Africa Rising

The continent is the world's next great growth engine--but hundreds of millions are at risk of being left behind

  • Share
  • Read Later

(4 of 5)

The wasted lives of Murang'a's young men reflect a pattern: across Africa, governments are failing to convert growth into jobs. According to an August report by analysts McKinsey & Co., 275 million out of a total African workforce of 382 million are either unemployed or in informal day-hire work. By 2020 a youth surge propelled by the world's highest birthrates, which will raise Africa's population from 1 billion in 2009 to 2 billion in 2050, will add a further 122 million Africans of working age. That would be a boon if they had work. But McKinsey calculates that in the same period, Africa will create just 54 million to 72 million more jobs. "If current trends continue, it's going to take Africa until 2066 before employment levels reach those of East Asia," says David Fine, one of the report's authors. "The next part [of Africa's development] is jobs," agrees Geldof. "What will it take to fill that void?"

McKinsey argues that the answer lies less in Africa's traditional extractive industries--which tend to be capital-intensive--and more in sectors such as tourism and retail, which employ more labor. But what happens if, as McKinsey predicts, the void cannot be filled? South Africa provides an example of a government's paying the price for failing to share the gains of growth. Since the end of apartheid rule in 1994, South Africa, the continent's biggest economy, has expanded by up to 5% a year. But 18 years in power has changed the African National Congress (ANC) from the party of Nelson Mandela's righteous revolution into just another rapacious developing-world elite. Unemployment runs anywhere from 25% to 40%, state-run education can be among the worst in the world, and inequality--stretched wider by a fabulously wealthy ANC-connected cabal--has increased.

The ANC is reaping the reward for this sorry record. In mid-August, 3,000 miners at platinum producer Lonmin's Marikana mine in northern South Africa walked off the job, demanding a tripling of basic pay, from about $500 per month. On Aug. 16, after days of violence in which 10 people died, police shot dead 34 miners. The killings evoked the brutality of apartheid. Meanwhile, the militant antibusiness, antigovernment strikes that erupted at other mines, then in other industries, continue today. These have exposed as nothing more than a hollow fraud the claims by the ANC's ruling alliance that it represents the poor. With such a disconnect between government and people, Tutu says, the potential for upheaval in South Africa is "very great ... When the big eruption happens," he says, "it's going to be very, very disturbing."

Just as worrying is another type of unrest emerging in East and West Africa. Marginalization divides rich from poor, but it also aggravates existing tribal, racial and religious fault lines. A series of religious insurgencies is taking place below the Sahara. From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, young Muslims are taking up arms against governments they see as Westernized, corrupt and shutting them out of economic opportunity.

A Continent of Entrepreneurs

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5