Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Africa is not rising, saying it like it is

One thing rising - gold prices
“Africa is not rising,” Ali Mufuruki, Tanzanian millionaire said in a TEDx Talk. “I think that there is quite a number of profound flaws to the Africa rising narrative.” he said. “The first one being, we are coined not by an African, but a well-meaning Western journalist. Somebody who’s standing outside, looking in. And comparing the state of the continent today, to what it was fifteen years ago. Obviously it’s better today than what it was fifteen years ago. And we have embraced that narrative without questioning it, and I think that’s why we are where we are.”
Ali Mufuruki is both founder and executive chairman of Tanzania’s Investment Group, InfoTech. InfoTech holds the Tanzanian and Ugandan franchise for South African retail giant Woolsworth. He is also chairman of Africa Leadership Initiative East Africa Foundation, a foundation which aims to develop a new generation of value-based community spirited leaders in Africa. Occupying top positions in several high profile companies, Mufuruki is no doubt one of the most influential men in Tanzania.

 “If China could rise at 18 per cent at the peak of its rising, why would 6 to 7 percent be called impressive?” he  asked. “Unless of course we have accepted a special standard for Africa, a mediocre standard.”

Mufuruki explained that despite the attention on Africa’s partnership with the world on global trade, there is a disadvantage in the movement of products across Africa. Citing an example he said, it costs more to move cargo across African borders than it is to move cargo to African ports. “Moving a ton of fertilizer from a US port to the Kenyan port of Mumbasa, which is a 9000 kilometre journey costs $40. But moving the same ton of fertilizer from Mumbasa to Kampala, a thousand kilometres away, costs $120.”

Mufuruki stated that although cocoa is an $80 billion business with 35 per cent of it being produced in Cote de Ivoire, cocoa farmers in West Africa have been experiencing a sink in the retail price of cocoa. “In the 80’s they used to get about 16 per cent of the retail price of cocoa, today they get 6 per cent. So that cannot be rising.”

“Germany was a recipient of aid after the second world war. So was Japan, so was South Korea, so was Malaysia, or even famous Singapore. They all received aid, but there’s something special about them, which is, they all without exception graduated from being aid recipients within the space of 20 years.” Mufuruki pointed out the fact that our supposedly rising Africa is still an aid recipient 60 years later, and sadly still negotiating on a global platform, the next form of aid they want to receive. “Why is it that we are not able to graduate from aid, why is it that we are not able to start giving aid to others, 60 years later?” he asked.

“In Africa,” lamented Mufuruki. “In the past we used to blame colonialists, but today, the threat to African economies, the sabotage of African economies by Africans is on the rise. Between 2009 and 2011, Nigeria lost 136 million barrels of oil through theft and other forms of sabotage. This was equivalent to about a billion US dollars, the same amount of money Nigeria needed to import wheat, grain and rice, and other cereals over a four year period, between 2009 and 2012.”

“How much technology are we using in Africa?” asked Ali Mufuruki. Using agriculture as a case study to explain the poor state of technology in Africa, “Most Africans are supposed to rely for their livelihood on agriculture, yet, whereas an American farmer producing maize can yield ten tons of maize on 1 hectare, planted. The best we have been able to do in Africa, is two tons of maize per hectare.” With reference to this illustration, Mufuruki said the low number of agricultural output isn’t the problem. The problem is that while the rest of the world has embraced the use of technology in agriculture, Africa appears to be “marking time.”

On the issue of environment, Ali Mufuruki had this to say, “The threat to African environment is not from nuclear waste or industrial waste, it is from us. Because in this twenty first century we continue to live the same way we did a thousand years ago. Now, it’s not only Africans who use charcoal and firewood to cook and heat, fifty per cent of the global population does.  But it’s only sub-Saharan Africa where the use of charcoal and firewood is growing. And we have seen what it has done to our forests and to our rivers, and to our biodiversity.”

In spite of the recent praises for educational development in most countries; South-Korea at 67 per cent and Finland at over 70 per cent, Africa faces a major problem at a lowly 3 per cent. “In this day and age where higher level knowledge, not just basic knowledge is going to determine the winners and losers of the global fight that is on-going right now, for control of the precious resources that are left in this world, Africa has the lowest level of graduates per capita.”

Africa cannot be said to be growing when the education level of the continent is so mediocre and the share of global trade is on a decline. When Africans are constantly killing their economy and destroying their environment. “We need to make sure that we do not mistake hype for reality, we do not mistake hope for achievement.” He concluded.

No comments: