Aside from falling commodity prices, the threat of terrorism is the other factor in Africa's economic slowdown. How to confront it must arise from an African discourse, not foreign prescriptions, says Olusegun Obasanjo *.
Until very recently, one word was associated with Africa: rising. Such a scenario seemed so compelling that nobody doubted the prevailing wisdom, that the 21st century would be Africa's. Now, that moment seems to belong in the past. Two factors have made the difference. One is the sudden drop in commodity prices, particularly oil. Two, peace has been eroded across large swathes of the continent, with a sharp increase in violent events generated by terrorist activities. Unsurprisingly, this has brought to the fore the issue of security in Africa's economic development. A question then comes to mind: what are the implications for Africa's economy when peace is at risk?
Peace and security have always been the prime variables necessary for creating a conducive climate for economic development, political stability and social cohesion. For many years, especially during the past two decades, we have come to believe that the impressive economic growth rates recorded by many national economies would be enough to allow our societies to achieve their developmental goals. Across Africa, in addition to that economic momentum, various indicators led to a sense of growing optimism: protracted conflicts were coming to an end; a middle class, which some estimated at over 400 million, was emerging; foreign direct investments of over $50bn per year were flowing towards a continent seen as yielding the best return on investment; outside partners, following in the footsteps of China, started flocking back; natural resources were discovered at an amazing pace; and a dynamic demographic dividend, in a peaceful atmosphere, shredded away the image of the "dark continent" so long associated with Africa. Furthermore, macro-economic policies were better managed, mostly by governments which had won power through transparent elections. An active private sector flourished. Africa could no longer be described, in the words of a renowned publication, as the "hopeless continent". That same magazine...