CRF Blog

America and Africa

by David De La Torre

In The next great disruption, The Economist looks at on how America will greet a rising Africa.

Africa is set to deliver a fresh asymmetric shock to the global order, taking its place as the last great emerging market. Its population is set to double by 2050, and will be astonishingly young …. Does Barack Obama’s America have the patience and confidence to welcome this change, harnessing it for mutual gain? Or is today’s America more like an old-world power, risk-averse, inward-looking and fearful of change? Africa may seem a sideshow now, but it is not a bad test of America’s standing in the world.

Speaking to The Economist on his way back from a speech in Kansas City, the president acknowledges that global balances of power have shifted since America “necessarily” moved to create a post-war order. Now, says Mr Obama, the global “ecosystem” belongs to everybody. If that brings greater competition, he argues that his country can still be “central” to the process of moving Africa into the next stage of growth. He lists America’s strengths, from the global standing of its companies to its traditions of transparency, accountability, the rule of law and property rights. America’s economy is based on ideas and innovation. “Our emphasis on developing human capital is something that Africa very much wants and we’re good at,” he says. Finally, Africa has “fascinating” opportunities to “leapfrog certain technologies and skip certain phases of development”. He recalls meeting small farmers in Senegal whose smartphones gave them profit-boosting news about the weather, market reports, even new seed technologies. America is “better than just about anybody else” at such smart applications of technology. [more]