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Something New From Africa

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 1, 2020 07:13

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"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi." - the opinion of Pliny the Elder. It is customary to look back, and look forward at the turn of the year, and the decade. So, to conform for a change, let is look at some of Africa's opportunities for the coming decade.

Africa is best known for stories of disasters, and those we had this past decade. The Ebola epidemic in the Eastern Congo, now practically out of control after regional powers were unable and unwilling to control cross-border banditry and political rebellion, the rising tide of authoritarianism in Burundi, the uncertain political developments in Tanzania are not exceptions.

Due to political mismanagement and climate change thousands of Zimbabweans face a famine. Malawi and Zambia might follow suit.

Will Mozambique recover from the destruction of two cyclones in one year, followed by a disastrous election? Some signs are that the population is finding ways to grow closer despite political incompetence.

Will South Africa weather the mismanagement of the economy, the probable downgrade of its currency and the need to apply for an IMF/World Bank bailout? The upcoming generation is already showing a willingness to wipe clean the mess left by a failing, Russian- and Chinese-trained statist regime. Angola is laboriously rooting out the deeply rooted corruption of the Dos Santos Presidency.

In west and north Africa there seems to be a slow, steady African Spring in operation – old regimes are being challenged by a new generation. It is true that in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria the instant revolution did not seem to work. But politics are not McDonalds products, it takes time, a decade or three, before the effects work through.

http://thelatest.com/uploads/tlt/f67e6540b9384b962c252c9ea321b4e6.jpg
Ghana computer students. Photo BBC


China filled the vacuum left by an American withdrawal, and this trend will continue, but there is a growing resistance to Chinese workers coming in to work on Chinese projects. Ambitious road projects fail when African conditions destroy shoddy work within a season or two. More successful is the Chinese policy of moving manufacturing into Africa – clothes made in Kenya , Ethiopia and Rwanda are beginning to enjoy popularity.

Factory in Rwanda. Photo UNIDO


Swazi programmers are developing an African news aggregation platform similar to TheLatest. In Ghana youngsters are writing code and developing apps to run hotels, points of sale and taxi services. In Kenya innovative technology hubs stimulate marketing applications for farmers, transport monitoring systems and education programs.

As African leaders lower trade barriers across the continent, inter-continental trade is likely to increase. Services are likely to jump poorly regulated borders. Ideas will cross colonial and language divides.  The historical 2016 trial and conviction of Hissène Habré, ex-President of Chad, for crimes against humanity and corruption, by a Special Tribunal under the African Union put down a marker regarding governance.

http://thelatest.com/uploads/tlt/87fa53a22c05d0eb36ca2e0c7b038e5c.jpg
Nairobi networking. Photo iHub


Obstacles remain: Foreign intervention and home-grown distrust. Russian military contractors in diamond-rich Central African Republic and oil- and gas-rich Mozambique. American subsidised cotton prevent African farmers from competing on world markets. Competing Saudi and Turkish influence in Egypt, Tunisia and Somalia. Local leaders, jealous of their sovereignty, seeking to maintain controls and barriers.

But Africa hates fences. The Romans knew to expect innovation from Africa, and it will come.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 1, 2020 07:13

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Source: WashPost

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