coleman1_Adam GaultGetty Images_africamap Adam Gault/Getty Images

Africa Is the Last Frontier for Global Growth

If Africa sustains and accelerates structural reforms over the next half-century, some believe that the continent can emulate China’s rapid rise of the last 50 years. But success is far from guaranteed, even as the consequences of failure would be grave – and global.

NEW HAVEN – Africa today accounts for around 17% of the world’s population, but only about 3% of global GDP. These statistics not only attest to a failure to tap the continent’s developmental potential, but also highlight the tremendous opportunities and risks ahead. As long as Africa continues to lag economically, it will be a source of global instability and extremism. But if it rises, it could be one of the major sources of growth for the world.

Africa is no stranger to suffering. The continent has been ravaged by slavers, plundered by colonizers, exploited by world powers during the Cold War, and ravaged by the post-colonial conflicts leaving a legacy of relentless volatility, horrific violence, and widespread poverty.

Consider the atrocities committed by King Leopold II of Belgium in the so-called Congo Free State (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC) in the late 1890s, as he looted the country’s ivory and rubber. As Adam Hochschild recounts in his book King Leopold’s Ghost, a young Edmund Morel, who witnessed Leopold’s plunder for profit, described the forced labor, “directed by the [king’s] closest associates,” as “terrible and continuous.”