Article by InDepthNews

LUND, Sweden (IDN-INPS) - Africa up or down? After 10 years of quite remarkable growth across the continent most countries are experiencing a downturn, with average growth nearer 3.75% than 5% as before.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country with its largest economy, was at one time growing year after year at 7+%. Now it looks like it’s heading for recession and a growth rate pointing to zero. It has been hit by a six-fold whammy – oil prices sharply down, the effects of the great recession in the industrialised countries, the Chinese economy slowing, bad economic and foreign exchange policies under the relatively new president, Muhammadu Buhari, increased corruption under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, and the war against Boko Haram in the far north.

Nevertheless, Nigeria’s non-oil sector – agriculture and manufacturing – improved steadily until 2015, but now has plateaued. Some economists have said that since that Nigerians can’t get richer from oil they are being forced to diversify.

Most African countries don’t have such a string of problems. Star performers, such as Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda, Mauritius, Ghana and Ivory Coast, have avoided much of this turbulence. They have benefited from low oil prices, good economic policies, wise investment, an emphasis on industrialisation and an ability to attract foreign aid.

Also from the lack of wars. Although the number of wars across the continent has fallen sharply, these countries have outshone their peers in either keeping the country peaceful for decades or by rapidly binding the wounds after conflict. The number of violent deaths is sharply down. A few states such as Somalia, Sudan and the Central African Republic are suffering from war but it remains a small number.

The latest ranking of the world’s most violent countries by the NGO, the Geneva Declaration, includes only two African states among its top ten – tiny Swaziland and Lesotho.

Look at Tanzania, one of the continent’s great performers. Right through the world economic crisis, it has kept its growth steady at around 7%. Therefore it is doubling its income per head every ten years – in the capital, Dar es Salaam, every five. It has increased manufacturing and mining at a handsome rate. It has had some success in battling corruption. It has made great discoveries of natural gas and thus is building up its electricity supplies. Its agricultural production is rising. Income distribution from richer to poorer has also improved.

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