens. Reform and investments are good, hell I'd even say they are absolutely necessary. 

However in the scope of long-term economic development, that is both sustainable and felt by every individual, these two ideas are simplistic short term fixes. 

The presence of FDI in the African context has in fact been shown to hinder effective means of economic growth across the continent. Additionally, the presence of the presence of democratic structure immensely effects the manner in which a society operates, but fails to inherently address the manner in which policymakers can transform their "elected-ness" to tangible means of transformative means of economic growth and increased levels of output. 

The presence of additional factors that ensure these things will propel the African economy into the 21st Century. 

The task at hand is heavy. The process of true economic transformation across the African continent will be riddled with numerous trails and errors, but that should not deter the undeniable fact that Africa is on the rise. 

With strategic reforms that ensure the lasting strength of African economies, coupled with the development of sound financial institutions, and the skill development of the African continent's large youth population, the African economy will not only poised to achieve Robertson's forecast, but it will undoubtedly surpass it. 

African economies simply need to invest in economic mechanisms that will ensure long-lasting results. Failing to do so will not only hinder the development of the entire African continent, but it will additionally entrench the continent in economic behavior that will ceaselessly prevent the establishment of the robust African economic system. 


"The Weekend Read" : 2014, A Development Retrospective

By: Deonta Wortham

2014 has brought both highs and lows to the field on international development.

Like any other aspect of life, theses occurrences have both highlighted the “great,” and shed light upon areas that we – to say the least – need to work on. But all in all, 2014 has been an eye-opening 12 months that have shown, most importantly, that development work is needed more now than ever before – particularly in regard to burgeoning states across the African continent.

To give a short synopsis of the year’s African related development events;

o   Angst regarding Ebola rattled the international community,

o   development conferences – including the U.S. - African Leader Summit held this August - throughout the year highlighted the immense passion that so many individuals have regarding the development of emerging states,

o   and social entrepreneurs across the persistently impacting African societies on a daily basis.

2014, simply, was an eye-opening year for the development community.

But as this year draws toward its end, it is important that we note the development related strides that have yet to occur. 

Withholding the successes of various organizations, and the gracious support given by various donor states there are still various detrimental issues that still plague various developing states.

First, the World Bank has noted that poverty across the developing world is rising at a constant rate. Furthermore, of the 26 poorest countries in the world twenty-four are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. This group of African states have been crippled by unstable societal systems that have failed to establish gateways of opportunities for their respective populations.

As the World Bank notes in “Ending Poverty and Sharing Prosperity,” the wider international community must stand with these fragile states. Assuring that collaborative action - in respect to socio-economic development - will transform societies and impact countless lives.

Image Credit: One.org

Image Credit: One.org

Secondly, it must be taken into account that 2014 produced an amazing track record in the number of individual donor states that have contributed aid to developing nations. This, my friends, is a good thing. Though aid does not, and cannot, solve all development issues the expertise that accompanies foreign aid in developing nations does assist in the construction of viable institutions that go on to transform societies.

Image Credit: One.org

Image Credit: One.org

This progress though has been mitigated by the disproportionate amount of foreign aid that donor states have contributed to the least develop countries across the developing world. One has troubling fact that aid in the coming years is expected to decrease in regard to this particular group, yet another issue that must be taken into account in the coming year(s).

Lastly, it wouldn’t be right to address the effect that the Ebola Outbreak has had on the international development community. To date the Center for Disease Control and Protection has reported that 7573 individual have succumb to the deadly virus. Most resided in West Africa, but additional cases were found across the United States and Europe.  

Ebola has shown how the lack of stable health and governmental systems can have devastating effects on the larger global community. Additionally, it must be note that the toll that the Ebola outbreak has had on various West African nations will have lasting effects on the development of their respective societies.

Image Credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Image Credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

It must be noted that the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have only recently emerged from periods of civil unrest. The inaction of the part of the international community in regard to Ebola has detrimentally effected the development stratagems of these states. In short they have developmental trajectories have been reversed, enabling societal tensions that can destabilize the entire West African region. It is up to the international community to ensure that this does not occur.

2014 has had its ups and downs, but most importantly this year has shown the immense work that still lies ahead of the development community. All of the issue that still plague the developing world will not be solved in 2015, we should not naively believe that they will be solved in by the year 2040, but we should not allow that fact to curb our ability to initiate processes of true transformative development.

2015 is only a few days away, let’s ensure that the coming year is filled with positive actions that will change lives across the developing world.