MAY 25 should be a day we reflect on how we can unlock Africa’s economic potential and alleviate extreme poverty. It is also a time when we explore how best we can value add to our natural resources, how we can attain food security, revolutionise our political narrative, leverage on technology, deal with the cancer of corruption and emancipate our people economically.
Dealing with the cancer of corruption
According to a 2020 UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, Africa loses about US$88,6 billion in Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) every year — equivalent to 3,7% of the continent’s gross domestic product. IFFs, broadly speaking, are illegal movements of money from one country to another encompassing revenues from illegal activities, tax avoidance, abusive profit-shifting, trade mis-invoicing, human and drug trafficking and corruption, among others.
African governments need to adopt financial transparency and recover looted wealth as did Nigeria and Kenya in 2020 from off-shore accounts, over US$300 million and an excess of US$200 million looted by former and late presidents Sani Abacha and Daniel arap Moi, respectively.
Leveraging on digitalisation
Africa’s digital potential is enormous: Mobile technologies already engender 1,7 million jobs and contribute US$144 billion to the continent’s economy and crudely 8,5% of GDP. Today, at least 35% of the population has internet access, nearly a forty-fold increase in internet usage since the turn of the millennium. By 2030, the continent could realise an approximate parity with the rest of the world when 75% of Africans are projected to become internet users. This has created a gold rush for Africa’s digital economy on many fronts; internet infrastructure development, telecoms, e-commerce, big data analytics, fintech — the list is inexhaustible.
Fronted by Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Africa blazes the trail where mobile money is concerned with SSA mobile money transaction volumes surging 23% to US$490 billion last year, greater than the GDP of Nigeria, the region’s biggest economy. Active users increased by 18% to 159 million, according to the GSMA. If China is a guide, that could make Africa doorkeepers to a fintech revolution.
However, the continent still suffers from an internet infrastructure gap — demanding further investment in the sector. Among others, Liquid Telecoms has built Africa’s largest independent fibre network, spanning more than 73 000km with Facebook committing US$1 billion toward a new sub-sea cable link in 2020.
The emancipation of women
UNDP estimates that US$95 billion of revenue is lost annually due to gender inequalities in sub-Saharan Africa. Women represent half the population of Africa, and although they the main pillars of economic development, they have suffered from an unjust social heritage in addition to discriminatory practices. More than 70% of women in SSA, work in the informal labor force, where the gender wage gap is 28% compared with 6% for the formal workforce.
Government facilitation of women-owned SMEs is of particular importance due to the gender gaps characterising the SME sector and the constraints women face in starting, operating, and scaling enterprises.
So much could be said about what needs to be done where governance in Africa is concerned but perhaps we may need to redefine the concept of democracy for ourselves rather than copy and paste the western version thereof. Several eastern countries including China have their own systems of governance which in many ways differ from the esteemed western defined “democracy.” As we figure out the most ideal political system for the continent, Africa needs to get over the “revolutionary party curse”, run transparent and credible electoral processes which permit smooth transference of power. The rule of law must be upheld with the judiciary allowed the due independence.
Mabunda is an analyst and TV anchor at Equity Axis, a leading financial research firm in Zimbabwe. — email@example.com