bradbrownweb.gifThe present: Africa’s Gross Domestic  Product (GDP) in 2008: $1.6 trillion, roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s.

Consumer spending: $860 billion. New mobile phone subscribers since 2000: 316 million.  Share of the world’s uncultivated arable land: 60 percent. Number of cities with more than 1 million people: 22.

The future, in 2020: GDP $2.6 trillion. Consumer spending: $1.4 trillion. Number of households with discretionary income: 128 million.

With statistics like these, is it any wonder that while the West all too often sees Africa through the lens of poverty and conflict, China sees it as an area for investment and profits?

The above figures come from a recent analysis by the McKinney Global Institute in a report titled, “Lions on the Move,” which warns investors that they should not overlook Africa.

Real GDP in Africa rose 4.9 percent per year from 2000 to 2008, more than twice that of the 1990s.

Africa fell less in the recent economic depression, and is recovering faster than most other areas. Labor productivity is
increasing, inflation and debt ratios are decreasing. Although the rising price of oil was important, particularly to Angola and Nigeria, there are numerous countries such as Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Zambia,  Mozambique and Tanzania that have made this growth based on movement toward a diversified economy. This includes an increased trade in manufactured goods within the continent.

There are a number of countries classified as pre-transition to a developed economy, but some of these countries – for example, Ethiopia and Mali – have been experiencing  GDP growth rates of 7 percent!

Africa, in addition to the arable land mentioned above, has an estimated 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, 49 percent of its gold, and 80 to 90 percent of the chromium and platinum group metals.

I have been in Senegal, Ghana, Benin and Cameroon in the past 12 months, and the progress is obvious, mostly in Senegal, but evident everywhere. Since 2000, I have seen tremendous growth in Angola and Mozambique, which are only recently out from under horribly destructive internal wars, fueled by the Cold War and apartheid South Africa.

The population breakdown is 8 percent of the households earning enough to be considered global consumers, 14 percent the consuming middle class, 21 percent emerging consumers and 32 percent purchasers of basic consumer needs who have to spend 50 percent or less of their income to eat. This leaves 24 percent in the destitute poor, on which our media focus.

It is good to extend a hand to alleviate these conditions, but we are missing the potential for mutual economic benefit by not being aware of the other 76 percent of households, and leaving those benefits solely to China and India.

Miami-Dade’s new Sister City Agreement with Senegal can help open these opportunities.

Brad Brown is the first vice president of the Miami-Dade NAACP. He is also a contractor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he works on African coastal and marine projects.