Sixty years on, Africa still seeks right model for growth

Lack of transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, say experts. (AFP/File)
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Updated 30 December 2019

Sixty years on, Africa still seeks right model for growth

  • The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo

PARIS: As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: That year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.
But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.
Here are some of the key issues:
Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than 1 billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.
“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth ... a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.
“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment.”
Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups.
The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line — less than $1.90 per day — fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.
But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).
“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.
Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”
“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”
Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.
More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.


Big oil feels the heat on climate as industry leader promises: ‘We will be different’

Updated 22 January 2020

Big oil feels the heat on climate as industry leader promises: ‘We will be different’

  • Trump singles out ‘prophets of doom’ for attack
  • Greenpeace told the Davos gathering that the world’s largest banks, funds and insurance companies had invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal

LONDON: Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg slammed inaction over climate change as the global oil industry found itself under intense scrutiny on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The teenage campaigner went head to head with US President Donald Trump, who dismissed climate “prophets of doom” in his speech.
She in turn shrugged off the US president’s pledge to join the economic forum’s initiative to plant 1 trillion trees to help capture carbon dioxide.
“Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough,” Thunberg said. “It cannot replace mitigation. We need to start listening to the science and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves,” the 17-year-old said.
The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum was dominated by the global threat posed by climate change and the carbon economy.
The environmental focus of Davos 2020 caps a year when carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high, and the devastating effects of bushfires in Australia and other climate disasters dominated the news.
Oil company executives from the Gulf and elsewhere are in the spotlight at this year’s Davos meeting as they come under increased pressure to demonstrate how they are reducing their carbon footprint.
“We are not only fighting for our industry’s life but fighting for people to understand the things that we are doing,” said Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental, the US-based oil giant with extensive oil operations in the Gulf. “As an industry when we could be different — we will be different.”

‘Planting trees is good, but nowhere near enough,’ activist Greta Thunberg told Davos. (Shutterstock)

She said the company was getting close to being able to sequester significant volumes of CO2 in the US Permian Basin, the heartland of the American shale oil industry which is increasingly in competition with the conventional oil producers of the Arabian Gulf.
“The Permian Basin has the capacity to store 150 gigatons of CO2. That would be 28 years of emissions in the US. That’s the prize for us and that’s the opportunity. People say if you’re sequestering in an oil reservoir then you are producing more oil, but the reality is that it takes more CO2 to inject into a reservoir than the barrel of oil that it makes come out,” Hollub said.
The challenge Occidental and other oil companies face is to make investors understand what is happening in this area of carbon sequesteration, she added.
The investment community at Davos is also looking hard at the oil industry in the face of mounting investor concerns.
Greenpeace told the Davos gathering that the world’s largest banks, funds and insurance companies had invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal. It accused some of these groups of failing to live up to the World Economic Forum goal of “improving the state of the world.”