WHAM! Media Background Brief – Africa Rising?

SECTIONS (Click to Jump):

    1. The Continental Context
    2. The global rise of Africa
    3. Africa – the right to life strengthens
    4. Mining in South Africa
    5. Botswana’s remarkable success
    6. Southern African integration
    7. Nigeria on top
    8. Additional Reading


Africa is enjoying unprecedented economic growth. It’s a very far cry from 10 years back, when the UK’s Economist magazine felt able to write this off as the “hopeless continent”. Indeed, by 2011 The Economist felt it necessary to run the now-famous cover headline, “Africa rising”.

• Even when the global recession hit in 2009, most African countries enjoyed economic expansion, and it has only slightly slowed. Indeed, seven of the 10 fastest growing economies the past five years have been African. Why? There are a few core reasons, including, notes internationally-renowned Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, the continent having a relatively young population (potential consumers and that most productive of generations).

• Africa business commentator David Christianson puts continental growth down to the resources commodity boom, and China. He says that that while resources contribute a quarter of African gross domestic product, fully 30% of the world’s minerals are held here and that Asian demand seems inexhaustible. Christianson points to Africans having more ready cash than ever before (a nice example being Nigerians buying 150 million mobile ‘phones this past decade, about one per person).

• He is backed by a McKinsey Global Institute report looking at African households with disposable income. There were 59 million of these at the century’s turn, rising to 89 million in just eight years, and projected at 120 million by 2020. Urbanisation, the world’s most effective contraceptive and bringer of cheaper infrastructure and all service delivery, helps.

• Author of the first annual socio-economics Africa Survey (2012), Catherine Schultze, collated a myriad changes in a continent at greater ease with itself. Thus, while Africa’s population increased 114% between 1980 and 2010, birth rates dropped in 36 surveyed countries, even while better healthcare sees falling infant mortality and rising life expectancy.

• The supposedly pandemic nature of Aids has failed to live up to prediction, with just 4% of people currently infected on the Mother Continent.

• Meanwhile, GDP at current market prices rocketed 151% in only the last decade, per capita GDP is up 131%, foreign direct investment rose from US$ 24 per African in 2001 to $89 by 2008 in constant prices.

• During that decade, state debt as a percentage of GDP fell by more than half.

• The American Fraser Institute now no longer lists any African country in its 10 worst places to mine.

• Still, none of this is irreversible, and investors will know that, especially as the cleavage between a Muslim north and Christian sub-Sahara turns violent in places like Somalia, the two Sudans, Mali and Nigeria. The other main worry should be about entrenching clean state institutions with the fundamentals of liberal democracy, especially the rule of law.

• Says Good Governance Africa CEO John Endres: “The Cold War’s end brought a huge uptick in democratic practice. This is crucial to investor confidence and success. Apart from their obvious business considerations, South African companies would do well to watch for clean and orderly governance. They had best look out for sound democratic culture with its predictabilities and protection of all rights – human and economic. Anything else could just blow up in their faces”.



According to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) 2013 Human Development Report – The rise of the South, “dozens of countries and billions of people” are moving up the development ladder in ways “unprecedented in speed and scale”. It includes South Africa in its grouping of countries that are making “rapid advances” alongside Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey.

• The UNDP notes that for the first time, the combined economic output of Brazil, China and India equals that of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US combined.

• In terms of the Millennium Development Goals that were set in 1990, the goal of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty was set for 2015, yet it was already reached in 2008, although this is seldom mentioned. And when poverty lessens, all manner of opportunity to human progress opens up.

• As the US Cato Institute points out, the “globalisation of human wellbeing” goes far beyond just money to include measures that track freedom from hunger, mortality rates, child labour, education, access to safe water, and so on. In these, gaps between rich counties and the up-and-coming have “shrunk dramatically since the mid-1990s irrespective of trends in income inequality”. That includes SA, where rising per capita income across the board has also seen rising life expectancy and falling infant mortality even while income inequalities have been falling since 2005.

• Meanwhile UNAIDS reports that the HIV/Aids epidemic will be over by 2030, confounding predictions of a human holocaust. Already the number of deaths from the disease have fallen a third just since 2005. This sometimes unheralded victory comes from a combination of capitalist investment in research, state medical interventions and rollouts, and the hard work of NGOs and churches across the developing world.

The fact is that poverty is lessening, poorer countries are getting richer, people are living longer and healthier lives, and that these trends show no signs of reversing. It is a good time for humanity.

Quick Stats:

Falling inequality

The Gini coefficient

(This rates income inequality with a score between 0 and 1 – where 1 is someone with all the income and 0 has everybody with the same amount)

South Africa 2005: 0.68

South Africa 2012: 0.63 (i.e. despite oft-made claims, inequality in South Africa is decreasing)

Living longer

African life expectancy

2002: 50 years

2012: 55 years

Defeating Aids

  • Worldwide Aids deaths down one third in 2012 from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005
  • Life-years saved by HIV/Aids treatment in 2012: 14 million

The rising South

Developing countries share of world merchandise trade:

1980: 25%

2010: 47%

Direction of play

Human Development Index ranking

South Africa 2011: 122 in the world

South Africa 2012: 121 in the world (up one position)

SOURCES: UN Development Programme; The Spectator; Catholic Herald; Cato Institute; UNAIDS; IHS Global Insight Southern Africa



Of all the things we can measure when looking at how society is faring, surely the most important relates to life itself. In Africa there has been consistent improvement the last few years. The catch-all measure of how well or poorly people are doing must like in their life expectancy.

Happily, people in all African countries, with the single exception of Zimbabwe, are now living longer than they could expect to in the early stage of the continent’s uhuru in 1961, says the World Bank.

• Much of the improvement coincides with the post-Cold War abandonment by many countries of state economic control and with the introduction of liberalisation across all societal facets. The setting at the century’s turn of global Millennium Development Goals will also have helped. While these goals are sometimes simplistic in targets set by calling for half, two-thirds or total reductions of bad things in ways that aren’t always real, their making countries report publically on progress being achieved clearly helps force the pace.

• According to Johannesburg-based think tank Good Governance Africa (GGA), “the continent bears 25% of the world’s disease burden” but only spends 1% of the world’s health funds. Africa also has the world’s smallest health workforce at only 1.6 million, compared to South East Asia’s 7 million, the Western Pacific’s 10 million, Europe’s 17 million and the 22 million of the Americas. Even so, progress this century has sometimes been dramatic.

• A stand-out success has been South Africa, where the number of HIV infections have fallen every year since 2000, where more people now receive anti-retroviral treatment than need it, and where malnutrition has fallen 70%, a resurgence3 of malaria has been defeated, vaccination of the very young has climbed from 64% to 89% in 20 years, and where both maternal and infant mortality rates have fallen dramatically.

• Yet it is sobering to see what more could have been achieved on our continent if only moneys had been spent as intended. According to GGA calculations, African governments spend an average US$13.40 per person on healthcare, up $4 the past decade but way off the WHO recommendation of $50.

• But here’s the thing, according to GGA head John Endres: “If all the foreign aid given to improve health was actually spent as intended, almost $61 per person would be available. And that’s just donor cash. It would make achieving Millennium Development Goals more realistic”.

Quick stats

A healthier continent

  • Maternal mortality ratio: down 42% in 20 years
  • Malaria mortality 2000 to 2010: Down one-third
  • Sub-Saharan infant mortality from 1990 to 2012: -45%
  • ARVs given to expectant mothers: 59% in 2011 (2005: 11%)
  • HIV/Aids-related deaths 2000 to 2011: -19% (1,23m in 1990 to 1m in 2011)
  • Tuberculosis down 3.1% in 2010-11, as against world decline of 2.2%

A healthier SA

  • Children under 12 immunised against TB: +37% 1990 to 2011
  • Deaths of infants per 1 000 live births: -33% (2000 to 2011)
  • Orphan-headed households: -33% (2000 to 2010)
  • Men using condoms: 66% in 2011, up from 18% in 1992
  • New HIV infections: Down every year since 2000
  • Public healthcare spend: increase of 320% in constant US$ from 2000 to 2011
  • Private health spend vs. public health spend in 2011: 52% to 48%

SOURCES: Good Governance Africa (GGA) Africa in Fact Nov 2013; GGA 2013 Africa Survey (forthcoming); World Bank; SA Institute of Race Relations; World Health Organisation; The Citizen


(This section is taken directly from a presentation of the Chamber of Mines, South Africa.)

Mining: a key component of the SA economy

• Creates 1.35 million jobs (520 000 direct & 830 000 indirect).

• Accounts for about 19% of GDP (9% direct, 10% indirect & induced).

• Critical earner of foreign exchange >50%.

• Accounts for 20% of private investment (12% of total investment).

• Attracts significant foreign savings (R1.4 trillion/ 29% of value of JSE).

• 2012, R20 billion & R5.6 billion in royalties.

• R437 billion in expenditures, +/- R389 billion spent locally.

• R93.6 billion spent in wages and salaries

• 50% of volume of Transnet’s rail and ports

• 94% of electricity generation via coal power plants

• 15% of electricity demand

• About 37% of country’s of liquid fuels via coal

• R4 billion spent on skills development

• R2 billion spent on community investment

Competitiveness rankings of the World Economic Forum 2013-2014 report

• South Africa is the second highest ranked BRICs economy (behind China)

• South Africa does well on:

» Auditing standards and efficacy of boards (rank 1)

» the quality of its institutions (rank 41st),

» intellectual property protection (rank 18th),

» Protection of investors (10th)

» Protecting property rights (rank 20th) and

» Effectiveness of resolving legal disputes (13th).

» However, the country has a mixed scorecard in other areas, with its labour market efficiency being below average (rank 116)



(Reports cited in this section are sourced from the 2013 Africa Survey, published by Good Governance Africa, www.gga.org)

It is sometimes said that what is good for Botswana is also good for Debswana (the 50-50 ownership partnership between De Beers and the Botswana state), and that when Debswana does well, Botswana does well. Although simplified, there is truth in this.

The combination of diamond finds in Botswana just a year after independence in 1966, the uniquely cross-beneficial nature of the state-De Beers Debswana shareholding and initiative, and a context of consistently prudent and sensible governance in the country, all speak to the intertwined nature of Botswana and Debswana’s wellbeing.

Here is a snapshot of where this story has helped to take Botswana so far:

Good governance

• Botswana is ranked first out of 52 African countries in the Ibrahim African governance index (2012) for “safety and the rule of law”. It is ranked second (after Mauritius) for “sustainable economic opportunities”.

• In the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index (2012/13), Botswana is ranked first out of 21 surveyed sub-Saharan African countries in the following categories, viz.:

» Limited government powers
» Absence of corruption
» Fundamental rights
» Open government
» Regulatory enforcement
» Civil justice
» Criminal justice.

• In the 2013 International Property Rights Index, issued by the Property Rights Alliance, Botswana comes first out of 55 African countries and territories for its legal and political environment.

• Transparency International records Botswana as perceived as the least corrupt society in Africa in 2012.


• The International Monetary Fund had Botswana’s gross domestic product (GDP – at constant US dollars) increase from US$10.4bn in 2005 to 17.6bn by 2012.

• According to the World Bank, Botswana’s real GDP increased by 75% between 2000 and 2012.

• Also according to the World Bank, Botswana’s per capita GDP at purchasing power parity (in constant 2005 international dollars) rose 1 743% from 1960 to 2011.

• Economic Freedom of the World reports of the US Fraser Institute rank Botswana second in Africa (after Mauritius) in 2013; up from 18th place in 2010.

• Botswana’s 2013 credit ratings (as ranked by Standard and Poor’s; Moody’s; and Dagong) are Africa’s best.

• The Fraser Institute ranks Botswana as best for mining policies of 16 African mining countries in 2012/13; 17th of 96 countries worldwide.


• The African Development Bank’s 2010 African Statistical Yearbook notes that 85.5% of Botswana’s roads are paved. The length of paved roads at independence in 1966 was 12km.

• Where the International Telecommunications Union records 30 mobile telephone subscriptions for every 100 people in Botswana in 2005, this had risen to 150 by 2012, a multiple of 11.5.

• The World Bank notes that 82.5% of businesses in Botswana were using email to interact with clients/suppliers by 2010.


• Botswana’s health expenditure (public and private) rose in current US$ from US$267m in 2000 to US$877m by 2011, a multiple of 3.3, says the World Bank.

• The World Health Organisation records the share of HIV-positive women in Botswana who receive antiretroviral treatment rising from 54% in 2005 to 94% in 2011, an increase of 74%.

• The World Bank notes that child deaths per 1 000 live births fell 68% in Botswana from 2000 to 2011.

• Tuberculosis deaths per 100 000 people fell 69% from 1990 to 2011, from 77 to 24.

• Cancer deaths per 100 000 people in Botswana fell 47% from 2002 to 2008, from 124 to 66.


• Botswana’s primary school enrolment rate was already more than 100% by 1990, and has remained so since (more than 100% includes older and younger-than-norm enrollees), according to the World Bank.

• Also according to the World Bank, Botswana’s secondary school enrolment had jumped from 40% in 1990 to 77% by 2005.

• Botswana’s adult literacy and numeracy rate was at 84.5% by 2010, says the World Bank. Youth literacy had reached 95.3%.

Living conditions

• The World Bank notes that access to clean water in rural Botswana had reached 90% by 2010, and fully 99% in urban areas.

• The access of people to improved sanitation in 2011 in Botswana was at 64%, says the World Health Organisation. This was an improvement of access of 75% between 1990 and 2010 in urban areas, and 105% in rural areas, according to World Bank statistics.

• The World Bank’s 2010 World Development Indicators note 61% of urban home ownership in Botswana by 2012.

• The International Energy Agency records that 45% of people in Botswana had access to electricity by 2009.



In especially the 19th century, you could chase dreams of gold from California to Australia to South Africa without worrying about passports – you just went to wherever opportunity called. Nowadays it’s easier to move your assets across the globe than yourself. But, as apartheid’s planners of independent “homelands” found, people have always acted with economic self-interest rather than grand ideology in mind.

• Leaving South Africa has, says the SA Institute of Race Relations, mainly been for young couples of child-bearing age. By 2010, there were 760 000 abroad, with the UK as first choice (236 000), followed by Australia (156 000) and the US (78 000).

• Replacing these with immigrant professionals is hard to do with SA law making the employment of foreigners especially onerous, a state of affairs bemoaned by the Centre for Development and Enterprise which argues for easing the process of hiring foreigners. But economic immigrants come here anyway.

• In just 2011, there were 3.3 million immigrants from neighbouring Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, of whom 2.2 million had “no right to work”. In all, they sent R11 billion back home in a form of regional economic integration far ahead of that imagined by politicians. This happens even while the FinMark Trust notes a drop of 27% between 1996 and 2011 in the employment of foreigners in their traditional bastion, mining.

• Meanwhile, SA has the highest number of asylum seekers in the world, and, mainly thanks to an amnesty for illegal Zimbabweans, begun in 2009, only deported 56 000 people in 2010, down from 313 000 just three years before.

• All along, SADC have, European Union-style, been talking, if not really acting, on regional integration of an ambitious sort. A US$500 billion “master plan” would see cross-border infrastructure upgrading in energy, transport, tourism, IT, and the like; national electricity utilities would erase power shortages by this year; tariffs on goods would largely disappear, standards would equalise, and in short order, southern Africa would move to a free trade zone with even a single currency. This is to emulate every success found in European economic integration, bar the biggest, and then to repeat every mistake, especially the biggest.

• For easily the biggest economic successes of European Union have been the removal of trade barriers, creating predictable and similar economic law, and letting people move about unhindered. SADC wants only the first two, although tariff elimination lags and an overarching SADC Tribunal, having ruled against Zimbabwe for nationalisation without compensation, has been suspended.

• “Deeper regional integration”, notes the Trade Law Centre, “remains relatively bleak” mainly because of tardy cross-regional implementation of agreements to uniform trade law and because of weak institutions, such as a SADC Parliamentary Forum without legislative powers.

Which may all be to the good in allowing time for a retreat from a European-style single SADC currency while allowing ordinary people easier passage to finding and making work. For law or no law, that’s something that people will do anyway.


One development that has attracted much media attention in South Africa in the past month has been the announcement by Nigeria that it is now Africa’s largest economy. In fact, this has been the case for a long time and, as the SA Treasury has noted, it is good news in its demonstration of Africa’s economic growth and increased competitiveness.

Some things to consider:

• Nigerians did not go to sleep poor one night last month and then wake up the next morning to find themselves rich. The reason for the announcement that theirs is the continent’s largest economy (displacing South Africa’s position) is because of a rebasing by Nigerian statisticians of how they calculate that country’s gross domestic product.

• The GDP rebasing exercise is normally undertaken every five years in most countries but this hasn’t been done in Nigeria since 1990, meaning that that country’s GDP estimates have latterly been way out of kilter with intervening economic developments there.

• In particular, Nigeria’s fast growing formal retail sector (and much of its informal sector), along with its relatively recent and enormous growth in film-making (“Nollywood”) and in telecommunications, had not in recent years properly featured in estimates of the size of the Nigerian GDP.

• Even so, it must be remembered that Nigeria has severe problems, so much so that some of South Africa’s own challenges might appear little in comparison. With a much bigger population (150 million to 180 million), Nigerian per capita income is still way lower than South Africa’s (52 million people); Nigeria has an escalating civil war in its north; and it is country that suffers from institutionalised corruption on a scale that makes South Africa’s hardly visible. In addition, the writ of the Nigerian state not universal by any means.

Still, it’s good that economies are growing so quickly – as they have been – on the continent, and that, as with Nigerian telecommunications and retail, South Africans are playing a prominent role in creating and exploiting this success.


Over and above what is contained in this Background Brief, the following additional reading also provides useful analysis and insights, along with facts:




http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/04/the_myth_of_africa_s_rise (useful for tempering optimism with some scepticism)


(This report was compiled and written
by Paul Pereira.)
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