African business, politics and lifestyle
All too often the Year of This or the Year of That fails to live up to the expectations of whatever we’re supposed to be highlighting or celebrating.
There is no doubt that 2010 is going to be a big year for Africa.
The question is whether in a year’s time we’ll be looking back and saying it was big in the right ways.
Top of the bill will be the World Cup in South Africa. As with any large event there may well be some glitches, but there is every reason to believe it can be a success. (Whether an African team will go a long way in the gleaming new stadiums is another matter).
More African countries celebrate their 50 years of independence this year than in any other, starting with Cameroon on January 1. That is bound to be cause for taking stock. Of those that have already reached 50 years, Ghana has emerged as a shining example on many fronts. Guinea the opposite.
In a recent edition of The Africa Report, Patrick Smith wrote of the need for brutally honest assessments of countries after 50 years and the challenges they face, conducted in the open rather than by shadowy bureaucrats.
“For Africa’s future, it may be better to have a more public consultation and debate to counter some of the sycophancy and wishful thinking frequently heard among the continent’s political class,” he said.
Among those marking their 50 years in 2010 will be Nigeria, again going through a shaky patch because of doubts over President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health. A big question will be whether Africa’s most populous country can keep to its decade-old democratic constitution or whether it will be more about finding ways to circumvent it.
It is the less headline-grabbing trends, however, that may prove more significant and potentially more cause for optimism. Although Africa has been knocked by the global shocks after unprecedented growth in preceding years, it could have been a lot worse.
Economies are generally on a sounder footing than in the past. According to the latest IMF forecasts, eight of the world’s 20 fastest growing economies in 2010 will be in Africa.
Whether people are going to start putting more money in will be an important measure. And on that subject, here is an upbeat assessment from Ashley Bendell of frontier market investment firm Exotix .
“2010 should bring major developments (and compelling investment opportunities) which include the finalization of Nigerian banking reforms, oil coming on stream in Ghana, an improving Zambian economy in tandem with improved copper production/ prices, an increasingly diversified Mauritian economy, as well as reduced trade barriers, and taxes in Kenya,” wrote Bendell.
“With banking, beer and telecom penetration trailing many emerging market peers the future is bright as Sub Saharan Africa (ex SA) is expected to surpass 5% GDP growth in 2010, spurred on by an increasingly benign environment.”
What are your expectations for 2010 in Africa?