To the Bridge

| January 4, 2013
African & Caribbean contributor - Joel O'Loughlin

African & Caribbean contributor – Joel O’Loughlin

I started this column on the premise of bridging the divide between Africans at home and abroad, “perhaps a rainbow bridge to lead us home”. Having returned home to the Caribbean I left as a small boy, I know how hard it is to truly go back.

Even though trips to Birmingham stir up a lot of nostalgia for the place I left as a youngster; it is always replaced by harsh memories of what drove me out of there all those years ago. Maybe we can never go home!

Why then am I banging the drum for Africa in a magazine dedicated to a Caribbean audience, many of whom have little or no interest in the ‘dark continent’?

If like me you are a Removed African, the place sometimes call to you from some deep ancestral memory. On a conscious level you might even be led to agree with Marcus that “our success educationally, industrially and politically is based upon the protection of a nation founded by ourselves. And the nation can be nowhere else but in Africa”.

This begs the question, are we now, or have we ever been ‘a people’? A cursory glance at the geography and diversity of humanity on the continent suggest it is ridiculous to believe in African unity. But thank God it persists as an idea, a political aspiration, a dream.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

If you remain at home in Africa, you at least have the comfort of claiming the continent you are standing on.

The rest of us in the Scattering can only cling to the gossamer teats of a nonchalant Motherland.

But, before we turn our backs, let’s take a look at what has transpired while we’ve been away.

Mama Africa’s collective GDP has moved to $1.6 trillion, roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s. Her increased economic momentum is becoming globally recognised. McKinsey the US management consultants reported that Africa’s economic growth is “creating substantial new business opportunities that are often overlooked by global companies”.

Today the rate of return on foreign investment in Africa is higher than in any other developing region. 40 percent of Africans live in urban areas, a portion close to China’s and continuing to expand.

The rise of the African urban consumer will fuel long-term growth and interestingly the number of households with discretionary income is projected to rise by 50 percent over the next 10 years, reaching 128 million. By 2030, the continent’s top 18 cities could have combined spending power of $1.3 trillion.

Mc Kinsey points out that “early entry into African economies provides opportunities to create markets, establish brands, shape industry structures, influence customer preferences, and establish long-term relationships”.

The diaspora can help build the Africa of the future. Before we are swallowed by the unrelenting negative rhetoric about Mama, ask Papa “what is reality”?

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Category: African Caribbean, Business, Culture & Society

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