The potential of Africa, and its over 50 countries, to play a substantive role in the global economy has arguably never been more significant than currently. According to the Economic Development in Africa Report 2023, titled as “The Potential of Africa to Capture Technology-Intensive Global Supply Chains” and recently published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the current economic landscape of the African continent reveals a convergence of auspicious factors which will propel heightened, sustainable economic growth, primarily through its increasing participation in the global supply chain.
At present, Africa’s largest draw for potential economic development lies in its two biggest assets: its land and population. Africa has been a well-established hub for the extraction of raw resources for centuries, as evidenced by its colonization by various European powers at the beginning of the twentieth century. The entire continent is littered with mines for the most important metals, such as cobalt, a keystone ingredient in the manufacture of lithium ion batteries, along with other resources, such as gold and diamonds. In conjunction with this, however, the population of Africa, which currently stands at 1.26 billion people across 54 countries, may be a more fortuitous resource in the near future.
Despite the poverty that many African countries face, its overwhelmingly youthful and tech-savvy population, the product of a generation which grew up with smartphones being widely available, will be its main source of future economic growth, as they will be the generation experiencing a greater interconnection between Africa and the global supply chain. Many companies from all Europe, North America, and Asia are reconsidering where their manufacturing bases ought to be, with many starting to decide on large African population centers, such as Nigeria. This has especially been a notable topic of discussion amongst manufacturing firms, as traditional production bases such as China are beginning to experience tumultuous political periods and an increase in labor cost.
The future of the industrial development of the African Continent is contingent on how well the leaders of these growing economies are able to capitalize on a participation in the global supply chain. We have seen certain countries, particularly in central and eastern Africa, recognize the massive benefits which can be reaped through increasing trade and economic cooperation, such as theEast African communityand proposed East African Federation, and a recent regional agreement between the DR Congo and Zambia for the creation of an industrialzone between the two countries for the increase in manufacturing of electric car batteries.
Once african governments, who have traditionally been skeptical about international participation due to the legacy of colonialism, are able break the isolationist mold which has been coating their foreign policies for decades, we can expect, if not guarantee, a significant increase in the prominence of the continent’s role in global economic development and affairs. The recent economic history of many developed countries, such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, among others, has proven that facilitating economic activity both with regional neighbors and the global economy results in vast successes which benefit all the parties involved.
If the African continent can learn from these past examples, such as Paul Kagame’s meeting with Singaporean Leaders, we can look forward to, and perhaps participate, in the birth of many new first-world countries.