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Changing Economic Balances In Africa: Implications For Competitive And Comparative Advantages, Integration And Geo-Politics

Project Leader: -

Project Coordinator: Mistra Coordinator

Faculty of Political Economy
Project started

November 27 2013

Estimated end date:

May 05 2015




Changing Economic Balances In Africa: Implications For Competitive And Comparative Advantages, Integration And Geo-Politics seeks to gain insights and to develop a framework on how to create conditions that nurture a conscientious leadership in the continent. Leadership here is defined broadly to include individual leaders, institutions, business and civil society.


Over the past 20 years, Africa has experienced a revival in growth and development. While the sub-Saharan economy grew by 3% per annum before the 2000s, real GDP growth averaged 5% per annum between 2001 and 2006. Accompanying this has been positive macro-social indicators such as poverty-reduction, improved school enrolment and lower child and maternal mortality.
These developments have coincided with the liberation of South Africa, a movement towards better economic governance, expansion of democracy and the emergence of a corps of leaders who have sought to chart a new strategic direction for the continent in the form of NEPAD and other programmes and institutions.
While it  has been adversely affected by the current global economic crisis, virtually all projections agree that the continent, especially sub-Saharan Africa, is geared to become one of the epicentres of high growth and development over the coming decades.
In assessing Africa’s current development trajectory, three critical factors deserve further scrutiny: emergent relations with China and other BRICS countries and possible decoupling in relation to Europe and North America; the extent of intra-African integration at all levels; and the changing economic balances on the continent. This study will pay attention to these three elements, with particular focus on the latter two.
Most studies have identified the growing role of China on the continent and the enhanced correlation between African growth and those of BRIC countries. Among the questions that arise are: whether correlation actually reflects causality; whether the pattern of relations reflects a break with the past, uneven relations that characterised Africa’s relationship with the Western world; and how these trends will play out going forward. On the other hand, there is a greater realisation of Africa’s importance in other capitals of the world, with growing interest among private and public sector entities. This has included greater activism by European and US companies involved in resource-extraction, finance and services. At the same time, the US policy on Africom and experiences of 2011 in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya do demonstrate increased security interest and interventionism.
In charting a path for higher levels of growth and development, the African leadership is paying greater attention to regional integration. There is mixed success in this regard in the Maghreb, ECOWAS, East African Community and SADC. Further, south and eastern Africa have decided to couple their efforts and set specific deadlines for investment, trade and movement of peoples. Success in this regard will depend on the extent to which the countries of the continent address the variety of constraints, including effective governance, trade barriers, alignment in economic and social policy, intra-African infrastructure and so on.
Many African countries such as Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria are experiencing high rates of growth, though from a low base. As this happens, the economic balances on the continent will shift, with new powers emerging in the various regions. For instance, while it was estimated that Nigeria would overtake SA in the 2020s as the largest economy on the continent, the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP may bring this closer to 2014. Egypt may follow suit a few years thereafter.
Combined, these developments should benefit the continent as a whole. However, it will be critical for the entire African continent – and more particularly, ‘the locomotives’ in the various regions – to work in tandem in pursuance of the collective interest of Africa’s peoples. Ill-conceived rivalries can only have the effect of undermining Africa’s strategic relations with the rest of the globe, and African peoples’ social development.         
This study proposes to investigate the afore-mentioned challenges.

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