Africa is Rising, They say! But is it really?
Africa is rising, they say! But is it really? The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and The African Development Bank all agree: Africa is rising. In fact, some countries in the region are growing faster than the Asian Tigers. Infrastructure constructions are expanding, tourism is flourishing, and foreign investments are pouring. International companies are now, more than ever, strengthening business relations with Africa. Gold, copper, oil, iron and platinum are in abundance, and much of the continent’s natural resources is still undiscovered; which means there is a potential for even more growth. As Tony Elumelu, Chairman of the United Bank for Africa puts it, it seems that “Africa will soon become the engine of global economic growth”. The economy of the continent has soared so much that many cities are discovering new buildings, roads or retail areas on a monthly basis. According to the Word Bank, of the 20 economies making the most progress in the world, 9 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
By every standard Africa’s economy is rising... Or is it? If it is really rising, how do we explain that 75% of the poorest nations in the world are located in Africa? That 620 million sub-Saharan Africans live without electricity? That 84% of the population in the region has no access to drinking water at home? And that half of all youth in the region is not enrolled at school?
Africa is Rising!
The growth of Africa is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. We absolutely cannot sing hurray when children are dying of elementary issues such as malnutrition or lack of clean water. We cannot be optimistic when 1 out of 3 children drop out of primary school, and from those who make it to high school, only a handful end up going to college. Today, “Africa has the lowest levels of graduates per capita” in the world, with only 3% of graduates on the continent, (Ali Mufuruki, TED Talk, 2014). The truth of the matter is, without proper education, Africa’s economic growth will not remain. It is only a matter of time until the remarkable economic stride that the continent has made in the past decade collapses severely... if; we do not invest more on education.
Africa will only truly prosper as far as its education’s standard does. It’s as simple as this: Education drives economy. In fact, education drives pretty much everything: healthcare, political stability, social welfare, job market... Many years of research, statistical comparisons, and history show that countries that have a strong education system have a strong economy. Scandinavian countries are a great example of that; and more recently: South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong who rank highest in Education standard today.
According to UNESCO, about 40% of Africans have no formal education. Yet, only 1 % of the education budget of most African governments is allocated to addressing illiteracy. Shouldn’t we reconsider our priorities? How do we expect to continue growing if the majority of our population does not have basic reading and writing skills?
The solutions? Investing more on teacher’s training, on school’s furniture/ materials, and of course, providing opportunities for youth to be motivated to attend school (scholarships, proper transportation going from small villages to schools, gender equality, and such). Above all, teachers, parents, governments, and investors have to work hand-in-hand to promote the value of education to children and youths. Simply saying, “you should go to school” is not enough. Children learn from our actions, and not from our words. As such,
Parents have to be actively involved in their children’s schooling—especially since they are the most significant determinant of students’ success—in order for their children to grasp its value. Educators must be passionate about teaching and strive for self- improvement, which will have a positive impact on their students as they also become passionate about education. And, in order to nurture that passion, governments need to put proper resources in place both within the school, and around. As for investors, they must turn their focus from building hotels and spas to building more schools and universities. With all this in place, yes, Africa will be rising.
By MARIAM SAMBE Founder & Chairperson of Board ABA (Academy of Bright Africans).
Fist published in TAP MAG Issue 7
African Statistical Yearbook - International Energy Agency - The Borgen Project- World Bank- World Health Organization