- Posted by Kieth Oliver
- On January 8, 2016
- 0 Comments
The narrative of a continent on the rise has been rudely buffeted in recent times, with falling prices for oil and key commodities hurting several of the largest economies. There have been setbacks in key areas such as government corruption and education, while ongoing conflicts add to the uncertainty.
But the overall picture is far from bleak. African countries account for four of the world’s top 10fastest-growing economies, innovation has flourished widely, and there is progress — albeit piecemeal – towards democracy and accountability in governance.
This year will bring acid tests in political, economic and development arenas. Little will be predictable, but here are a few features of the landscape to keep an eye on.
Country — Ethiopia
The fastest growing economy in the world, according to the World Bank, is projected to grow around 10% a year until 2017.
Addis Ababa has implemented ambitious development plans that have seen it embark on massive infrastructure projects, open its commodity markets to foreign investors, and boost productivity in key sectors. Ethiopia is also enjoying greater diplomatic clout, hosting international events such as the 2015 Finance for Development Summit. There are concerns the country’s newfound prosperity has shaky foundations, but it will be at the heart of the action in 2016.
Megaproject — Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway
From Uganda’s Jinja Bridge to South Africa’s attempt at the world’s largest radio telescope, Africa is awash with ambitious visions.
The difference with this new 800-kilometer train line connecting Ethiopia’s capital with Somali port city Djibouti is it arrives ahead of schedule. The first cargo train took the journey in October, and full operations are set to commence in 2016. Funded with $3 billion of Chinese investment, and selected as one of Knight Frank’s top global infrastructure projects, the participants expect the new line to offer lucrative new trade opportunities.
Election — DR Congo
A crucial year for democratic progress will see Ghana, Morocco and Zambia elect new leaders.
Perhaps the greatest intrigue centers around a contest that may not happen. President Joseph Kabila is approaching 15 years in power, and the constitution obliges him to step down this year, but opponents believe he is determined to cling to power. Expect rising tensions and street protests ahead of the notional polling day in November. Should Kabila step aside, soccer magnate Moise Katumbi is being tipped to challenge. New leadership could help unleash the latent power of one of the most resource-rich nations in the world.
Technology — Solar power
The COP21 conference saw the launch of the African Renewable Energy Initiative, with a pledge to add 300 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030.
Solar is very much the cornerstone, with vast new developments in South Africa and Rwanda building capacity, and new companies such as Kenya’s M-Kopabringing the power to homes at the lowest possible rates. With rapidly improving technology and expertise, African countries can be global leaders in solar.
Company — Safemotos
After suffering a serious accident himself, entrepreneur Peter Kariuki launched a company to help address Rwanda’s notoriously dangerous roads.
Safemotos is an Uber-style app for motorcycle taxis, but with the twist that drivers are forensically evaluated on safety measures to ensure that cowboys are swiftly filtered out. The company has made a rapid progress; clocking up 4,000 rides since launching in June, and has secured investment ahead of expansion into Nigeria, Uganda and Benin. The founders estimate their total market could be worth $250 million. Watch them fly in 2016.
Commodity — Platinum
2015 was a chastening year for commodity markets, but there may be a bright spot amid the gloom, according to Monique Mathys, Chief Economist at the South Africa Chamber of Mines.
“It’s not going to be an easy ride the first half of next year, but come the end of the year, we do expect to see stabilization,” Mathys told CNN. “The sector has been substantially loss-making for an extended period of time… So I do think watch the platinum quite closely. $840 an ounce, it’s at an all-time low. It’s one to watch.”
Watch the video above to find out more about the year ahead for Africa