To policymakers, the advent of the 21st century was the start of “Africa Rising”, a turn of phrase reflecting an about-face regarding the potential of the world’s second-largest continent. As recent as 2000, publications like The Economist were depicting Africa as the “hopeless continent,” a summarization of decades of corruption, internecine wars, and economic instability that quashed much of the initial revolutionary fervor the newly independent African nations felt during the period of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s.
Nowadays, the concern isn’t whether Africa will develop, because it already is, but rather the nature of this development. The United Kingdom recently hosted several African delegations for the inaugural UK–Africa Investment Summit, and pledged nearly US$9 billion in infrastructure and trade deals over the next few years. Russia, Japan, and China have held similar events recently.
China already has a significant presence on the continent, managing more than 10,000 private enterprises with a two-way balance of trade valued at US$208 billion. The European Union is the largest exporter to Africa, followed by the United States, China, and India.
At the 2020 World Economic Forum, the prestigious gathering of global business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, the Davos Friends of Africa Growth Platform was launched. The goal of the initiative is to create 100 million new jobs by 2025, meeting the needs of a rapidly growing youth labor pool.
Making this a long-term success will have its share of challenges, but the renewed confidence shown by multinational investors and international bodies indicates a positive next decade or two for Africa. That’s provided the continent’s leadership can get a handle on present challenges, like corruption and conflict, which ward off investment and draw a potential workforce away from the legitimate economy and towards the informal sector or violent militias.