Anyone who knows me — or has read my resume below — will understand why I have to comment on the horrendous outburst by the President of the United States on January 11th. I heard Jesse Watters on Fox News explain that the s***hole remarks were just harmless bar talk, but if we can agree that the White House is in fact the office of the most powerful administration in the world — and not a bar — then the following will make sense. If you think the White House is in fact a bar, you have nothing to worry about and I would suggest you stop reading further.
Africa will skip the mistakes of western industrialization
I have friends in Zambia, an African country south of the equator with borders to DR Congo, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania. Lucky for the many proud tribes of Zambia, they have a history of nonviolence and diplomacy, so they always strive for peace with their neighbors. I am not implying that disputes never occur, but on the scale of things, this is a very peaceful place on earth. However, we must of course acknowledge that extreme injustice is common in some countries, like DR Congo and South Sudan, and a lot of African countries have problems with corruption and nepotism, but this is not the same as saying all of Africa is in turmoil.
All African countries have relations to the United States. All kinds of relations. Commerce, education, socioeconomic, medical, development, tourism. No wonder they react so strongly against Trump’s inconsiderate outburst. But in my view, there is one particular reason why it is not wise, for any country, to place itself in bad standing with the African continent: natural resources.
1.2 billion people live in Africa on 30 million km2 of land. In comparison, China is 1.4 billion people sharing 9.6 million km2. The potential of natural resources on the continent of Africa is mind boggling. Apart from the obvious abundance of minerals and metals, the scale of potential exploitation of solar power and agriculture alone could make Africa a new technological superpower of the future. In other words: If we scoff at Africa and its people, they will do just fine by themselves.
Africa can feed the world
Africa represents 20% the world’s total landmass, and a lot of that land is good for agriculture. As an example, let me mention Kafue River Flats of central Zambia covering an area of 152,000 km2 of the country. That area alone, if cultivated, can feed the entire populations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa combined. Just add conventional technology. In comparison, Denmark utilizes 26,000 km2 for agriculture, which results in food products that can feed 15 million people. Upscale that to the Kafue Flats and you have potential food production that can feed 88 million people. And this is just one tiny example, in one of the 55 countries of the continent.
Africa can power the world
600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity, but that number is dropping fast. Solar has really made traction on the continent. The potential is humongous.
More than 85% of every square meter of Africa’s surface can in theory be used to produce about 2,000 kWh of photovoltaic electricity each year. This translates to the theoretical reserves of Africa’s solar energy being 60,000,000 TWh/year, which accounts for almost 40% of the global total. If you were to utilize just 1% of this, you would have peak electricity production in the daytime of 6.8 TW. The world’s total electric energy consumption at any given time is about 16 TW. Storage? Batteries and/or global HVDC supergrids are bound to solve that. The world will end up being solar powered, and Africa has the opportunity to be the first continent completely off of fossil fuels.
Africa is a technology hotbed
High-profile technology ventures are becoming entrenched in major African cities. 4 years ago IBM started rolling out its AI framework called Watson in Africa, starting in Nairobi under the name “Project Lucy,” saying it would help to address continental development obstacles as diverse as medical diagnoses, economic data collection, and e-commerce research. IBM is investing 10 years and $100 million into this project, and I would not be surprised if it pays off big time.
The impact of information technology on the continent is of paradigm-shifting proportions. Look at how fast cell phones got into the hands of hundreds of millions of Africans, skipping landlines all together. They have used mobile phones for payment for more than a decade. Medical technology combined with educational technology is spreading so quickly that the so called “Girl effect” is kicking in. Rising population numbers is not due to many children being born anymore. World average is actually down to 2.5 children for every woman. Longer lives is the reason that we are aiming for a world population of 11 billion, which is very much on the shoulders of the old industrial world.
Africa will not succumb to bullying
Africa is in general skipping all the tiresome trial and error that the industrial world has gone through. Is that cheating? Not really. Africa has taken its toll (and still is) on war, racism, famine, disease, etc. Even though I have never witnessed direct danger in the 6 African countries in which I have lived and travelled, I do know a lot of people who have been mistreated — mainly because they were poor.
OK, so ambassadors representing all African nations state that they are “extremely appalled at, and strongly condemn the outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks by the president of the United States of America.” And, they understandably demand an apology. Will they get that? Probably not as long as Trump is
ruining running the world’s most powerful country. The peoples of Africa will not forget this insult, and they have all the necessary human potential to rise up to prosperity on par with the rest of the world — and beyond.
“Towards a Peaceful, Prosperous & Integrated Africa” is the clear vision of The African Union, and I will let them get the last word:
“We therefore call for the President of the United States to restrain himself and ensure that he espouses the values that the United States people have been known for.”
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