Karsten Riise's Blog

Africa and Russia: Russia is important to make Africa The Place to be

October 24, 2019
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Africa moves to a top position on the global Agenda

Russia can work with Africa in areas which the EU neglects. Germany in 2017 issued an open document "Africa and Europe - A new partnership for development, peace and a better future". The objective was sympathetic, but Germany's concept had a marked lack of focus on what counts for Africa today: Cities, business (incl. value-added exports), and modern job-creation. Russia is needed as partner with Africa.

http://www.bmz.de/en/publications/type_of_publication/information_flyer/information_brochures/Materialie270_africa_marshallplan.pdf

Africa is on way to become a continent of 2 billion people. Cities are growing immensely, and both new and existing cities require enormous resources for planning and development.

A German policy paper for EU and G20 from 2017 pointed out, that 20 million new African jobs must be established every year, to keep Africa on track. But the German paper only discusses agricultural jobs, omitting the fact, that the majority of new African jobs (perhaps nearly all), must be established in cities. Unwieldy, poverty-ridden African mega-cities, like we have seen in other places of the globe, must be avoided through broad and persistent action now.

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Source: yandex.ru/collections

The fact, that Africa must focus on city jobs requires a fundamental break with how African development used to be carried out. Instead of "NGO" and "development assistance" , sending Ph.D's to Africa to dig wells and set up small schools in villages etc, future emphasis in African development must right now be placed on boosting manufacturing (key to industrialization and exports to pay for high-tech imports), knowledge and services, including tourism. Russia has unique competences for all these areas, and Russia can focus on the important areas, which the EU overlooks. Sometimes one cannot help get a feeling, that the EU only wants to assist Africa to "survive as a rural museum", in order to avoid modern competition from Africa. Russia has an important strategic interest that Africa is not held back in any such way.

Urbanization in Africa

Africa's total population is by the UN expected to increase from 1,166 million in 2015 to 1,812 million in 2035 - a total increase of 645 million people in 20 years - see figure 1. Using data from the UN World Urbanization Project, it becomes clear, that 65% (two thirds) of Africa's population increase will happen in the cities. This is due to the natural migration of people from the country-side to cities. While Africa's total population will go up by "only" 55%, Africa's overall city population will double (up 89%).

In a middle band across Africa, consisting of Western, Middle and Eastern Africa, city populations will increase by 100%-126% (fig.1). This is, however, only the average: City-population in for example Niger will more than triple. Niger will be one of the cross-roads for African migrants to the EU, Turkey or the Middle East.

Figure 1

Population

2015

2035

2015 - 2035 Increase

Millions

Total

Urban

Urban%

Total

Urban

Urban%

Total

Urban

Total

Urban

Northern Africa

217

112

52%

281

162

58%

63

50

29%

44%

Western Africa

350

158

45%

583

329

56%

233

171

67%

108%

Middle Africa

143

63

44%

235

126

54%

91

63

64%

100%

Eastern Africa

395

101

26%

645

228

35%

250

127

63%

126%

Southern Africa

61

38

62%

69

48

70%

8

11

13%

28%

Africa

1,166

472

40%

1,812

893

49%

645

422

55%

89%

Source: Author's calculations based on UN 2014 World Urbanization Project - figures rounded

Africa's fastest growing cities are only 2,800-4,700 km away from the EU and Turkey. If African development in these cities should fail, the EU will experience a massive migration problem, completely dwarfing anything of that sort seen so far. Africa development is an issue for creating good future for Africans - but Europe has a totally underestimated interest, that Africa achieves success in this.

Africa's active population doubles in cities

Africa's city-development is even more challenging than figure 1 shows. Not only is Africa's total population growing - the percentage of Africa's active population (15-64 years) grows too. The combined effects of total population growth, an increase in the share of active people, and migration to the cities, will put an enormous stress on Africa's cities.

According to IMF (Working Paper WP14/143, August 2014, figure 1), Africa's working age population is expected to increase from about 55% to 59% the next 20 years. These percentages are approximate, and vary from country to country, but they are indicative. To demonstrate the severe effects from the combination of population growth, urbanization, and growth in active working population, I have made a simplified model-calculation, se figure 2:

Figure 2

Population

2015

2035

2015-2035 increase

(million)

all

active

active %

all

active

active %

all

active

all %

active %

Urban

472

259

55%

893

527

59%

422

268

63%

89%

103%

Rural

695

382

55%

918

542

59%

224

160

37%

32%

42%

Africa

1166

641

55%

1812

1069

59%

645

427

100%

55%

67%

Source: Author - indicative model calculation on UN data - actual figures will vary

Africa's total population increase of 55% may not seem alarming to some at first glance. But Africa's active city population is likely to increase by 103%, and the geographic effect of this will happen in the middle-band of Africa.

The total increase in active population is calculated at 427 million over 20 years (fig.2). Divided over 20 years, the 427 million translate into an average of 21.4 million more active Africans per year, who will need either job or education. My overall figures thus correspond with Germany's figure of 20 million new African jobs per year. But my figures demonstrate that out of the total increase of 427 million active-age Africans, a vast majority of 268 million (63%, two-thirds) will be in the cities. So out of the needed creation of 20 million new African jobs per year, at least two-thirds, or 14 million jobs per year, must be city-jobs. Multiply the 14 million jobs with the investment needed per city-job, and Africa needs a very high billion-investment - every year. On top comes more billions needed for a big increase in Africa's capacity for primary, secondary and tertiary education. As things develop (war, climate, desaster - or better connectivity), the inner-African migration-speed to cities may be much faster. And if cities become a human disaster, migration out of African cities and across the Mediterranean will result.

Help African farmers - by developing cities

It is an old failure in development-efforts, to focus too narrowly on farming. If people do not migrate in a steady flow from farms to the cities, population increase in the country-side means that farmland will have to be divided into ever smaller, un-economic small pieces. That trap must be avoided. Farming needs higher earnings for better methods and efficiency, to produce more food and better living for farmers. Better farm-earnings can also moderate the speed of migration to the cities. One of the best ways to help farmers earn more, is to make cities richer. Farmers can profit when African city-consumers become more numerous, and can pay more for better food. Richer cities also mean, that more sons and daughters of farmers, who went to the cities, can send money back to their families in the village. Develop connectivity, so that farmers can sell into the growing cities. Invest big-time in the African food industry, marketing and distribution, and high-quality exports.

Russia has developed unique skills in city development, greenfield as fast extension of existing cities, even (after World War II, under conditions of extremely pressing needs for housing and urban (re-)construction. "Concrete towers" may even sometimes be needed, when needs are pressing to abolish slums. But Russia can more than that. I should here point to some of the genius avant-guarde ideas in architecture, which Russia developed before World-War II - ideas which are still modern today.

The Linear City proposed by Ivan Leonidov in the 1930'ies for a new city in Magnitogorsk should be adapted and rolled out as a general model for Africa - ref. http://socks-studio.com/2016/04/12/ivan-leonidovs-competition-proposal-for-the-town-of-magnitogorsk-1930/. I have studied different models for city-planing which could serve Africa. The English model of "garden-cities" is the most famous - but the Russian model of the linear city is in many cases much better for African needs. Leonidov's Linear City concept can be turned into long stretched, prosperous "growth corridors" along African transport-corridors. The Russia Linear City is ideally suited for African conditions, where a large continent calls for new-founding of cities to counteract the conglomeration of unwieldy mega-cities, where like in Africa there is need to optimize the use of scarce (expensive) transport infrastructure. Leonidov's Linear City is also genius in integrating living space with industry, trade, and within agrarian surroundings.

Achieve 90% reading-skills - in ALL generations

Fast achieving 90% reading skills is necessary for development and change in population growth. But reading skills are also a key to ideological upheavals, and a separation of young reading people from the tradition. To stabilize Africa's social network, the adult generation, mothers and men of traditional authority, must just as fast learn to read and use the internet. Russia was extremely successful in quickly raising an originally agrarian country to world-class educational levels. Not only did Soviet Russia quickly introduce reading skills to all citizens; Russia even rose to world-class science and achieved one of the world's highest percentages of people with university education. Russia has a unique social know-how and experience to quickly turn millions of unschooled people spread over a huge rural society into a leading educated society.

Make Africa good for finance

A lot of money has left Africa, often because of lacking business conditions. Russia has acquired a lot of insights for Africa about how to manage such an issue. It is not just about control. It is often about turning a troubled area (which Russia was in 1980-2000) into an area good for business. Russia also knows about how to create industry hubs and capital-concentration for infrastructure. Also, a secure African currency is needed, and small currencies are too easily manipulated (remember the Asia-crisis, 1997), which can be based on offering to the extend the CFA-Franc (and rename it) to be an option for all African countries. But as addition to this, a solid gold based currency could be created, serving all of Africa. Russia has a lot of knowledge about gold and finance which can be of value to applicable to Africa in this field.

Africa means change in rich countries

Manufacturing, knowledge and tourism must grow big-time in Africa. Rich countries will have to restructure their own economies and adapt their ecological footprint to take-in big imports of commercial goods, food, tourism and other services, as well as knowledge-products from Africa. Don't expect Africa to take the lead in environmental or social protection. Recycling requires infrastructure and is often not an option in Africa. Instead, Africa needs absolutely biodegradable packaging. There are lots of new products that rich countries can export to Africa, if rich countries open for more manufactured goods from Africa. Expand the international news services on Africa, with all kinds of stories, so that business people and consumers in rich countries can feel that Africa is a familiar part of their world. Russia can both serve as a market for developing African business, and as a knowhow and tech-supplier for Africa in return. Win-win.

Invest in Africa, as she is

Russia is an example, that not all factors need to be in accordance with the West's self-proclaimed "liberal" and "universal" ideas, in order to make a country a success. Too often, rich countries put blame on Africa's governments and culture, including gender-relations. Don't expect Africa to become like the EU or the USA - it will never happen. Criticizing Africa is a bad excuse for holding back, and Russia is needed to counteract that. Rich countries have invested all over the world without qualms about corruption or type of government. Many African countries (also many with few natural resources) have already proven their ability of long-term growth. Africa has great potential for manufactured exports. Now is the time to develop business in Africa. Do not expect even development. Succesfull places spur the others. Rich Africans will become a home-market for advanced African goods - for Africa to export later. Africa will become the place for all the world to be active in.

European security risks - if too little is done in Africa

A minimum of 14 million new city-jobs plus education must be created every year - or else unemployment and poverty can turn into large-scale war and desaster among 1-2 billion people, living at the door step of Europe and the Middle East. An increase in Africa's active population also means an increase in people who can fight or migrate. The Munich Security Conference, 2017 documented that refugees travel further and further. Already, distances of 3,000 km are travelled to reach Europe. A tsunami of refugees from Africa can create chaos in Europe and the Middle East, if too little economic improvement is achieved. Africa also needs to develop its regional security structures. If African countries want it, Europe must spend much more efforts to support them in this. Condoms will not prevent the spread of AIDS in the future. More Europeans meeting Africans, means more Europeans having sex with Africans - also in relationships where condoms fail or are not used. With a new level of tourism, education and business visits between Europe and Africa, AIDS threatens with a global epidemic - therefore AIDS must be eradicated. Malaria must be eradicated too. Russia can help Africa with all of this - and in doing so, Russia will be doing a service, which also the EU may come to appreciate.

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