I have been watching a new Scramble for Africa take place, as investments in developed countries become riskier or less profitable, and as investors turn to Africa–“the new frontier.” While there are those who still consider Africa the dark continent, those with business savvy have realized that there is more profit to be made in some African countries, both short and long-term.
In April, the Economist ran a piece on sub-Saharan Africa titled, “the hottest frontier.” They reported that, in the last decade, 6 of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were African countries. But since most Africans don’t have savings or capital, they recommended that non-Africans who do, take advantage of the currently available opportunities. There is nothing wrong with this, in and of itself, because this is how capitalism works. However, looking back at the history of non-Africans taking advantage of opportunities for gain in Africa, this does not bode well for the continent.
My observation of capitalism in general is that, while it has its advantages, one of its greatest disadvantages is that capitalists tend to be greedy, if unchecked. At this stage of development, most African countries do not have sufficient policies in place to protect their citizens against a repeat of colonization. As things stand, there are already several complaints about the way the Chinese are doing business in Africa. The consensus is that Africans are getting the short end of the stick in these business deals. The Chinese are, by no means, the only culprits, but they are the most visible.
I believe in taking action, instead of standing around whining about things that are going wrong. Therefore, I recommend that Africans of means, both within and without the continent, make haste to find ways to invest in their own continent. Many Africans are often stumped by the lack of capital, but there are creative ways to come up with capital. If your individual resources are meager, try pooling your resources with a group of friends to come up with enough capital to invest in meaningful and forward-thinking ventures on the continent.
I am especially addressing Africans in the Diaspora, who generally have greater access to financial resources than many of their counterparts back home. Let us be the ones who are investing in technological advancements, innovations, the budding film industry and small businesses that have potential. I know that several Africans in the Diaspora are already making such investments, but I also know that the continent could definitely use more of that kind of its own investing in it.
Let our own African billionaires and millionaires be the ones to fund African investments–certainly for a return on their money, but also for the love of the continent. And finally, let us position ourselves to be a voice to both African and international policy-making institutions so that we can shape the way that outsiders do business with the continent. What use is it to have a fast-growing economy, if in the end, someone who has little-to-no concern about the welfare of the actual citizens of the country holds the majority of the investments? There’s some food for thought.