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The rising, new Africa

by Adrian David

KUALA LUMPUR, 4 JUL – The Africa of today is not the Africa of yesterday, nor that of tomorrow.

The continent offered a market of 1.3 billion people, including over 500 million Muslims, with a projected gross domestic product worth US$3.5 trillion by next year.

South African High Commissioner to Malaysia, David Malcomson highlighted the tired old narrative of the African continent as a place of despair, disease, conflict and hopelessness.

“There is hope that this has been replaced today with a new narrative – a narrative of Africa Rising!” Malcomson said at his ‘Africa Overview’ during the ‘Africa Day 2024’ seminar at the Royale Chulan Hotel in Jalan Conlay.

Speaking at the event under the theme ‘Promoting Africa-Malaysia Trade and Investment opportunities”, Malcomson believed that the evidence lied abundantly clear before them, for those that would just open their eyes and challenge the old ideas and stereotypes.

“Africa today is no longer a place of aid and charity, but rather a place of hope and opportunity, a place of innovation and commerce, of high returns on investment, of abundant resources and opportunities for investment.

“The continent is a place of trade and diversified supply chain opportunities, a place to look at to solve your energy and food security concerns,” Malcomson said.

He explained that Africa today was united politically under the African Union.

Malcomson said Africa was united under the ‘Vision for the Africa We Want – Agenda 2063’ and the development programme: the ‘New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

“Africa is united economically at long last under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is integrating a market of 1.3 billion people and over 500 million Muslims, with a GDP projected to be worth US$3.5 trillion by next year.

“The Free Trade Agreement is about Africa taking charge of its own destiny and growing its economies faster – restoring dignity to its citizens through job opportunities, education, healthcare and political freedom.

“The Agreement is expected to boost the efforts of curbing poverty and increase Africa’s exports by US$560 billion over the next few years, mostly in the manufacturing sector.

“It is a concrete illustration of the Africa Rising narrative and of the ‘Africa We Want’ outlined in the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” said Malcomson.

Each year, many of the countries with the highest GDP growth rates are to be found in Africa.

It is a continent that is bursting with energy and vitality – a continent with a youthful, growing and increasingly educated population; and a continent of innovators and entrepreneurs. “Africa has a growing middle class with an ever-increasing amount of disposable income.

“Every challenge serves to open the door for a solution – African solutions for African problems. No longer do we wait for others to help us; rather today we are helping ourselves.

“These are the reasons why investors and businesspeople from around the world, but most particularly China, India, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye and many others, are pumping billions of dollars into Africa annually. “This is not done out of charity or pity, but is based on hard business decisions, where Africa is no longer seen as holding out the aid-begging bowl, but rather is offering genuine partnerships of equality rooted in exciting trade, investment and tourism opportunities.

“The money is flowing in based purely on commercial considerations,” Malcomson stressed.

He pointed out that there was a realisation that Africa possessed most of the raw materials and minerals that were absolutely crucial to the new age of green technology and renewable energy, to the new age of telecommunications and information technology in the digital age and the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

“It is recognised today that Africa has for some time now been establishing the initiatives and institutions to address the perennial challenges of peace and security and good governance.

“These include such institutions as the African Union Peace and Security Council and the African Peer Review Mechanism.

“There is a recognition that many of the most exciting developments in telecommunications, in infrastructure development, in agriculture and in finance are happening in Africa.

“There is a recognition of the opportunities being opened up by the development of industrial zones, of Special Economic Zones, of Halal Parks and Halal Hubs,” he said.

Malcomson added that the future of food security lied in Africa, with 60% of the world’s arable land and a growing, youthful population.

“In recent years, Africa has recorded a higher growth rate than the average rate of the world economy. With its limitless potential and scope for development, Africa is emerging as an important growth engine of the global economy.

“It is the most vibrant global market for such as mobile banking and cellular coverage, and it provides most of what is required in terms of resources for the new economies of the future,” Malcomson said.

Much as he had extensively talked about this New Africa united in solidarity and purpose, he reminded stakeholders to never forget how huge and diverse Africa actually was.

“The way maps are designed misleads people as to Africa’s actual size. It is 30.37 million sq km, enough to fit in the United States of America, China, India, Japan, Mexico and many European nations combined.

“And no – it is not as far away from Malaysia as many Malaysians seem to think. It is just across the Indian Ocean, much closer than the United Kingdom and the US.

“There are direct air links through Ethiopia and Mauritius from Malaysia, and just this week Air Asia X announced a new direct air link to Kenya,” he stressed.

Malcomson explained that Africa was made up of various Regional Economic Communities that served as the building blocks of the African Economic Community, such as the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of West African States.

Furthermore, he said, the continent comprised over 50 states that each had their own unique characteristics and opportunities.

“It is a grave error to lose sight of this fact! Africa cannot be pigeonholed based on collective stereotypes. Each and every country has something unique and special to offer.

“Therefore, we believe that it is in Malaysia’s best interests to engage vigorously once again with Africa, as many others are now doing.

“We need to revive the strategic focus we once had on each other. There was a time that we cooperated closely at the highest levels in the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement, among other organisations, to jointly promote the concerns and needs of the developing world.

“We jointly pursued South-South cooperation through such initiatives as the Langkawi Dialogue.

“We believe that the time to rejuvenate this sense of strategic focus and cooperation is once again here.

“We welcome Malaysia as a partner with and in Africa. We are open for business, and we would wish to rise together into the future,” Malcomson said.

He pointed out that as African ambassadors and high commissioners, they wished to strengthen relations, to foster closer ties between their political leaders, to grow value-added trade and investment with Malaysia.

These, Malcomson said, were especially in specific areas such as agro-processing, the halal industries, the Blue Economy, Green Technology, and renewable energy (such as hydrogen fuel cell technology), and in Science, Technology, and Innovation, including in the pharmaceutical sector.

“We believe that Africa can work with Malaysia to address some of your food security needs and priorities by way of providing quality, affordable food items.

“However, we do require support to speed up the process of providing halal certification of our proven beef, lamb and mutton abattoirs.

“The pandemic and the current geopolitical turmoil have shown that we all need diversified food supply chains, particularly in this era of food inflation, high transport costs and disrupted supply chains,” he said.

Malcomson went further to say that Africa was also linked to Europe, the US and the South American trade-bloc Mercosur through various trade agreements, and we trade extensively into the Middle East.

“Africa provides an ideal climate for business. Global corporates and businesses enjoy various investment incentives, and a supportive ecosystem for innovation, technology and financial technology, and Malaysia can benefit from this and even add value, for example in the growing sector of Islamic Finance,” he said.

Malcomson highlighted how Africa had extensive opportunities for beneficiation due to the abundance of their mineral resources.

Apart from the well-known gold and diamonds, oil and gas, they were the world’s largest producers of platinum, vanadium, chrome, manganese, coltan and vermiculite; as well as palladium, cobalt, tantalum, ilmenite and zirconium, to mention but a few.

Malcomson called upon companies from Malaysia and other Asean countries to look at Africa as a place of hope rather than fear it as a place to do business – a place that offered numerous opportunities at high rates of return – about 4% higher than elsewhere in the world on average.

“Take advantage of the wave of positive change in the new African story; a story of an Africa Rising,” Malcomson summed up. – airtimes.my

#Malaysia #Semasa #Africa

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