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Published 24th January 2014

Vol 55 No 2


Making the best of the boom

Harare: People buying and selling fruit and vegetables in Mbare Market. Mikkel Ostergaard / Panos
Harare: People buying and selling fruit and vegetables in Mbare Market. Mikkel Ostergaard / Panos

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

The challenge this year is to convert a decade of faster growth into jobs and higher living standards as political tensions rise in the biggest economies

The International Monetary Fund’s projection that Sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product growth should be over 6% in 2014, compared to average Asian growth of over 5%, is an important marker for the continent. Yet Africa’s growth picture is less cheery if North African economies are added: the deepening political crises in Egypt and Libya are holding back regional growth. Tunisia, where the Arab Awakening politics have been somewhat less traumatic than for its neighbours, is still struggling to recover its momentum. However, China, the world’s second biggest economy, is projected to grow by about 7.5% this year which should mean continuing strong demand for African commodity exports.

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THE INSIDE VIEW

Stronger economies and troubled politics sum up the reports in Africa Confidential’s first two issues of the year, which focus on events and developments ahead. The International Monetary Fund still forecasts African growth at over 6% – and mergers and acquisition deals in Africa were up a third to US$30 billion. Amidst the cheerleading for this economic revival, the brightest time since the immediate post-Independence era of the 1960s, bankers and politicians are less worried a...

Stronger economies and troubled politics sum up the reports in Africa Confidential’s first two issues of the year, which focus on events and developments ahead. The International Monetary Fund still forecasts African growth at over 6% – and mergers and acquisition deals in Africa were up a third to US$30 billion. Amidst the cheerleading for this economic revival, the brightest time since the immediate post-Independence era of the 1960s, bankers and politicians are less worried about the medium term or even the tough policy decisions that have to be taken in the short term. Politics and economics intersect again.

Slowly, Africa’s growth story is changing the continent’s international image; it is also prompting many people from the countryside to head for the cities to seek new economic opportunities. Outside the rush to China’s coastal provinces, this flood of migrants to Africa’s cities is probably the world’s biggest population shift.

Unlike Asia, where rural migrants find jobs in an industrialising economy, most of Africa’s migrants end up in the informal economy and frustrated by the lack of services. Although these informal jobs may provide a social safety net, they cannot substitute for a government’s lack of economic strategy, industrial policy and good infrastructure. These new migrants and their eonomic demands will change the nature of urban politics across Africa, in the same way as they did three years ago in North Africa.

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