africaIs the dream of a “rising Africa” under threat? From Boko Haram in Nigeria, to Al-Shabaab in Somalia, to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, public perceptions of the continent in Europe are increasingly dominated by the sort of “basket case” narrative we saw regularly in the 1980s.

This is unfair. Over the past decade, investment in Africa has been booming, incomes have been rising and, in many countries, democracy has been making steady inroads. It is not unusual to see people ask whether Africa (the world’s “fastest growing continent”) might be the “next Asia” in terms of economic development.

However, African countries still face an enormous (and diverse) set of challenges, including rising inequality, endemic levels of corruption and booming young populations beset by high unemployment rates. The dream of a strong, peaceful, prosperous continent depends on how Africans meet these challenges over the coming years.

On 24 June, our partner think-tank, Friends of Europe, held a conference on “Africa: Progress and Pitfalls“. We attended the event and interviewed some of the participants, asking them how they saw the future of the continent.

Rapelang Rabana is a technology and internet entrepreneur from South Africa. We asked her what she thought the biggest challenges would be for Africa over the coming decade, and she argued that it was important to turn Africa’s “youth bulge” (Africa has the highest youth population in the world) into an opportunity.

When we spoke to Vincent Biruta, the Rwandan Minister of Education, we asked him how African countries could meet the challenge of high unemployment among young people (Rwanda has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates not just in Africa, but globally). He said he thought more should be invested in education, but also that curricula should focus on practical skills, in sectors such as agriculture and industry, that are relevant to young people in Africa.

Finally, we spoke to Andreas Proksch, the Director General for Africa at the German Development Cooperation, GIZ. He argued that development cooperation was losing importance in Africa, and that foreign direct investment and remittances from Africans working abroad were both larger in terms of funds flowing into Africa.

Will African conutries be able to meet the diverse set of challenges facing the continent, from booming youth populations and rising inequality, to security challenges and issues of corruption and governance? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Adam Cohn

56 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    Erasmus project with africa is urgent… remember the tomatoes you eat every day where collected by black and hands mutilatied when crossing the frontier in melilla!… so this is not the way to recive our “most competitive” work power in Europe…

  2. avatar
    Borislav Valkov

    Partner! If you don’t want islamic extremist then educate them and give them hope of better future!

  3. avatar
    Nadin Dereguardati

    as long as the African ethnic tribes do not understand to be in need of ethics… they will never change!…

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Hmmm, I think such sentiments could equally apply to one or two EU basket case/Club Med nations too?

  4. avatar
    James McManama

    European attitudes towards Africa seriously need to change. For years now, Africa has been developing at a faster rate than any other continent.

    Yes, there are huge challenges. But, in fact, it’s difficult to speak about a single set of “challenges”, because Africa is so diverse. It’s a continent of over a billion people, several times the size of Europe in terms of landmass.

  5. avatar
    J M Perz Gnlz

    Stop stealing all their resources. One day, africans will rise up, and will take back everything first world took away from their land.

  6. avatar

    Is Africa’s future as a strong partner for Europe, or as a security risk?

    I think both. France have an extended experience over the issue.

  7. avatar
    Nikolas Kalaitzidis

    No less strong partner than Turkey, Ukraine or Russia indeed! Study needs and invest in african people’s consience. But has to be done yesterday! People there prepere their “desperate” themseves to travel to Europe.

  8. avatar

    But, pay attention to China. They are also already make huge and extended over decades to come investments in Africa. Is not a secret for anyone that China is strategically interested african oil, (rare) metals and minerals, beside coper. It might be a little too late for Europe.

    • avatar

      China has been vigorously shaping a friendly relationship with the Africa and she has realized its goal. What has Europe been doing to create a healthy relationship with Africa? Instead, Europe has been wasting its time, resources and lives to support the US foreign policy, while losing its own destination and even worse, the aspiration of their people. So, European leaders ought to understand that people give their vote for the goods and welfare of the European people not supporting America Great Again.

  9. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    The machines of African states will have to have courage and face the real problems of their states such corruption inequalities of poverty because societies are inportant factors within a society rather Erasmus programs in Africa countries are critical to the economic and social growth in nation

  10. avatar
    Erich Scheffl

    They would also need a concept. Because also Europe is already critical. And China, and India, and ….. Is the rising inequality the consequence of the globalisation? We need generally a welfare concept and cooperation as leading principles.

  11. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Sorry, is it not a bit confusing? Should it not read:

    “Could Africa in future become a strong EU partner- or is it a security risk?”

    The EU is its own biggest risk- falling over their over sized shoes!

    Africa is still recognizable by its Francophone, Anglophone, Arabophone & Lusophone past. Anglophone South Africa is/was the economic engine of Africa for a long time- but challenged lately by Nigeria (oil), Angola’s oil, Mozambique’s coal & gas, the chaotic DRC. But DRC’s future with the planned Grand Inga Hydro electric Scheme with a generation capacity of 40,000MW !!- by far the worlds biggest once completed- moving China’s 3 gorges of “only” 22,500MV to the No 2 world spot- looks like having a bright future too! Whoever has some spare cash are welcome to finance this project!

    Most investors elect SA as their venture point into the rest of Africa due to its 1st world economy, infrastructure and its top notch banking system. Many opportunities offer themselves for the brave, adventurous, risk takers- probably a rather difficult terrain for 1st world orthodox entrepreneurs to get newly established nowadays!

    The residue of the colonial & local tribal past mixed with the new awakening, educated and confident African spirit makes Africa an interesting & vibrant continent in many ways- unique to none anywhere on the globe! And it is the cradle of humankind on top of it- for those believing in evolution!

    Unfortunately, besides the Anglo-American (Cecil Rhodes & Oppenheimer) footprint in mining, the new BRICS formation will have more influence in shaping the future in Africa. Luxury goods, German cars & Swiss bank accounts are highly valued by its past & new political elites. But the Chinese influence- as quick, willing & rich partners, flooding the Africa with its people- do outmaneuver an inflexible & ‘demanding’ old & tired Europe!

    • avatar

      Well said. Many people in Europe suffers from historic delusion. They write as if we were the Colonial Power and anywhere -specially Africa- were our backyard.

  12. avatar

    It is a basket case.Just the same as with Afghanistan.When the soviets were in Afghan they builded whole panel house towns for the afghanis.Well there was always a stupid figthing them blowing up the water supply,the road that was needed to supply the town and so on.There are basically complete towns which are not populated because they haven t electricity,water and other things there.Just the same problem with africa.You build them a school,some suicider running in killing everyone cause western education is “haram”.Then you build them a hospital and send em highly qualified professionals and doctors and they go berserk at them because they re stupid,as it happened recently in west africa…Let them mature another 200 years and then we can have a talk.Rather use the money for something useful and fil the mediterranean with sea mines.That would be a more profitable investment.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Alex- Hi,

      How well do you know Africa’s “basket”- or China’s available capacity being unleashed in Africa at present? Afghanistan is not Africa! Africa is not Europe! Radical Muslim doctrine is not comparable to its Christian counterpart in Anglophone Africa. Nobody denies Africa’s challenges!

      I believe Africa’s renewal will be initiated from the south going north- via SADC & the AU- but it’s coming- and earlier than ‘200 years’ with or without the “useful” EU sea mines- being as ‘profitable’ as Greece’s mothballed submarines? Surely that was a joke?

      Overwhelming Muslim influence is mainly restricted to the Arabophone & borderline countries. Radicalism grew thanks to the US’s global involvement as the world’s police chief. No doubt, China creates both positive and negative reactions & suspicions.

      From the biggest Corporations to the small one man street trader- the Chinese have a presence almost right into the smallest African villages by now- while Europe is busy with great discussions, hesitates & ponders!

      Example: China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is the 3rd largest in the world! The Chinese are generous- they hand over a whole brand new Parliament as a present to an African State in return for some “other” trade or business! Who else would do that?
      Yes, Africa is not for Sissies- and remember: the “umbilical cord” of humanity is buried on African soil!

      “Ironworker” with his remark “pay attention to China in Africa” is very close to reality!

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Saeed Khan Abbasi- Hi,

      For a moment I thought you referred to the “SKA MEGA-PROJECT” in Astrophysics & Cosmology involving AFRICA & some in the global community. Called the“The Square Kilometer Array radio telescope”- the worlds biggest by 2025! Check it out:

      Also named “SKA”- but with its Project Office at the Jodrell Bank Observatory site in Manchester and an estimated budget of ~€1.5 billion and ~10 participating countries. They are: Australia, Canada, China, Germany? (withdrew), Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. Where you aware of this?

      The real SKA will be split over “Southern African”, Australian and New Zealand sites, with distant station in: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia and Zambia.

      It will be 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument in the world, and requires ~one hundred million PCs “super performance” and long-haul links with a capacity greater than the current global Internet traffic.

      One gets goose bumps of what can be created through peaceful cooperation- despite ignorantly calling Africa a basket case or the dark continent- in contrast to the advanced but destructive ‘grand political schemes’ by unproductive politicians with their doomed EU & NATO never ending enlargement endeavors!

      Wouldn’t your own tumultuous Pakistan & your neighbors need lots of your goodwill & advice?

  13. avatar

    ”Is Africa’s future as a strong partner for Europe, or as a security risk?”
    With the History Europe has with Africa they should be asking themselves the exact same question.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Salvador Gota- Hi,

      sorry, are you sure you are not lost here? It seems you frequently advertise for a ‘violent’ cessation and independence from Spain- anything to do with Europe, the EU or Africa?

  14. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    Africa’s future is to learn to stand on its own feet. It needs to stop increasing its population when it cannot provide for it.

    I have the impression that Europe is not much interested in having Africa as a partner. It is more about using its resources than anything else. I am skeptical about any strong future partnership, having in mind the history between the two continents and the lingering negative attitudes on both sides. China does not have this problem and is confidently expanding its investments there, without too much noise. European-African relations are marred by a lack of mutual trust and respect.

    As to the security risk – it will always be, as long as there are humanitarian crises, fighting and violence there. If European countries sell weapons to Africa, they contribute to the instability and uncertainty there. If oil companies such as British Petroleum pollute the environment and do not benefit local people in any way, that is not working in partnership and does not paint a very bright picture for future relations.

  15. avatar
    catherine benning

    Does Europe intend to have a full participatory referendum of its people across all states before taking any steps to make a ‘partnership with Africa’?

    And if not, why not? Are the people of Europe not entitled to full democracy through the ballot box on these most important questions which will dramatically affect their future on every level of their lives?

    And another matter to be discussed, didn’t Africa already have a so called partnership with Europe called colonisation? And did that colonisation work for Africa or come to that for Europe? And if you think so, in what way?

  16. avatar

    The colonial borders, being the legacy of the colonial era, are by far and away the number one problem.

    Not that ethnic and religious strife isn’t a problem, but the ridiculous borders drawn by criminal French and British colonialists (that were intended to serve French and British interests) are by far and away the number one problem.

    Tribes and ethnic groups divided over several countries, some tribes and ethnic groups being totally ignored and not given their own country.

    Now a case could be made that all countries’ borders are artificial to some degree, however in Africa (and the Middle East) this is far more the case than anywhere else.

    And none of these countries are stable democracies or likely ever will be. They’re all dictatorships of some kind. Some are ethnic dictatorships where the ethnicity with the largest % usually wins most or all elections.

    Then there’s the faux-democracies that are really dictatorships where the leaders have the backing of the ‘Western world’ and are usually willing to sell the local resources to western countries and corporations for cheap. The leaders get a percentage and are rich, and since the people there don’t benefit at all from the resources (like oil, gold or diamonds) they remain dirt poor and have been since decolonization.

    Its just that the colonial masters are now indirectly doing what they did directly before. France keeps all its former African colonies in a financial-economic stranglehold where France and the local elites benefit, and the rest remains dirt poor.

    Why the interventions in Mali and Central African Republic? Resources! Simply selfish western interests cloaked disingeniously in humanitarian cloth. Libya? Well the leader didn’t want to sign the contracts the western world put in front of him anymore, so he had to go.

    Any dictator, no matter how many human rights violations or mass killings is just fine, as long as he signs the contracts the western world, via its IMF/World Bank agents puts in front of him. Note how no politician in the western world seems to have a problem with the brutal dictatorship in Equatorial Guinee.

    I’m sure some people still cling to the illusion that the IMF and World Bank are meant to help these countries. Wrong! They’re designed to help the western world loot the place. Forcing them to hand over local resources at knockdown prices in the name of the ‘market’.

    It is western world policy to keep most African countries poor. After all, we can’t be disproportionately rich if someone else isn’t disproportionately poor.

    The dirty hands of the French are also on the lopsided agricultural agreements (usually Europeans bribing the local elites into signing). They have made it so that Africans cannot impose tariffs on our products, but we can on theirs. And we dump our surpluses there driving the remaining viable farmers out of the market.

  17. avatar
    La Fed Ham

    There is not just one Africa but multiple Africas. The sociocultural bonds along with borders means Europe and Africa will always share some kind of relationship with Europe. That said, as in the case of South America whom have also been historically overshadowed by their big, wealthy, powerful, influential and at times meddling neighbour, Africa would benefit by not placing all of it’s eggs in the Europe basket and keeping it’s options open by working with the Yanks and the BRICs club too.

  18. avatar
    Jason Cotterill-Attaway

    The biggest risk Europe poses to Africa, is the headhunting of professionals; from nurses upwards, we are stealing the professionals that these nations have trained and in doing so keeping their home nations from developing outside of their capitals.

  19. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Africa in a good economic parther for Europe Africa of central political power elities must respond to a new application of geography of human rights of intelligemce and sense of political solidarity to people unfortunate conditions of dignified life

  20. avatar
    Türker Yener

    Why such kind of a irrevelant picture for the debate ?. I wonder Whetjer this group is racist or not ?…

  21. avatar
    Menelik Cc Ngene

    a strong economic and educational partner, only if the EU stops covert aid to corrupt africa goverments,helps individual africa citizens and brings all black african leaders to justice

  22. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    Africa is one of the biggest problems . Poor , uneducated , religious , corrupt with quick population growth .

  23. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    If we do not work as partners, Africa will most definitely become a security risk! Right now it is just a pain in the butt and a money sink.

  24. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    How ignorant to place all of Africa into one basket. What does an Arab filed state like Libya now have anything in common with an upper middle income stable black nation like Botswana for example?

  25. avatar

    An strong economic partner for China or the USA. A security risk for Europe. It looks like we have lost the train. Surprisingly :-P

  26. avatar
    Costin Halaicu

    The whole world should be a future partner for Europe, not just Africa. However, there are some problems there for the time being. Sure, Africa has many countries, and some of them are probably good partners for the EU, such as South Africa.

  27. avatar
    Leo Vlaming

    Africa is economically pretty insignificant and full of failed states. How can this be a “strong partner”?

  28. avatar
    Peter Harvey

    How about noticing that Africa is big and varied? Some bits could be useful trading partners while others may be a security risk.

    Take off your blinkers, look beyond famine, war and elephants, and see the real Africa.

  29. avatar
    Francois Dukrot

    Were you lacking ideas to ask this kind of question and putting a picture like this one? If you want to launch a debate, you need a minimum of knowledge and common sense.

  30. avatar

    not Africa. just Uganda or the empire of Uganda which has taken over the entirety of the African continent.
    I’m just kidding. yep i thin we could become partners with certain African countries.

  31. avatar

    “Is Africa’s future as a strong partner for Europe, or as a security risk?” It all depends on what relationship
    Europe wants to create. If Europe fails to shape its relationship with a late developed continent, how can Europe shapes its own future.

  32. avatar
    Fern Moore

    I know Europe has strong colonialist ties to Africa, which is why this feels like neo-colonialism. Just STOP. Leave Africans alone to form their own systems and develop their own economies to suite them best. If they want our help, they will ask for it. We should be as hands off as possible and we definitely don’t need to make them a part of the EU or the euro. We have enough economic disparity between eastern and western member states as it is.

    This is all a ploy anyway by big financial groups to get more customers into the digital financial system. It’s really gross how they want to exploit Africa’s poor just to have more personal data to sell for profit.

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