Africa could be dubbed the forgotten continent as it has been very much out of the lime light for the last two decades. Although the deadliest war since WWII was that of Congo which spanned from 1968 to 2003 with 4.5 people death violent conflicts have subsided since the end of the Cold War. This has reduced to a minimum media coverage of the continent that only report terrorist or organized crime activities. But the continent seems to be poised for a major growth wave this century. It is estimated that Africa will be the fastest urbanizing region in the world from 2020 to 2050. Today its rate of urbanization is 37% equivalent to that of China and much higher than that of India. From the health services perspective, epidemics such as those related to HIV, Ebola and SARS promoted the rise of an extensive network of nontraditional health care providers that proved to be a blessing in addressing the Covid 19 challenge. Malaria however continues to be the greatest cause of death killing one child every two minutes. Nonetheless between 2000 and 2015 the estimated number of malaria cases in Africa declined by 88% while malaria death rates declined by 90%. In the Human Rights and democracy front great inroads have been made in deposing dictators and enhancing freedom. No wonder then that both China and Europe have turned their eyes to Africa as the territory from which to launch their near shoring strategies. From China’s perspective providing the best infrastructure to Africa facilitates, safeguards and secures the inflow of minerals and commodities China needs to further its development Also, infrastructure development provides China with an income stream while reducing the cost of transportation of these development inputs.
Europe on its part needs to enhance exports while locating manufacturing links of the value chain in markets where cost structures are lower so that middle class homes can continue to access goods of daily use at affordable prices.
And Africa is ready to receive those FDI inflows. Getting ready means enhancing education in particular that transferring digital skills. Other education inputs demand command oof the trade linguas francas which are English and Mandarin. These efforts aim at preparing the world’s largest ( 1.1. billion young adults) and youngest world force for the economic boom of the 21st century .
A cursory review of Latin America’s development status raises concern for the region. Latin America houses a population of 642.2 million people. About 250million represent the work force. Productivity levels contribute a dismal 20% to GDP growth while in Africa productivity contributes 37% to GDP growth and in Asia and Eastern Europe 86% and 83%. In terms of GDP growth over the last 20 years Latin America’s gains have averaged 3% while Sub Saharan Africa which is the poorest region in the continent boasts a 5.1%. Per capita GDP growth of other Developing countries has averaged a compound rate of 4.2% over the last 20 years while in Latin America the growth is an scant 1.6%.Meanwhile three growth disruptive trends loom in the horizon. The first is an accelerated reduction in fertility rates. This will be disruptive to the labor market; taxation levels and productivity. Then comes the end of the commodity demand boom from Asian countries that are now switching their purchases to Africa. Finally, there is the growing worldwide wave of protectionism that will negatively impact the trade component of growth.
Under this circumstances Latin America’s recovery in the aftermath of COVID19 looks like an uphill battle against an increasingly competitive world that has found new growth destinations in other geographies such as Africa.