The Sunday Mail
In the 19th century, the allure of Africa drew some fortune seeking Westerners to seize the continent. That was the first surge of foreign interest in Africa, the Scramble for Africa.
Fast forward to the 21st century and we have history repeating itself, albeit taking an interesting twist. The current bilateral surge, though more benign this time around, could stand Africa in good stead if handled properly.
Once marginalised in the community of nations, Africa is emerging as a global supplier of crucial raw materials, talk of oil, uranium, diamonds and agricultural produce, among others.
Many countries, the United States included, have already taken note of the potential in Africa’s anticipated transformation, and have decided to increase their engagement.
While plenty has already been written about China’s growing presence, there is a growing list of other countries pursuing stronger economic ties.
The recently concluded 12th edition of the US-Africa Business Summit is testament to that. Washington, through its softening foreign policy, is presently seeking a foothold in Africa, home to valuable raw materials and a huge, younger and more profitable market.
The Summit, which brought together more than ten Heads of State and Government, also put more than 1000 American and African business executives and investors under one roof. It was an opportunity to exchange notes on how Africa and the United States can synergise in key sectors such as agribusiness, energy, health, infrastructure, among others, for the benefit of the countries involved.
Indeed, the American and African governments are moving towards strengthening diplomatic, strategic and commercial ties.
In the case of Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already opened up the country for foreign direct investment through a more accommodative indigenisation policy, which has seen the inflows of foreign direct investment jumping upwards.
Harare is also home to one of America’s largest embassies in Africa. The structural behemoth, as US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols acknowledged when it was opened recently, symbolises the United States’ commitment to Zimbabwe.
Therefore, although relations between Harare and Washington are perceived to be frosty, the actions on the ground are telling a different story.
The United States is alive to the fact that the best time to invest in Africa, Zimbabwe included, is now. The continent is currently the most profitable region in the world. A report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development states that Africa has the highest rate of return on inflows of FDI.
In fact, Africa’s economic growth prospects are among the world’s brightest. Six of the world’s 12 fastest-growing countries are in Africa. Further, between 2018 and 2023, Africa’s growth prospects will be among the highest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.
As such, Africa is now rated the second most attractive investment destination in the world after China. Indeed, the future is bright for African countries and Zimbabwe has already got the ball rolling through President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030.
However, Doubting Thomases abound on the continent and their pessimistic tones are pungent. Only time, and a wealthier African continent, will silence them.
If the Asian Tigers managed to become rich and industrialise in a span of only three decades, nothing can slow down the emergence of the African lions.