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What It Takes To Turn The African Economy Into The Next Tiger

Foundations for the future?
Foundations for the future?
Mahamed Mounjid

RABAT - Like Asia did in the second half of the 20th century, Africa can move up to the economic big leagues only if it can manage to industrialize and learn to increase its productivity.

The future of the continent as a whole, notes economist François Fadi Farra, will not depend on one single economic model to fit every African country. But while each country has its own specificities, Fadi Farra stresses that joining efforts within a large free trade area would be a great advantage.

However, following the footsteps of the Asian dragons is no easy feat. According to economist Greg Mills, Africa still lacks assets that are essential to be competitive: energy for instance, but also infrastructures, physical and cultural, financial resources and (skilled) human resources. The manufacturing sector has seen a 17% drop in the past few years.

So what is the best solution? Boosting industry with foreign investments, or relying on local funds? According to Mills it is essential to develop local businesses: they are at the heart of African development, even if Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) should not to be neglected.

In order to catch up with international standards, local businesses need the support of the public sector. Mills believes that government funding and support play an essential part in protecting emerging industry. Case in point, he says, is an industrial park in South Africa that used to have 129 production plants. Today, the measures of government support have all been lifted, and there is only one manufacturing plant left.

According to an international businessman who wished to remain anonymous, Africa suffers from a lack of overall organization. He thinks the costs related to transactions and production should be reduced. The business environment also has a great influence on investment decisions, and should not be neglected.

He also points at the spirit of entrepreneurship on the continent: “We insist too much on growth and not enough on employment.” For him, an entrepreneur must see risk as an opportunity and not as a threat or a danger: “When facing a tiger, some immediately think about fleeing, whereas the Chinese businessman asks himself how to tame it,” he says.

Not ready for stability

Failures also come from insufficient knowledge and business strategy. The school system is often held responsible for these failings, due to its obvious lack of efficiency. Mills points out that it wrongly focuses on memorization rather than analysis and the building of a critical mind.

Regulation is another obstacle to the development of companies. According to American billionaire Ronald Lauder, who gave 60% of his money to non-profit organizations, Africa should change its fiscal system in order to attract more investments. The complexity of legal systems and fiscal regulations, combined with the absence of tax exemptions are scaring investors off, he says.

A financial manager denounces the numerous differences between legal systems, which go to show that “Africa is not ready yet for political and economical stability.”

With more than 85 million jobs risk being transferred to China in the coming years, national elites in every country are also to blame for this “unhealthy growth” that cannot meet the job demand.

“We wrongly insist on growth rather than employment. Sometimes growth can actually harm employment,” the manager insists.

This brings another question to the table. What are the priorities of African officials on the employment front? Making jobs more temporary, more durable, or simply more decent?

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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