Is the African economy being colonised – again?

Africa’s economy is worth about R21-trillion and is expected to rise to R300-trillion by 2050. Those in the know say that this means it will be significantly larger than the European economy. There will be a new scramble for Africa. In this scramble, we have to make sure that we do not become tenants of our own wealth.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Old Mutual Wisdom Forum, where former South African president Thabo Mbeki, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr Anil Gupta (no relation to those Guptas) were speaking.

Much like many of the headlines we have been seeing over the years, there was much Afro-optimism. It has been a trend over the past few years, with the typical “Africa rising” headlines that one sees in publications such as the Economist, even. Some of us remember the incredibly insulting “The Hopeless Continent” cover the Economist led with about a decade ago. A decade later, the same publication is singing our praises.

Whose economy is it really?
Gupta said: “Africa is a continent whose time has come. If you don’t believe it, it’s your loss.” I would like to respectfully disagree. It has always been Africa’s time, unfortunately it has been pillaged for centuries by the West and today we are allowing the East to consolidate a strong foothold on the continent. China has entered the continent with full force for its benefit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with China looking after it’s own interests, but there is everything wrong with Africa abdicating it’s economy to other powers.

Yes, we will be larger than our colonial masters. Mbeki asked a good question when he said: “Africa is rising, but is it rising for everyone?” We all know the answer. It is not … I believe there was another question that needed to be addressed even more urgently: Who is going to own this R300-trillion economy?

Since we now know that Africa is rising and will be bigger than Europe in 2050, what are we doing to ensure that that massive R300-trillion economy will be in African hands as opposed to other people’s hands? We need to take steps today to ensure that we do not only own this looming powerful economy, but control it too.

I recently read an article in Fortune magazine that described how American businesspeople whose fortunes are falling in the United States are moving in on Africa and taking advantage. They are buying land and building malls on the continent, and are now seeing their fortunes rise again. This made me question who is actually benefiting from the rise of Africa. Is it Africans or is it those who are taking advantage of us?

Destiny is in our hands
What do we need to do as a continent to own our destiny instead of answering to others once again? The world’s economy works to the advantage of those who have the financial resources to make things happen. Since those in the West have the financial means, they come in and take advantage of the fortunes that are to be made here.

Of course this is nothing new, Africa has been taken advantage of since the first Westerners landed on this continent centuries ago. First with guns, then they took our natural resources – now they will take our money too if we are not careful.

We simply must not allow the recolonisation of Africa. Our leaders must not sell our birthright. The African economy must benefit Africans.

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