WORLDPOST

Africa Is Not Hopeless

09/11/2012 03:03 pm ET | Updated Nov 07, 2012

Africa will never pull itself out of its economic abyss. Everyone in Africa lives in poverty. The kids are all malnourished. Malaria is ubiquitous and unavoidable. I hear these blanket statements and broad generalities about Africa all the time, usually treating it as a single behemoth of a country. First of all, let's get things straight: Africa is made up of many countries with stark differences across cultures, landscape, and economies. Second of all, Africa can no longer be called the "Dark Continent." It can no longer be called the place where civilization and good governance go to die. Continuing to do so is a disservice to the leaps and bounds of progress any of a number of African countries have made in the last two decades.

Let's take, for example, Ghana amongst several other solidly middle-income African countries. The nation is ripe for exponential growth, development, and investment. It has what can be termed a plethora of opportunities to build capacity, encourage growth, and lower poverty levels. And a friend of mine in the U.S. Foreign Service tells me the beaches are beautiful. Ghana has opened itself up to international companies and investment, understanding the need for a globalized society. In turn, this willingness to open up promotes growth. But, Ghana is far from being alone. Angola, Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia all fit the World Bank's criteria for middle-income countries. These categorizations are heartening. Africa is not an economic black hole.

One of the keys to success is that African countries are teeming with capital. By this, I mean human capital. 10 million young people are set to become part of the collective African workforce this year. The main effect of the availability of such a large labor force means that these African countries have the capability of catalyzing development and consumption of goods through their stores of human capital. The manpower available is a force to be reckoned with, functioning as a driver of economic development.

McKinsey & Company conducted a study on the state of economic growth on the African continent. The results were nothing short of phenomenal, advancing what has long been a fight to demolish preconceived notions about the abysmal state of Africa's development. The continent's total GDP in 2008 amounted to $1.6 trillion, roughly the same amount as Russia's GDP. Also in 2008, consumers in Africa spent $860 billion. These numbers are only set to rise, amounting to trillions of dollars in GDP and consumer spending over the next decade or so. The statistics speak for themselves.

Of course, there will be people who criticize, there will be naysayers. There will be people who focus on the negatives. Nigeria has corruption and scam artists, they say. Somalia is lawless, full of pirates, and will never have any semblance of governance. Ever. But, so what? Who thinks the developed world does not have its fair share of problems? How can we forget about Mitt Romney's conveniently unavailable tax filings and Bain Capital's shady dealings? How can we ignore that the conservatives in the U.S. are waging a war against women and their reproductive rights? Or that Italy's economy is spiraling downwards? The point is that the sphere needs to be opened up for economic growth, investment, and development in African countries. The possibilities are endless. Also, while we're at it, the sweeping and overwhelmingly negative generalizations of what 'Africa' is need to stop.