Has the “African Century” or the “African Renaissance” predicted by former president Thabo Mbeki, dawned?
This question was raised by the executive director of the Free Market Foundation, Leon Louw, at the international congress and exhibition of the SA Association for Food Science and Technology, at the CSIR in Pretoria this week.
“Shortly after foreign aid givers started articulating ‘donor fatigue’ and concluding that nothing would reverse the decline of ‘darkest Africa’ into the abyss, and just as observers said there was no hope and the prestigious Economist wrote off Africa as a ‘failed continent’, Africa became the world’s highest growth region,” Louw said.
“Why? What changed? How does an entire region go from being the world’s worst to its best performer?”
Although the average performance for the region was impressive, Africa still had the world’s worst performers, he said.
“The world’s poorest, most corrupt, least free and most backward countries and so on, by all objective criteria, are still African. What has changed is that a growing number of African countries have broken ranks and are growing at spectacular rates. Performance in these African jewels improved despite the so-called ‘financial crisis’. There was, as is clear from a cursory examination of growth rates, no ‘global crisis’, but that is another story. ‘Yes, but off a low base’ has become the mindless mantra of denialists trying to trivialise the reversal of Africa’s fortunes.
“Many countries, such as, in recent times, Hong Kong and Mauritius, have risen from being among the world’s poorest to being among its richest in a single generation.
“All rich countries were once poor, and became rich by growing from whatever their base happened to be. The question to be answered is what enabled them to rise from destitution?
“A growing number of sub-Saharan countries are emulating earlier high-growth counties, such as China, India, Chile and the Emirates. They, in turn, followed the ‘Asian Tigers’, like Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“It is, of course, possible that the determinants of prosperity in some countries differ from determinants in others, but countries with the same characteristics flourished while others languished,” Louw said, using Botswana and Zimbabwe as examples.
“However, there is only one characteristic of all countries that prosper.
“Is that characteristic found in Africa’s newly prospering countries? The answer is a resounding yes.”
Before this, for the past 30 years of the 20th century, Africa languished.
Theories as to why covered a wide range of possibilities, “some deeply disturbing and racist, others catastrophically conflict-provoking, and yet others invoking elaborate conspiracy theories”, he said.
Popular hypotheses blamed “the colonial legacy”, “the resource curse”, “African socialism” and “racial inferiority”.
Some theories, he said, such as “colonial legacy” babble, were believed by despotic rulers who used them as excuses to “restructure”, “redistribute”, “Africanise”, “socialise” or “develop” their countries in a kaleidoscope of demagoguery and destruction.
“What then is the defining characteristic of prosperity?
“What always and everywhere coincides with prosperity?
“It is simply and incontestably a combination of the rule of law and economic freedom. What do these terms mean? South Africa is, after all, based on the ‘supremacy’ of the rule of law according to the very first section of our constitution.
“We have a new political party defined by economic freedom: Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Are they really economic freedom fighters? Well, yes: they fight economic freedom. They hate it so much they have dedicated themselves to destroying it.
”Suffice it to say that countries where hundreds of millions of destitute humans are rising from poverty in Africa and elsewhere have rising scores on all recognised indices that measure the rule of law, economic freedom, democracy, human rights, property rights, competitiveness or ease of doing business.
“What does this tell us about Africa?
“ The answer should be obvious: if more African governments carry on liberating impoverished citizens at accelerated rates, Africa will not only prosper, but start cashing-in on its phenomenal potential.” - Pretoria News