Stimulating intra-African trade has been a top discussion point over the last decade. The recently signed Continental Free Trade Area agreement between all 54 states will look to address key concerns in terms of trading within Africa. This agreement will also need to be taken into account within the context of evolving industries across the continent, but also specifically in countries such as Angola, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.
IOA’s latest report, in partnership with the Global Business Roundtable, provides key insights on the shifting nature of trade agreements in Africa, the evolution and decentralisation within top sectors such as energy, mining, ICT and agriculture, and the relevant opportunities for small business growth in these focal areas.
The following article is based on information obtained by the author while undertaking a comparative study on African nations’ competitive statuses for a client of IOA. Other IOA research is also referenced.
Is there an African economist who hasn’t advised against making an economy predominantly dependent on raw material exports? The governments of Africa mostly lack the political will to venture into value added manufacturing rather than shipping out natural resources in their unprocessed state. With investment in the value added chain, raw agricultural products and minerals have their profitability enhanced. Oil that can be refined for domestic consumption in oil-rich African countries is instead refined on other continents and shipped back at higher cost to African countries of origin. Instead, Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, recently invited tenders for the importation of petroleum products.
Political stability is a quality hard to acquire in African governments, and often fleeting once obtained. Politicians once taking office can hijack a democratic system to remain in power indefinitely, turning the country into a ‘paper democracy’ that has democratic institutions like a constitution, courts and legislature but in fact is an autocracy whose governance institutions serve the head of state. Political stability is also a relatively new factor in the governance of Africa. The longest continuously stable democracy is Botswana. The vast arid country has faced its own governance issues but remained committed to its constitutional roots that ensure a government that benefits the Botswana people rather than any one leader.
Is there a formula that allows an African country to sidestep the pitfalls of military coups d’état and ambitious tyrants that in an instant can upend years of progressive democratic governance? The answer lies within the collective will of the governed, the people of any country. The pro-democracy movement that in 2011 rid North Africa of its despots during the Arab Spring and the subsequent removal of long-seated autocrats in Angola, Burkina-Faso, The Gambia and Zimbabwe, suggests that populations are willing to be denied their political rights only for a finite period of time. In Togo, President Faure Gnassingbé whose family has ruled since 1967 is subject to massive weekly street demonstrations seeking an end to his dynasty. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, another family dynasty continues as Joseph Kabila remains in office more than a year after his last presidential term expired. However, he must rely on security forces to suppress unprecedented resistance from political opposition groups. Though in office less than two years, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli and Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu are showing alarming autocratic tendencies that will subsume their countries’ political freedoms if the Tanzanian and Zambian people allow.
The Africa Country Benchmark Report (ACBR) is the definitive resource for understanding Africa, providing comprehensive assessments of all 54 African countries. The report scores, ranks and insightfully assesses each country holistically, as well as across business, economic, political and social factors, all presented in an 800-page infographic-driven publication.
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