Africa’s natural resources and fast-growing population will help ensure the continent prospers even if the developed world suffers another economic meltdown, Nigeria’s president said.
Goodluck Jonathan told a business forum in the Australian city of Perth he was confident that strong economic growth seen since 2000 in Africa would be maintained thanks to increasingly strong financial and political fundamentals.
“Africa has come a long way from the 1990s, which was characterised as a lost decade for development,” Jonathan told the gathering of mining chiefs and other powerful businessmen from mostly Commonwealth nations on Wednesday.
“All across Africa there is optimism that this positive trend will continue.”
Jonathan cited the continent’s ability to feed the China-driven global commodities boom as one of the major reasons for believing in Africa’s new-found economic resilience.
He pointed out that Africa had 10% of the world’s reserves of oil and gas, 40% of its gold and about 80% of its bauxite, as well as significant quantities of chromium, uranium and iron ore.
Jonathan said Africa’s young and increasingly educated population was of equal importance, with 65% of the continent’s people aged 25 or under.
“Africa’s potential to contribute to the global economy… is underpinned by its vast store of natural resources and a rapidly growing population,” he said.
The president acknowledged that there were similar hopes for Africa in the 1960s and early 1970s that went unfulfilled as the continent was ravaged by political conflict.
Economic growth rates
“I believe, however, that this time it’s different,” he said, insisting that economic and governance conditions were improving across the region.
“Through better economic management, most of the countries have brought inflation under control and are now attracting increased private capital flows,” he said.
“This situation has been complemented by the reduction in conflict situations and the progress towards democracy.”
Jonathan, who won an election in April to lead Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer, said that governments were increasingly gaining power through legitimate means.
“Democracies… are at an all-time high,” he said, adding that as a consequence the number of major conflicts in Africa was down to four compared with 14 in the 1990s.
Jonathan urged investors concerned with the current global economic problems, driven by the eurozone debt crisis, to look at Africa’s performance of recent years.
He said that in 2009, when Western economies were in recession at the height of the global financial crisis, Africa’s economies as a group expanded by 4.3%.
And this year African economies are forecast to expand by about 4.7%, he added.
“Over the course of the past decade African countries have experienced impressive economic growth rates… while the global financial crisis has shrunk the traditional safe havens for investments,” he said.
Jonathan will on Friday join leaders from other members of the 54-nation Commonwealth bloc of mostly former British colonies for a political summit in Perth. The event is held every two years.