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Economist Says Africa Could be Worth $29trl by 2050

Charles Robertson believes Sub-Saharan Africa will follow in India and China’s footsteps


Charles Robertson speaks at a TED conference
Charles Robertson: SSA household
incomes will increase sevenfold
in the next 35 years.

Here’s a great TED talk from Charles Robertson, author of “The Fastest Billion”. In his talk he shows how Africa is benefiting from western debt reduction programs, whilst The West is struggling with the debt it owes.

Robertson says of the exceptional growth we’ve seen in China over the last few years “if anyone can do what China did in the last 30 years, it will be Africa in the next 30.”

To back-up his predictions, Robertson explains how Sub-Saharan Africa’s education levels are now similar to those of Turkey and Mexico in the 1970’s. During this period when there was a massive boost in manufacturing in those regions because of the skilled labour available. Higher levels of education could be a sign of huge investment about to come Africa’s way.

Robertson also mentioned that the rise in democracy is prompting governments to promise investment in education to maintain their positions of power. Education is then boosting growth and investment, which gives governments more money, which in-turn boosts education. This is a positive spiral of investment and reward that boosts the economy onwards and upwards.

If you’re worried about investing in Africa because of the high levels of corruption, Robertson agrees there is a correlation of corruption with wealth. “When you’re poor, your biggest priority is not (combating) corruption.” He points out the best way to beat corruption is to invest.

Robertson then demonstrates a very power theory that Business in Africa Pays holds to be true. You can’t predict the future by looking at the past. Economists generally theorise that, if growth has been 5% in the last ten years, then it will be 5% in the next ten. This is an example linear thinking, a hard-wired limitation of our brains. We can barely conceive that trends we have observed in the past can change in the future. Ask any football pundit at half time for a football match who the eventual winner will be, and they will give you the name of the team currently in the lead. When you’re sated, you can’t imagine ever being hungry.

So instead of using a country’s history to predict the future, Robertson prefers to base his predictive models on the success of similar countries. In his opinion “India is 20 years ahead of Africa, developing Asia is 10 years ahead of India.” It is not hard to believe that Sub-Saharan Africa is following in their footsteps.

With that in mind, the African economy, which is worth $2trl today could be worth $29trl by 2050 and household incomes will increase sevenfold in the next 35 years. All this, and Robertson claims he is often accused of being pessimistic by the Africans he meets!

Watch the short video below and make your own mind up.