Saturday, July 27, 2013

Africa 2013 - Furman University Speech - Riley Institute, Greenville South Carolina

Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders, Furman University, Greenville South Carolina, April 2013

 Title: Africa 2013: The Positives and the Challenges Ahead

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSAfrica) today is not your mother’s Africa. It is a region which continues to undergo for the most part positive political and economic changes.  Many more of its 48 countries are embracing democratic change, holding free and fair elections, and moving forward as key players on the global stage. This does not diminish the serious challenges that remain in certain parts of the region. But, every world region has tough issues today, including the U.S., as we grapple with some key economic and social issues.   However, we do not swipe our nation with a negative cloth because of these transformative issues, but see them as a part of our effort “to strive be a more perfect nation” (one the most seminal phrases to me in the preamble of our Constitution).  
Thus, I believe sub-Saharan is doing the same thing – striving to be a more perfect Continent.  And, major transformation does take hard work and can also take time. Thus, we should allow for that same kind of perspective when it comes to the Sub-Saharan African region.  Many nations are moving forward on economic growth in a fairer manner, engaging transparently, globally and with realistic expectations.

My remarks this evening will provide you with a framework on the positive things about Today’s Africa, and also put some of the challenges you hear about such as lack of good governance, corruption, and the rise of fundamentalism in West Africa into perspective. Most Americans focus primarily on the negative; I am here to provide a more balance view, a more balanced lens about Today’s Africa, beginning with the positives. Then we will take a look at the challenges within that context.
I will focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, although what has happened in North Africa over the last 2 years does have a bearing on the region, particularly as regards to jihadist conflicts in West Africa stemming from links with Al Qaeda affiliates in Algeria, Yemen, and Somalia.

Let’s Begin With The Positives:
Sub-Saharan Africa has a “value-chain” contribution to both the Continent and the global community. "Value chain," in this context means that the progress that each African country is making will have a positive political and economic ripple affect both globally and Continent-wide.
Political Pluses:
So what are the political pluses?  They are less far and few in-between than you might think.  There are a number of countries that have made democracy, transparency, and free and fair elections the order of the day. In fact last week President Obama hosted presidents from four of these nations – Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Malawi, and Senegal) at the White House  because of the huge democratic transitions that have taken place in their countries, particularly Sierra Leone. If you remember it was not too long ago in history that this country was best known for its conflict diamond war, racked with brutal human rights atrocities such as massive limb amputations, child soldiers, and serious humanitarian crises. Today, Sierra Leone has had 2 back-to-back successful free and fair elections, and life there is marked with both improved economic and social development in addition to embracing democracy as a tradition.

Also last week we saw one of Africa’s oldest independent nations – Kenya – finally have a modern day election that has been declared free and fair with so far minimal ethnic violence in its wake, unlike the last two. Although the free and fair election of President-elect Kenyatta poses some new paradoxical challenges for international relations (including for the U.S.), as both he and his running mate have been  indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC)  for violence associated with the  2007 election. I set that aside from this election because I am talking about democratic processes not individuals. It will be for the ICC and the Kenyan people to determine the way forward out of this paradox and for other countries to determine how they will engage with President-elect Kenyatta.
Further political pluses have been seen throughout the region from 2010-2012 onward as many of the region’s countries became of age with some 11 countries holding transformative presidential elections. Nations ranging from Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, and Liberia to Senegal, the Seychelles, Republic of  Somaliland (chose by a Federal Parliament) and Zambia.

There were of course those countries which held elections during that same time period that still face uphill, in my view, on moving from a closed governance framework to a multiparty or more open election processes (e.g. Angola, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe). There are others who held reasonable elections such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, but face ethnic violence in the aftermath, and continued security, humanitarian, and human rights challenges in parts of the country.
In Ethiopia, we will need to see what happens there with new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who took over after the death of long time strong man.  And in Cote d’Ivoire, it overcame major obstacles by the international community and the people of the country pushing leader Laurent Gbagbo to accept in  2011 the democratic winner of the election Alassane Ouattara; Gbagbo now faces charges before the ICC for violence associated with the elections. Kenya had an election this month that eventually was declare free and fair, but signs continue that ethnic violence is on the rise as a result of the outcome.

All of this is to say that there are solid nascent changes that show that many nations in Sub-Saharan Africa are on the right track on top of those such as Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique, which have had democratic traditions now for decades.
Let’s Look @ The Economic Pluses
On to the economic news:  Here are some key areas of the economic pluses in the SSAfrica region:

Ø Positive Economic & GDP Growth Rates for many countries;

Ø  Increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI);

Ø  Increase in establishment of Equity Funds & Investments; and a,

Ø  Reset of  Capital Markets  in the region

Some of you might be aware that of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world today, seven of those are in sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana, for example, has maintained a double digit growth rate for the last 10 years; Ghana is still projected to be the fastest growing economy in the region 2013 at 8 percent; Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, and Zambia enjoyed high single digit growth last year in the 5-7 per cent range, with projections to stay on course in 2013  (The African Post, TAP -
Economic stories by leading media and research institutions in 2012 from the Economist, Financial Times, to McKinsey all have highlighted the checklist above about Africa’s Rising economic leadership, especially when the rest of world is struggling. But as we enter 2013, let’s recap the headline: 7 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are in SSAfrica. (

In fact, I have been urging (on my blog) the re-coining of the term BRICs which focuses on the economic prowess and growth rates of Brazil, Russia, India, China and in Africa only South Africa to the word BRICA in order to be more inclusive of the success and influence of other African nations that are enjoying positive growth rates at 5% or more. Hence, the “A” in BRICA represents for me these other high-GDP African countries, in addition to South Africa (which has a projected 3.5 per cent GDP), leaving room for others Africa nations to be included in this club as they progress forward.
The 5th BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa just concluded last week which spotlighted the economic importance of the Africa region. All BRIC presidents attended, including China’s new President Xi Jinping, and 15 African Heads of State.  Some key factoids of note:

BRICS Represent:

ü 25 per cent of FDI from  Russia, China and India goes to Africa;

ü 25 per cent of the world’s economy/GDP is from BRICS countries

ü 17 per cent of global trade

ü 50 per cent of global economic growth

ü $200 billion trade value among BRICS  
BRICS Initiatives:

ü BRICS are creating  a Development Bank focus on infrastructure, with a common currency pool to assist with development and loans as an alternative to IMF and other international financial institutions;

ü BRICS Development Bank would seek to have $100 billion in capitalization;

ü China to give Africa 20 billion in loans over next few years;

ü BRICS Business Council and BRICS Think Tank ideas further developed; and,

ü China and Brazil discuss a $30 million currency swap

Thus, there is a wave of economic growth and development for Africa’s emerging markets at a time of global economic downturn or slow recoveries in Europe, and in the U.S.
On top of the BRICS-related news, the average 2012 collective growth rate for SSAfrica is hovering between 6-7%, with The Economist and World Bank forecasting this to be the case for the region over the next 20 years.
The World Bank is also projecting for 2013 a collective average growth rate for SSAfrica of 5.8 per cent, possibly remaining in that range over the next 20 years (

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) on the Continent at the end of 2011 had risen to over $68 billion with projected FDI estimates for 2015 reaching more than $150 billion  (VP Africa World Bank speech 2/25/11; 2011 US FDI is $48 billion up from $41billion in 2010 ). China (infrastructure) and India (ICT/manufacturing) respectively are leading the way on both FDI and trade, with Brazil, Canada, and Japan not far behind. The U.S. still lags, but has picked up its game in 2012, and will hopefully continue in this trend in.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal notes that there are more than 79 investment funds which have been created in recent years exclusively focused on Africa paying 5-6 times earnings after taxes, depreciation, and amortization with projected 2011 year-end estimates of funds raised at over $8-10 billion.

Reset of Africa’s Capital Markets:
Africa’s capital markets are just now getting the attention they deserve.  From Zambia to Nigeria, and Namibia to Senegal, these emerging and frontier markets are doing well. Foreign institutional and private investors are looking for growth areas to combat Europe’s downturn and America’s snail-like recovery, and have recognized Africa as the place to be ( Stock market indexes in Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Namibia are up 33 per cent in 2012 in local currency terms.

Banks on the Continent are also improving their macroeconomic picture with many of them making the 2013 Best Emerging Market Bank list of Global Finance Magazine’s  as they have improved their asset growth, profitability, strategic relationships, customer service, competitive pricing, and innovative products. For the region Nigeria’s ECO Bank and First Bank are at the top of the list. (]
Other Key Economic Factoids:
ü    Collective projected GDP is expected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2020 (;  
ü    Debt dropped from 82% to 59% of GDP over the last 5 years;

ü    Inflation dropped Continent-wide from 22% to 8%, with many countries now in low double digits in this tough global economy;

ü     The Middle class is approximately 331 million people, translating into growing consumers with purchasing power;

ü     Households discretionary income is projected to rise by 50 per cent over next ten years (;

ü  African Diaspora remittances are up over the last 5 years adding to GDP growth, according to informal channels, accounting for 73 per cent of the  world-wide total remittance since 2005 (;

 ü    Growth sectors are agriculture; infrastructure, housing, manufacturing, ICT (SSAfrica mobile users are more than 100 million, with Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana leading the way); (

 ü    Africa today also remains one of the two regions of the world that has the most remaining arable land and available water resources, followed by Latin America.

These positive economic indicators definitely call for a reframing of Sub-Saharan Africa, as a multi-dimensional region with both positive stories, and challenges.
The Other Side of the Coin:  The Challenges
Despite the economic news, and real changes on the democracy and governance front for a number of Africa countries; there is the other side of the coin – the Challenges – that need real politick analyses and solutions.

Long lasting solutions are needed that do not call for the annihilation of one group or another. The old public diplomacy tool about building “mutual understanding” (which is a not do-as-I-say-discussion, but a real conversation) among disparate groups about contentious issues needs to come back in vogue. There are some key challenges that transcend the entire region. Despite the positive news that I outlined above, topping the list of challenges on the socio-political, economic and development scales are:
I. Socio-Political:

Ø Democracy, Governance, Human Rights -- We have seen over the last 18 months pressure on some fragile African democracies which underscores that the institutionalization of good governance still needs to be stronger over and above the number of countries which I noted above which are on the right track .

Ø   I do not know if some of Sub-Saharan Africa will eventually have its own version of the Tunisian-Libyan-Egyptian Arab Spring call for change. If so, I would hope that it is peaceful and defined by Africans– as the citizens of these remaining fragile countries demand democratic governance supported by local non-government organizations, and through social media.
Ø Here I am using the broad sense of governance to include freedom of the press, association and protecting universal human rights, particularly to help empower the Continent’s estimated 500 million women. (NB: Varying exact figures, but sites such as note that females make up 48-50% of the Continent-wide population).]
Ø Corruption and Transparency - are next:  Many of the countries that are faring well with their positive macro-economic factoids, still have challenges in these two all-important democracy pillars. On Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Index for 2011 of the 183 countries ranked, only 3 SSAfrica countries (Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa) where mid-rank 4.0-6 on TI’s upward 10 point scale. In 2012 TI used a 0-100 upward scale, only 5 SSAfrica countries where mid-ranked (Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Rwanda, and the Seychelles) (

Ø Transparency in the extractive industries remains one of the biggest issues. According to a April 25, 2012, report by U.S. auditing firm KPMG, bribery, theft and other kinds of fraud cost African governments and companies at least $10.9 billion in 2011 (NB: KPMG said it arrived at the figure after scouring English-language news reports and databases of fraud cases from 2011.

II. Economic Challenges:
Poverty, lack of food security, educational and employment opportunities are at the top of list of economic challenges for Africa.

Unfortunately many people of Sub Saharan Africa, despite living in resource-rich countries, are not benefitting from the economic boom, and remain impoverished, struggling with health and education issues, unemployment, and their countries failing to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Parts of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 are to improve the lives of 50 percent of Africans living on $1.25 to $ 2.00 per day down to 29 per cent. With three years to go toward the MDG deadlines, we are not near these goals.  (

Ø Poverty -   For most Africans the macroeconomic pluses I noted above have not reached the masses as the majority of the Continent’s nearly 1.5 billion people continue to live on $1.25 to $2.00 per day. According to the UN, despite sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth, the increase in per capita has only been from 2.7 in 2011 to 2.8% in 2012. Thus, despite the economic gains and economic boom, the Continent is not growing at sufficient levels to make a significant dent in poverty for the average African.  The minimum rate needs to be 3% per capita just to inch above the poverty line (  

Ø The region’s growing population (expected to reach 1.9 billion in 2030), high food and energy prices, the need for better access to basic and secondary education and good health services are key. There are reportedly 133 million young people in the region who cannot read. Youth and women are the most affected by the poverty indicators noted; thus on every sector of development youth and women must be at the center.  Some good news: In 1981 about 21% of the world population reported an improved quality of life; today 46 per cent of the world’s population reports an improvement in quality of life.*
Ø Economic income disparity  - Of the countries with the largest economic income disparities in the world, four of them are in Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana), with South Africa reportedly leading the way having the world’s greatest inequitable income distribution. Forty-three percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day, and in most of Africa it is less than $1.00 a day. By 2020, one million more people in the world will be pushed into poverty on top of the current 3 billion -- most of whom live in Africa.*

III. Subsets of Poverty: Food Security, Development, Lack of Education &  Employment.

 Ø According to 2011 World Hunger and Poverty Facts, of the 925 million hungry people in the world 239 million live in sub-Saharan, 26 per cent of this figure are children ( In West Africa alone 8.2 million children are affected by food security or are malnourished.

   Ø These are staggering numbers only outpaced by the Asia and Pacific region with 578 million people facing daily hunger. These are all heart breaking stats, in spite of the world’s ability to produce enough food to feed everyone, according to FAO. Although there is a resurgence in the focus on agriculture by many African governments, past neglect in the sector over the last 30 years, by governments and international institutions, has helped lead to the current situation. Therefore the region has to play catch-up at the same time its population is growing at an enormous rate in parallel to rising food and energy prices.  Remember it is not just about food availability, but nutritional and adequate food amounts. 
Ø Development – A Myriad of Issues:  Lack of education and strong health services; the need for the right kind of agricultural development (including improved use of water, land, and renewable energy); improvement in infrastructure, access to electricity and transport; and, regional trade are all challenges for the region. Improvement in rail, infrastructure (particularly electricity), and trade are next on the list. Connecting Africa both infrastructurally and with trade between and among nations are key to further sustainable development.
Ø  Only about 1 in 4 Africans have access to electricity, intra-African trade is about 10 percent of total exports, and roughly 30% of the region has paved roads or working railways. (
Ø    Employment: Lack of job creation and education are the other legs to the poverty stool, but the main emphasis may not need to be just on traditional jobs or traditional education, but on entrepreneurial opportunities, SME development, vocational training and capacity building programs alongside of traditional education. No donor today, in my view, focuses enough on SME, vocational or entrepreneurial training, or works vigorously enough with the African Diaspora.

IV. Security: Rise of Jihad-ism, Insecurity & Clash of World Views:

As regards to the challenges in the region, I started talking about the socio-political and economic challenges first because in some respect they are the fundamentals of some of the insecurity we see in the region, particularly for the countries that immediately border North Africa such as Northern Nigeria, Mali, Niger, and parts of Somalia. 

In some countries these insecurity issues are connected to political issues, lack of opportunity and the resource-related problems noted above. Other security issues include transnational threats such as drugs and human trafficking – with forced labor being one of the biggest human rights issues in the world.
All of these subset issues provide a fertile ground for a range of things: the rise of jihad-ism in certain countries like Mali, parts of Nigeria, Niger, and Mauritania, and Al-Shabaab remnants in Somalia.
In other places these subset challenges cause ethnic conflict sometimes further driven by political differences  and economic disparities (such as in Kenya’s post-election violence, Tanzania’s Zanzibar, instability in Guinea Bissau, South Africa’s mining-related violence, constant fighting between the two Sudans, and the recent coup in Central African Republic last week led by military leader Djotodia). 
On the rise of Jihadism, certainly, in Mali, Northern Nigeria, and Niger and other countries in the western Sahel we have seen evidence of the role and support that Al Qaeda affiliates such as AQUIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based principally in Algeria), Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (based principally in Yemen) are playing, and have played in Somalia.
Many countries in the region have porous borders and fragile security institutions which cannot adequately monitor these activities, but improvement on some of the demographics I noted above , particularly education and food security as well as stronger internal security agencies, regulations, customs and border institutions Might help.

But in my view these staggering demographics are not the entire picture:   I do believe from my experience on the ground that there is also a Clash of World View or Civilizations at hand, a philosophical difference of values, meaning what is right and what is wrong is at their core seen differently.  This difference is important to recognize as the things we see as important are not part of their perception or the world they want.  We need to keep in mind that they feel as strongly about their world view as we do.
The question is how do we go about helping to address the insecurity, improve the enabling environment, and/or co-exist with the jihadist, providing we can find a way for them not to do us harm. That is – if this is remotely possible even if it may not be desirable. There may not be good options here, but I am calling a coexistence and containment (C2) option may be our best short-to-medium term bet.
I think we need to better understand their issues, goals, and our challenges. We do not appear to have a viable long-term strategy to deal with what we are facing, and, we need to. The reports that we are talking with the Taliban I actually think are good because we are not going to be able to understand their human cultural differences if we do not know them better. I would argue the same for the other groups. I also think part of that understanding for us is to realize that we may not agree. However, can we coexist without planning to kill each other? 
I am all for fighting back against people intent on doing us harm, but the first order for me is to better understand both the challenges and the world view differences. If we do this we might be able to identify some shared values or create ones that might reduce tensions and the threat – but mutual understanding has to be part of the solution. Do we have to go to war always to win peace and security? These will be the key questions for all of in the U.S. as seek to address this growing rise in Jihadism in the region.
In concluding, the  list of positives and challenges I have outlined is by no means exhaustive, but provide some strategic points for you to consider as we all try to work together to create shared values to support the region’s efforts to move forward on all fronts – democratically, politically, and economically.
*(3/4/13 - CCTVnews Africa report - Terryanne Chabet).