The rise of Asia – is Africa ready to capitalize?

Goldman Sachs released a report predicting the top four economies by 2050 as China, India, USA and Japan – signaling the dawn of Asia and subsequently a new era.

Goldman Sachs released a report predicting the top four economies by 2050 as China, India, USA and Japan – signaling the dawn of Asia and subsequently a new era.

Asians have finally understood, absorbed, and implemented Western best practices in many areas: from free-market economics to modern science and technology, from meritocracy to rule of law.

They have also become innovative in their own way, creating new patterns of cooperation not seen in the West; they have taken what works, and made it better.

If it is the case, that power is shifting to the East, then it raises fundamental questions to me. Firstly, what does this mean for Africa and Rwanda specifically? Secondly, what are the different policy options that the continent needs to subscribe to?

A simple truth is that any society can succeed, and small Singapore clearly manifested this. In order to be successful, we Africans-like the continuously emerging Asian powers- need to be in the driver’s seat of our own economies and policies, so that we may control our own fate.

African countries should cautiously learn from these emerging powers, by working very hard and of course bring their houses in order. Good governance, security, strong macro- and micro-economic environments should be central to our policies.

Asian countries led by Indian and Chinese industrialization are driving a ravenous demand for raw materials and new markets.

Countries like China and India are pursuing the same trajectory taken by many post-industrial countries at critical moments in their economic history: Europe’s colonization of Africa; US imperialism in Latin America; Japan’s occupations of China and Korea.

In short, China and other Asian countries hope they can help sustain their economic expansion by turning Africa into a sphere of influence. And this is where our true opportunities lay.

What makes this story remarkable is that for the first time since the end of colonial rule, a major power sees in Africa not a charity case, a landscape of endless need, but an exceptional strategic and business opportunity.

Furthermore, what makes this fascinating is the fact that decision-making no longer rests in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin alone – the new players are constantly demanding a share of the influence, and they do not care whether there is a war in Darfur, instability in Nigeria or peace and quiet in Rwanda – they will go ahead and close deals.

If Western countries can eventually be a healthy counterbalance to Asian influence in Africa, that will, in the long run, be good for Africa.

However, that requires looking at Africa and seeing beyond oil, beyond terrorism, beyond the images of famine and conflict. It requires that Western businesses look at Africa as they look at any other market: an opportunity. The East appears to already be there, and it is our opportunity to grab.

I personally believe that it is time that young Africans drop their fetish of going to the West in pursuit of higher education, and rather consider Asian universities.

African leaders will be looking East as they make their plans for the future - the more Africans we have who understand how to apply Asian lessons learned to the African context, and who understand how to work with Asian economies and political bodies, the more capable we will be to turn this Asian opportunity into an African one.

liban.mugabo@gmail.com

 

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