Over the last five or six years, much of the discussions around Africa is centered around the growth trajectory which many countries on the continent appear to have been entered into, there is no doubt that African countries have begun to grow after about 25 years of either stagnation or outright regression in their growth experience especially during the structural adjustment year.
However, what is the most significant is the dominant voices and narrative about the current growth trajectory coming from outside the continent; they are basically underrating by interests which are connected either to global consultancy institution or global banking institution. It is a growth narrative which when looked at from the long-term development of the continent will need to be seriously scrutinized.
From what one reads from different publications, it is Africa that is rich and ripe for picketing and the world is been invited not to lose out on a party that is beginning to unfold on the continent especially given the rate of return which is very little amount of money as measured to what US and Asia may offer as a way of return.
It is also important for Africa not to be seduced by the story of growth, to the point where we do not pay attention to the quality of the growth.
The key question is what drives growth in Africa today? The growth is a commodity boom, every country that is growing on the continent today does that on a historic high commodity pricing, accounted for not by domestic demand or domestic dynamics, but by external demands, and we know that this kind of growth does not last forever.
Historically economic growth has been volatile and unpredictable; however, any decline to the demands of that commodity may translate to external shock for African countries which may find themselves thrown back to a situation of crisis.
Growth such as it is occurring in Africa today is not seen by a deliberated or conscious program of structural transformation, in other words, how we can begin to take advantage of the growing understanding that it is not going to be a growth that will last forever.
How do we use the growth to proceed to achieve the structural transformation of our economy? The interface between growth and welfare is another concern, as politicians celebrate growth, most African countries cannot feel the impact of the growth in their lives, there has to be a conscious effort to integrate an agenda of distribution into the growth process to lift the welfare of the citizenry on the processes of investment and expansion.
If Africa is going to avoid the mistake which is made with Europe, it must make sure its dealing with China will be the one that will be beneficial to it. It is not going to be for China to come and tell us how to get the best out of China; we have to be clear on what we want from China and work towards it.
It is important for every country in Africa to be clear on what the developmental outcomes will be on engaging with China on any particular issue or project, not for short term purposes but for a long term transformation of the continent.
China is very clear what its strategic interests are in the immediate and long terms about its own ambition and vision for its society and its people. They want to guarantee the flow of certain commodities; some are commodities that only Africa has.
China is investing in the infrastructure in Africa that will ensure the delivery of Africa commodities in the most efficient way to their market; they also want to tap into the growing middle class in Africa, they flood the Africa market with goods that the majority have the purchasing power to buy.