experienced respectable economic growth and poverty
reduction despite its dauntingly challenging infrastructure.
According to the African Development Bank, the continent,
during the next decade, needs to spend approximately $93
billion per year on infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.
Currently, about $45 billion in annual infrastructure
spending is already underway.
growth potential in Africa is huge and is expanding quickly.
As a result, Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest
law firms, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the world’s
largest professional services firm, both of which are
bellwether institutions in this arena, are expanding their
Africa-focused staffs in the wake of global clients’ rapidly
expanding growth plans in Africa.
PwC made such announcements at the Corporate Council on
Africa (CCA) meetings in Washington, DC, that I attended
earlier this month. Also attending those meetings was an
array of ministers, ambassadors, and corporate moguls from
across the African continent, United Nations officials, as
well as the White House chief of staff, Deputy Secretary of
State for African Affairs, the chairman and ranking member
of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, and
executives from all across corporate America.
three observations regarding those meetings. First,
Africans, on the world stage, have a renewed sense of
self-confidence. They are absolutely convinced that this
century partly belongs to Africa.
wealth and power continue to shift from the United States
and Western Europe to the global south and east, prospects
for Africa are bound to rise. Africans get a bit annoyed, if
not offended, when observers contend that the sharp uptick
in Chinese and Indian investment in the continent means that
a new Asian form of neocolonialism will definitely supersede
the older Western form of neocolonialism.
wonder why those observers cannot appreciate that Africans
may have learned from the past and that they can construct
regulatory regimes, today, with an engaged civil society to
ensure that future outcomes will also benefit the African
technocratic class coming of age in Africa today is mindful
of the historical legacy of neocolonialism and imperialism,
but they are increasingly focused on contemporary
transparency and accountability in association with good
observed that Africans brush off the notion that all
business investment is inherently and equally bad for their
people. The investment benefits that they point to include
the telecom (information and communications technology)
Africans of humble resources have access to mobile
telephones and global information as a result of improved
public-private partnerships in that sector, starting some 15
years ago. Telecom has received much of the infrastructure
investment over the past decade, but the focus of
infrastructure spending is increasingly shifting, primarily
to electric power and secondarily to transportation and
water supply and sanitation.
potential for renewable energy in Africa is as big as the
continent. The African Development Bank and other
development financial institutions are seeking to channel
greater renewable energy investment in Africa through
various public-private partnerships.
observation during the CCA meetings was the virtual absence
of African Americans. Using the CCA attendance as an
imprecise barometer, African Americans, by and large, are
not engaged in the business arena with respect to Africa.
Participants were Africans and white Americans who are
fluent in African affairs and who recognize that Africa is
the last global economic frontier. As trade and business and
NGO tie-ups between the United States and Africa continue to
race forward, African Americans appear not to be in position
to take advantage of emerging propositions.
African-American students approach me, a director of
Africana Studies at The University of Toledo, and ask, as
they often do, what they can do with an Africana Studies
degree, I sometimes think of the dynamic economies in Africa
and their links to global economies.
Africa specialists will be needed in the years ahead by many
big institutions—private, public, and NGO. In addition to
preparing students to add value to big institutions and to
their own future entrepreneurial agendas concerning Africa,
Africana Studies also educates students to value engagement
with African civil society groups in challenging corporate
greed and social inequality. They recognize how “Occupy Wall
Street” connects with ongoing campaigns for equitable
economic growth in Africa.
Americans need to begin relevant preparation so that they
can pursue opportunities in Africa in the years ahead. Our
Africana Studies program, with a focus on Southern Africa,
renewable energy, and entrepreneurship (along with critical
thinking, and social responsibility), can prepare students
for satisfying Africa-related careers.
Patterson, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology, chairman of
the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and director of
Africana Studies at The University of Toledo