The winds of change have been blowing over the African continent for a long time.
In economic terms, many countries are developing and have already partly developed away from purely raw-materials-based economy. South Africa is the largest economy on the continent, but the middle class is growing fast in many countries, raising consumer demand. Production and the creation of added value through service processes are increasingly common.
With its large population, Africa as a whole will inevitably grow more important economically as factors contributing to corruption, unemployment and other types of political instability are brought under control in different sectors. With increasing stability, indications of intense growth have become apparent in many places, such as Nigeria. With Zimbabwe adopting the US dollar as its base currency there is no longer a single country in the world suffering from hyperinflation. These are examples of progress on the long path towards balance which will improve the status of African nations in the international economy.
Operating in Africa requires a longterm perspective and background research, and there are no quick rewards. Responsible practices should be a priority among foreign companies: investing in the development of local skills and expertise will help to harness the enormous potential of the continent also in the future.
Europe is late in realising the many opportunities of Africa. The Chinese are already a powerful presence on the ground, supporting the development of many countries, exploiting natural resources and pulling their weight politically. The role of the Chinese may be changing, however. The race for “the Star of Africa” is escalating.
Upcoming elections in more than 15 African countries will in part indicate the direction of the future development of the continent. It remains to be seen whether Africa has the potential to become a new global concentration of outsourcing and production. Much depends on whether the many challenges can be turned into opportunities.
Research shows that there are today less armed conflicts in the world than ever before. Acquainting myself with ARS 11, I felt very strongly the connection between the work addressing the Rwandan genocide and the present day and global events. Art has and always will retain its important role as an instigator of discussion and as an interpreter of different eras, cultures and international relations.
The writer is CEO of Deloitte and Chairman of the Kiasma Foundation.