Europeans follow the wars, crises and catastrophes on our neighboring continent with fascination – and overlook gradual but decisive progress.
An important source of inspiration for Africa First! was Hans Rosling’s bestseller Factfulness. In it, the Swedish scientist, now deceased, impressively demonstrated that people in the global north systematically underestimate progress in developing countries.
This is due to various psychological impulses, including the “instinct of negativity”: people tend to “perceive the bad more attentively than the good.” And that is why many simply cannot imagine that there is any room at all for positive developments between all the famines, civil wars and pandemics in Africa.
This is something that we experience again and again: When we talk to entrepreneurs, investors or politicians about Africa, we are often met with undisguised skepticism. Raised eyebrows are then still the friendliest reaction. There’s no question about it: Africa is seen by many as a hopeless case – all the more so after the Corona crisis.
Questioning prejudices, seizing opportunities
But this blanket judgment could not be more wrong, as a look at the facts shows. Whether it’s gross domestic product, life expectancy or the percentage of children attending school: In the past 20 years, many things have improved in Africa, including south of the Sahara. For example, economic output there has multiplied from $0.4 trillion to $1.77 trillion. In addition, the number of conflicts and their intensity is lower than it has been for decades.
And the Corona pandemic? So far, it has had less of an impact on Africa than feared. According to a forecast by the World Bank, the economies of a number of countries could start growing again at rates of more than five percent already in 2022, including Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Rwanda. According to the forecast, the key growth drivers include business-friendly reforms, ambitious infrastructure programs and the new continental free trade area.
We admit: Africa has often been predicted to flourish. But never before has the evidence been so clear. And please keep in mind that there will never be the big breakthrough. Because progress comes creepily and with intermittent setbacks – but it comes.
Africa is catching up. But who benefits?
Africa skeptics are therefore well advised to question their reservations and prejudices. Many African countries are already much further along than the stereotypes suggest – and, after Corona, they are likely to really take off. This opens up exciting investment opportunities.
We are convinced that the question is no longer whether Africa is catching up. The question is who will benefit – and whether the growth will reach the poor. With the Africa First Network, we want to promote investment in emerging African companies that create fairly paid jobs and build value chains.
Because investment is the best development aid.