Africa's big four could power continent, says researcher

Africa’s four biggest economic powers could become an engine for regional growth in the same way that emerging market giants Brazil, Russia, India and China are trendsetters in the rest of the developing world, a senior researcher at the African Development Bank said.

South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt (SANE) account for over half of Africa’s gross domestic product—putting them on par with Brazil, Russia, India and China, or the BRICs, which often hold sway over financial markets in their regions.

It makes sense that SANE countries should feature strongly in Africa’s fortunes, said Temitope Oshikoya, director of development research at the African Development Bank.

“Whatever happens to these four countries actually can affect the direction of the African economy,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa on Thursday.

He offered various examples of the SANEs’ potential influence, such as their ability to absorb a vast pool of labour and encourage trade among African countries.

“So as a result you realise the same countries are extremely important for ensuring the growth prospects and greater prosperity in Africa,” said Oshikoya, one of the authors of the 2007 Africa Competitiveness report.

The report highlights red tape and weak infrastructure as some of the main constraints to doing business in Africa and factors which weaken its competitive edge in the global economy.

The world’s poorest continent has also fallen far behind in meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a range of targets to erase poverty, including universal education.

Oshikoya suggested the key to meeting those goals may lie with Africa’s big four.

Nigeria, for instance, has the continent’s largest population. So, whatever happens there will, even if only numerically, make a considerable dent in poverty in Africa as a whole.

First, though, the SANE economies needed greater coordination among themselves, he said.

“China, Russia, India and Brazil constitute a major force as a group in the global economy ... What we really need now is to ensure proper coordination among these four [African] countries to be able to speak as one voice on behalf of Africa at a global and at the regional level.”—Reuters

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