Dr. Emmanuel Johnson: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 January 2021:
Africa has become the fastest urbanizing region of the world, with rural migrants moving into cities at a clip that has even surpassed that of China and India, as the continent becomes one of the last frontiers of the fourth industrial revolution.
This rapid transition presents enormous challenges but also offers big rewards for countries willing to risk billions in an infrastructure building revolution unlike anything the world has seen before – and no country has answered Africa’s call quite like China.
This breakneck pace of urbanization comes with many unprecedented economic opportunities. The IMF recently declared Africa the world’s second-fastest-growing region, and many predict that it is well on its way to becoming a $5 trillion economy, as household consumption expected to increase at a 3.8% yearly clip to $2.1 trillion by 2025.
The attention of the world is now drifting towards Africa, with comparisons to 1990s-era China are no longer appearing radical projections.
But China began lobbying Africa extensively, getting the People’s Republic recognized one country at a time. Before long, these political commitments were being repaid in concrete and steel, as China started building railroads, hospitals, universities, and stadiums throughout the continent.
However, there were other reasons for China’s early partnerships with Africa: even though the colonial powers have gone or on the way out, the continent was still the same stockpile of natural resources it’s always been, and China wasted no time stepping into the power vacuum, laying the political and economic inroads that have given Beijing the advanced position it has there today.
Infrastructure is what Africa needs most, and infrastructure is what China is most equipped to provide. We do not lose it on many African leaders that hardly 30 years ago China was in a similar place that they are now – a backwater country whose economy made up hardly two percent of global GDP.
But over the past few decades, China shocked the world in how it used infrastructure to propel economic growth, creating a high-speed rail network that now tops 29,000 kilometers, paving over 100,000 kilometers of new expressways, constructing over 100 new airports, and building no less than 3,500 new urban areas – which include 500 economic development zones and 1,000 city-level developments. Over this period, China’s GDP has grown over 10-fold, ranking number two in the world today.
Africa has roughly half of the world’s stock of manganese, an essential ingredient for steel production, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on its own possesses half of the planet’s cobalt.
Africa also has significant amounts of coltan needed for electronics and half of the world’s known supply of carbonates, a rock formation that’s the primary source of rare earth.