Is Africa the Next Asia?
Image Credit: Chinese Foreign Ministry

Is Africa the Next Asia?


The rhetoric surrounding Africa, or at least the continent’s economic development, appears to be changing.

Despite the ongoing global economic turmoil, a number of African nations have been making impressive strides in their development, a point underscored by The Economist’s decision recently to run a leader describing Africa as the “hopeful continent,” drawing a clear contrast to its cover story “The Hopeless Continent” a decade ago.

And the continent’s leaders are now looking east for their inspiration. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, for example, has said he hopes to eventually transform his country’s economy into the “Singapore of Central Africa.” Such sentiments tap into the vast and growing repository of Afro-optimism, an optimism that sees sustained economic growth as the future, even as the north of the continent is embroiled in domestic political turmoil and uprisings.

So, is it Africa’s time to replicate the economic growth feats of Asia? This may seem like a herculean task, but given the recent economic gains made in countries like Ghana, which posted 13.5 percent growth last year as it casts off the failed economic policies of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the success of recent BRICS addition South Africa, there’s now hope for an “African miracle.”

But if Asia is the guide for Africa’s economic miracle, then the Asian foundations of a strong state and supporting institutions must be made a reality in Africa. The examples of China and Japan loom large in the minds of many African leaders and elites. Yet in contrasts with these two Asian giants, the post-independent African state is still encumbered with significant structural weaknesses, a lack of professionalism and an excess of cronyism, patronage and other corrupt practices that would make even officials involved in some of China’s most notorious cases of corruption blush. This lingering image has undermined efforts to settle on a positive economic agenda in Africa, even when visionary leaders of developmentally-oriented states such as Mauritius and Botswana have emerged.

Some argue that the East Asian model of state-driven economic growth might not be suitable for African states, given the apparent weaknesses in their leaders’ characters (this isn’t to mention the somewhat troubling view that Africans are inherently not up to the task of producing sustained and healthy economic growth). With this in mind, some argue that the social, historical and structural weaknesses demonstrated by many African states suggest that their economies would instead be better off relying on market incentives, i.e., the Southeast Asian path beaten by Singapore and Indonesia.

Regardless of the model that African nations choose to follow, achieving the enviable growth patterns of some Asian economies will require the strengthening of intra-regional trade. Africa’s recent economic gains have been mainly driven by external trade, especially with emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Korea. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute puts intra-African trade at a lowly 12 percent, about half that achieved in Latin America. This is despite almost a billion consumers residing in the African continent, meaning that intra-African trade should no longer be perceived as an insignificant element of any country’s economy, but rather a potential path toward market consolidation and leverage for African markets in the global economy. China and other Asian economies offer clear examples of the benefits of looking local as well as outside the region.

February 18, 2013 at 09:24

First Advisor


I think sadly you are right, particularly seen as SSA has never really had a technologically advance "indiginoues/home grown" society, but much more simple/tribal based Societies (and no Egypt was not ruled/built by SSA) and there is plenty of evidence to back your opinion.

However I don't think the situation is 100% hopeless. Afrcia WILL develop to a "certain extent". However it won't become the next China / Japan / East Asia or one of the more traditional Western Developed regios like Northern America / Europe and Australasia, for a very, very long time, if ever!

I think SSA (Africa) at best will become something like Latin America or South Asia now. Even South Asia will not be the next China/Japan for a VERY, VERY LONG time. South Asia has far too many societal and internal problems – EG Overpopulation (like SSA) / a massive poor / small middle class / endemic corruption and a larges uneducated/semi-literate and ignorant population. SSA compared to South Asia has far worse problems… So development will be cumbersome and slow at best.

If you ask me, I also this Western Egalitarianism and Foreign Aid, is a problem its a never ending handout, that actually (IMHO) slows Africa to think of solutions for its own problems, add to that most of Africas leaders are bought my the Internation Montary Markets! So too are most developing world countries, but is particularly bad in SSA!


Ben Nmah
December 10, 2012 at 01:27

As long as Africa puts its fundamentals

August 26, 2012 at 12:23

Ha…..ha…haha…HAHAHAHAHA. Thanks for the laugh; I needed it.

August 14, 2012 at 14:37

All of the success stories you mentioned achieved success largely through forms of protecting infant industries.  Under current restrictions placed on these countries by Bretton Woods et al we are unlikely to see much development in their industrial sectors beyond becoming production beds for East Asian industry.

August 14, 2012 at 08:47

China is stepping in again, Maybe that is future china not future asia.

sucker borneveryminute
August 6, 2012 at 06:23

hahahaha, anyone want to invest in some fine swampland I have for sale??

April 17, 2012 at 07:51

Africa will only rise with Foreign Aid and FDI and for this, it will have to clean up its act in all the areas mentioned in the comments above. China’s population is growing old where as that of India is young and the youngest of all is the African continent’s populace. Historically it has been proved growth rates are maximum with a largely productive population. Corruption in DC and UDC’s is the biggest problem today draining valuable resources which could be used to build infrastructure. But the rising protests in these countries prove that they will no longer remain silent and if those who are in power want to remain there- they better prove their worth and fast! The West has also reached a point of Saturation with stagnating or creeping figures. If Goldman Sachs is to be believed BRICS will take over in the next 20 years and in the coming 50, its the N-11.

April 8, 2012 at 17:41

Why then did Confucianism not prevent the collapse of the Qing and the decline of China in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? If Confucianism gave China a permanent advantage, it is hard to see that it had any effect – when viewed against the historical background. In any case, Chinese religious practice from what I can see seems quite Buddhist as well – and that comes from ….. India.

Have you been to India? Their cities are beginning to look more and more like Chinese cities. Their success is clear to see – as the movements in their HDI and GDP figures over the last decade show. No major MNC does not have an India strategy – and they seem to doing very well there.

The aversion to State debt is also strange. Public debt has been a key instrument of growth even going back to Medieval Europe (where it was invented). British public debt was also a key factor i its rise. Too much is obviously bad as in Europe today – but not inluding it the tool box makes no sense. I have seen no concerns raised with the levels of Indian debt – or Indonesian debt – and both are doing very well.

April 8, 2012 at 08:38

Dear 50 cents bridgade,

Did Confucius also teach you that Africa was a country?

50 cents bridgade
April 7, 2012 at 11:57

As usual, a lot of article were written about EAST Asia success. However, as usual, these article were written by some white folks who do not live and understand EAST Asia culture. If you are an EAST Asian, you will be able to see a trend in all these countries. All of these countries share a similar heritage, which is “Confucius”. All these countries including Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, etc have a strong Confucius influence. We in EAST Asian are thought by our parents to respect our elders, save hard, work hard, etc. Just look at India, a lot talk about how they are going to beat China and East Asia. How desperately they clamor to joined the EAST Asian elite club. Till today India is still considered a failure. They are still a DEBTOR country like the rest of the west and Africa. A lot of rubbish talk by the west and India that China is a communist country. However, for those who a descendant of EAST Asian people will gladly point out that China has a “paternal political system” following Confucius doctrine”. Go read Confucius if the west and India want to understand EAST Asia success. If country like the West, Africa or India wants to join the EAST Asian elite, learn and embrace Confucianism. However, for the stuborn few, emulate western political folly.

April 7, 2012 at 08:41

Matt, this is what was once said about India as well – but that is not where India has gone. Africa will also get there. In the business world, Africa is beginning to appear on the radar – unquestionably. And capital does not make these kinds of calls unless they see opportunities. Just check out the growth rates of key African economies – what you see is a snapshot of Asia about a generation ago. Remeber what Asia was like a generaion ago – war in SE Asia, seeming intractable poverty in India but quietly, despite all this, Asia was moving – as Africa is today. A Pan-African structure would also give Africans economies of scale, and that too seems to be moving along.

Matt Dowd
April 7, 2012 at 02:01

Tribal disputes, overpopulation, environmental degradation, islam, and a lack of education will keep Africa poor. It’s simple Zhonni, each country was divided up after colonization according to the occupying European country. Usually the African leaders of this country were all from a chosen tribe, leaving one group of tribe in power and other tribes in the dust. Historically all of these tribes faught all the time unable to come together and progress society, which is why African society was primitive for so long. Almost every African country has experienced civil war because of this outcome, and now that each of the tribes has guns it is much to kill the other tribe. Africa will never progress beyond a 3rd world existence. Its organized chaos really…

April 4, 2012 at 12:49

I guess you would just have to watch and see. Africa will rise again. Development is inevitable and I don’t know why you are so blind to realize that.

The population is starting to demand more of their Presidents and Leaders. The leaders are starting to want to show what they have accomplished as opposed to lining their pockets and not doing a thing. Those days are gone.

First Advisor
April 4, 2012 at 04:36

I’m always perplexed by these kinds of articles of wishful thinking on Africa. The optimistic view seems merely one more symptom or character trait of the terrible genetic defects of liberalism. Living in a fairytale fantasy world is the tragic, inevitable result, the simple inability to perceive reality. Showing a growth of double digits for a year or two is easy for a country that previously showed decades of zero or negative growth. Imagining Africans are capable of sustained growth is plainly preposterous. The genetic defects of liberalism are horrific and sorrowful, yes, but we are responsible for fighting our weaknesses and flaws, and liberalists must find some sane limit in what is practical and realistic. Sub-Saharan Africa will never develop so long as it is populated by sub-Saharan Africans. Never. Not in 10,000 years or generations. Never.

mike flynn
April 4, 2012 at 02:35

does africa really gain? when the reports i read say china imports even the labor force for projects? when china is making african land an extension of china the “breadbasket” of china? does this help africa develop strong instituitions any better than western paternalism did? what happens when chinses interests bump up against islam’s advances in africa? call in the US marines?

April 4, 2012 at 00:35

A decade ago,when in standard VIII,in a chapter on Africa,i came to know that it had been termed as ‘The Dark Continent’ because nobody knew about its vivid details…But today,a complete makeover has occurred and now a new world of opportunities,economic and social development is emerging…Good luck Africa!!!

Go China
April 3, 2012 at 20:14

Yes it is and so is the corruption that comes with it.

China has made many Phd’s of corruption but, should be commended
for bringing to Africa what the west did not. It just shows that
US and EU diplomacy missed the mark.

AS long as the USA has the Foreign Corruption Practices Act
many US businesses will never succeed in Africa

April 3, 2012 at 19:41

Africa is known as one of the richest parts of the world in terms of natural resources, yet it is also the poorest region – despite the natural wealth and the aid flow. The impact of exploitation of its natural resources on the lives of its poor, is not being addressed adequately. Foreign investment is the key to convert the “hopeless continent” into a “developed continent”. A sense of Pan-African identity is important for the purpose. China is undertaking aggressive investment in Africa. India due to its laid back approach is far behind.

A K SAXENA (A retired civil servant)

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