At the present time, economists conceptualize the world in terms of a triad: Europe, the Americas, and Asia. In these three regions, we find the strongest economies and the most important world economic players, as well as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), which are emerging powers. What we do not find is Africa. In terms of population, Africa is bigger than China. In terms of crude resources, it is extremely rich. Well-intentioned and peaceable inhabitants abound. There should be potential for Africa to become an emerging economic region. Why we are not considering Africa?
The African region continues to struggle with political stability. Different factions within Africa are fighting against each other, and many governments are struggling to keep their countries peaceful. Most of the countries are small and cannot create a local market. This makes it difficult to invest in African nations. Even so, China is investing in Africa, mainly to ensure access to its crude materials. Yet investments allocated to crude materials only cannot genuinely develop the continent.
European nations are in the best position to develop Africa. Africa is located in the same time zone as Europe, making it easy for European companies to work together with African companies. Yet Europeans are presently struggling with their own debt crisis and with the stability of the Euro. They are not yet ready to take additional risks.
In the long term, it will be to the great advantage of Europeans to work together with Africans. Projects like Desertec provide a good example. Desertec will use African deserts to produce solar energy for Europe, creating a win-win-situation. The African countries provide their desert areas to the project; the energy produced in these areas is provided to Europe. The African countries oversee maintenance and service for the equipment. Such a project will supply workplaces and investments to Africa and energy to Europe, all using renewable energy sources. At the same time, such a project will require stable political conditions.
Indeed, for Africa to become the next emerging economic region, political stability will be paramount. The African region must understand this first. Once this precondition is met, the development of Africa will be possible. In this regard, the African region should take the European Union as an example—not by replicating the way in which the European Union was shaped, but by learning from the EU’s mistakes and forming itself in a better way.
The European Union was designed to maintain as much as possible the autonomy of the member countries. Now, the countries’ lack of discipline in holding to agreed-upon policies is causing the European Union to struggle. The African Union should avoid making the same mistakes. By affording limited autonomy to its member countries, and by pursuing common aims in economic issues, the African region can become an emerging economic power.
This should be the goal of the African Union, which is in development at this moment. I see a bright future for the African people, if only they can choose politicians who will not merely fight for their own power interests. The present disaster in Syria is a good example of conflicting personal power interests that are leading to destruction.
Africa needs leaders who can share power for the common good of the region. With such leaders in place, we will begin to see an emerging region with great potential. Those of us outside of Africa should help African countries develop this mindset by providing education to their people. The goal of shared development can only be attained if there are enough people to reach for it. The people we need are those who understand the situation of Africa, and who can share the situation and insights of other regions with Africa itself.