Africa is the world’s richest continent, boosting about 30% of the world’s mineral reserves such as uranium, gold, oil and diamonds. Africa is also the world’s second largest and second most populous continent in the world, accounting for about 16% of the total population on the globe. Africa is also the world’s poorest inhabited continent, according to the World Bank, with her total GDP barely a third of the United States’ GDP. What is wrong with Africa?
Despite having the perfect ingredients for economic growth, including a booming young population to provide readily needed labor, fertile land for agriculture, very in demand minerals to build manufacturing industries and the emergence of a vibrant tech-savvy young population, Africa continues to lag behind other continents when it comes to economic growth. While factors such as corruption, political instability, illiteracy and ethnic conflicts have been identified as the major causes for this, African countries have notoriously failed to closely collaborate with each other to steer economic growth in their respective countries.
A huge reason for the failed collaboration between African countries is deeply rooted in Africa’s historical past when the continent was divided and partitioned by European settlers who were eager to exploit African resources to build their own industries. To effectively do this, they subdivided the continent and the people resulting in war and instability in some of these units. These divisions, still present today, plunged the continent into conflict, dictatorships and internal wars that have inhibited Africa’s progress.
Today, long after the departure of the colonial powers, it’s still very difficult to travel across Africa because of the stringent visa processes that African countries have imposed on each other. This effectively makes it difficult for Africans to travel and collaborate with their peers in other countries. While countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia have recently opened up their borders to other African countries, issuing visa on arrival, not much reciprocation has been made by other African countries. Countries in Europe for instance have massively benefited from their open border policy across their continent, ripping huge benefits from tourism as well as skilled labor and free flow of goods and services across Europe.
Africa is also very sub divided when it comes to economic blocks. For instance, countries in the east have the East African Community, those in the west have the Economic Community of West African Countries just to mention a few. While this has opened up trade in these regions, it is very limiting and therefore difficult to conduct business with countries that are in different economic blocks. This effectively means that individuals and businesses cannot easily tap into the huge market and labor that would otherwise have enabled their businesses to grow and scale massively.
While navigating the visa process can be a pain for an African planning to travel across the continent, the frustrations in losing monetary value as they convert currencies when travelling in Africa is still a hugely concerning problem. For example, a Kenyan travelling to Nigeria would have to convert Kenya Shillings to either US dollars or the British Pound before they travel to Nigeria. They would then have to convert to the local Nigerian currency when they get there. This effectively means so much value is lost in this conversion process. With the possibilities of crypto currencies, it’s time for African governments to collaborate around a common digital currency that will open up the continent for collaboration and economic growth.
A united Africa with a single army will have enough military resources to tackle challenges such as terrorism that have been on the rise on the continent. A border less Africa will also enable African countries to tap into the huge technological expertise across the continent to build industries. A border less Africa also means open skies that will facilitate easier trade and movement of goods and services.
Therefore, while our continent is naturally endowed with both human and economic resources necessary to accelerate growth and take us forward, we are still restricted by the closed borders essentially inhibiting collaboration. It’s time to dismantle the continent’s geographical walls to steer Africa to the next economic level.