Jolyon Ford of Oxford Analytica:
I wonder if we should perhaps think of sub-Saharan Africa as a collection not so much of jointly emerging markets, but of diverging ones.
Last week I was privileged, under the umbrella of the commendable ‘Invest in Africa’ initiative, to join experienced businesspeople in London discussing endemic inaccurate negative perceptions by outsiders of the relative risk of doing business in African countries.
The curiosity is that longstanding, ingrained negative perceptions persist now alongside a more recent, contrary trend – the more hyperbolic proponents of which claim that anyone not rushing to invest in Africa must need their head examined.
There is perhaps no better theme for a contemporary African Argument – for those following business issues as well as (often related) developmental or political ones – than efforts to unpack and understand this ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. Simon Freemantle’s recent post here is an excellent addition. It develops an argument he delivered with typical cool conviction at a recent Joburg event where we reflected on the proposition ‘Africa: New Hope or New Hype?’ hosted by Ernst & Young’s Michael Lalor.
There are many dimensions to getting behind simple binary characterisations of either ‘Africa rising: all is great’ or ‘Nothing new here: it’s a false dawn’. Each time one goes (as we constantly must) behind the headline rates of growth, one sees the complexity – both the exaggeration about transformative progress, and the under-reporting (or misreporting) of the many positive achievements and trends.