THE BLOG

Only Industrial Partnerships Can Unleash Africa's Growth for the World

21/06/2013 15:30 BST | Updated 21/08/2013 10:12 BST

Africa's time is now but its full potential can only be unleashed by those brave enough to forge true partnerships.

As economies stumble and fail around the world, the continent is the chief source of hope for global growth but the world's most powerful leaders are ignoring the truth.

China's rise is slowing.

Brazil is struggling to deliver the infrastructure development to match the boom in its middle class.

Turkey's seemingly unstoppable expansion looks to be in doubt.

But Africa is predicted to have seven of the world's fastest growing countries by 2015 and Sub-Saharan GDP is already almost $1.3 trillion - more than the economies of South Korea and Mexico and only slightly short of that of Spain.

It is a continent of opportunity but it will only be unlocked through partnership.

We in African have moved beyond a dependence on aid. The much-discussed idea of spending 0.7% of GDP on international aid dates back to a UN motion in 1970. Africa is very different now.

Even "trade not aid" is now outdated and is not delivering the transformations required.

Instead, it is time for genuine partnerships to be hammered out between nations and for more developed countries to look beyond their received wisdom and inherent prejudice about Africa's abilities.

Africa is already exporting the highest technology products around the world and finding new solutions to modern problems but gets little recognition for it.

The re-emergent defence and aerospace industry is a prime example. My company, Paramount Group, delivers land, sea and helicopter and jet aircraft systems which provide cutting-edge technology for clients around the globe.

South Africa's role in the ground-breaking Square Kilometre Array radio telescope is another - this technology will open our understanding of the universe by allowing scientists from around the world to examine the stars thousands of times faster than ever before.

At last week's New York Forum Africa in Gabon - the second annual conference on African solutions to Africa issues, organised by the man behind the Davos summit - I was asked to talk of the opportunities for Brazil, Russia, India and China to invest in Africa.

Instead, I said that it is precisely those countries which should be looking to actually attract African investment and products to solve their own domestic needs.

If growth-starved countries want to share in Africa's success, they must look to share in the industrialisation of the 54 diverse countries of the continent.

Yet industrialisation remains slow. The industrial share of GDP value added is at 30% - almost unchanged from the early 1990s.

Africa needs investment in manufacturing to improve technology and competitiveness, and much of this will come from the developing world by helping to expand existing markets in Europe and elsewhere.

The responsibilities for growth do not lie outside Africa, however, and governments across the continent must be pushed to legislate to make it illegal for raw materials to be exported before some kind of manufacturing process take place.

Much of the vast natural wealth of Africa is being exploited and wasted by missing the opportunity to add value to products at source and greatly increase the value of exports.

In my travels across this continent over many years, I have seen people doing the most amazingly creative things in running small businesses to meet some or other local need.

There is no shortage of talent and energy in Africa, nor is there any shortage of needs that entrepreneurs can find a way of satisfying; and as people, ideas, and techniques pour into the continent, Africans are learning and adapting very quickly.

Industrial partnerships will unite the best of the considerable talent and creativity of Africa's 54 nations with the experience of other countries.

Industrialisation will boost jobs in a part of the world where the median age is just 18, increasing social stability and generating larger tax takes for governments.

It will advance skills, encourage aspiration and drive opportunity not just across Africa but for investment partners around the world.

Yet despite all this potential, there are too few African champions among the world's leaders.

This week's G8 summit in Northern Ireland largely ignored Africa's potential.

While President Obama will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania next week, the world's most powerful man has spent less than 24 hours in Sub-Saharan Africa in total.

I hope President Obama will take the lead and help reset political and corporate attitudes to Africa so the continent - and the world - can find fresh growth.

We don't need salvation. We need industrialisation.