By Peter Clottey*
Belgium’s former prime minister says the launch of Forbes Afrique magazine is an indication of dramatic economic growth under way in Africa.
Guy Verhofstadt, who is also leader of the Liberals and Democrats in the European parliament, said there are strong indications of a growing middle class, which he said, is good for the continent.
“If you look to the figures you will see that Africa is growing now in the last 10 years with an average of more or less six percent every year,” Verhofstadt said. “You see also a growing middle class, an emerging middle class.”
“It’s that Africa shall be in the center of the challenges of the future — economic challenges, challenges of security and also geo-political challenges.”
Verhofstadt’s comments follow the recent launch of the Forbes magazine in the Congo Republic’s capital, Brazzaville.
Officials of Forbes Afrique say issues of the magazine will include individual stories reflecting Africa’s economic success, profiles of business leaders and rankings of the top performing new or established companies.
Verhofstadt hailed the launch of the Forbes Afrique magazine.
“It’s very important that the editor at Forbes has taken the decision to make a special edition for Africa,” Verhofstadt said, adding that Africa represents the future, “economically and politically.”
According to officials, the Forbes Afrique magazine will be distributed in 23 Francophone African countries including: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo , Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Chad and Togo.
Verhofstadt said that for Africa to succeed, it should form more equitable relationships with Europe, including more economic assistance to African nations.
“There is also a need for economic reforms in Africa, for judicial certainty and there is also need for consideration of property rights in Africa,” he said. “All these are necessary if we want to see a better economic outlook for the future.”
China recently said it would offer $20 billion in new loans to Africa, which is double the amount the Asian country agreed to lend to the African countries in 2009.
Analysts say if China continues to be Africa’s largest trading partner, the trend could soon undermine trade relations between the continent and European countries, which they said, could negatively impact European economies.
Verhofstadt also noted China’s growing influence in Africa, and noted there could be negative consequences.
“We see more and more influence of the Chinese in a number of countries with a number of good results but also a number of bad results with some dangers… These policies of the Chinese are creating the danger that there [are] new debts that shall emerge in Africa,” said Verhofstadt.
Verhofstadt underscores the need for European countries to foster stronger relations with Africa.
“The best strategy that we can follow as Europeans is to combine our forces…,” he said. “What should be better is to make a global package to the different countries of Africa… If we could combine all these — aid, money and programs — then you should have a good alternative [to] the policies followed by the Chinese [in Africa].”
Verhofstadt called on African countries to invest in good governance since he said that appears to be the problem the continent faces. He said the current growth Africa enjoys could better.
“Six percent growth in Africa is not bad, but it could be 10 percent, a double-digit growth, if there was more democracy and if there was more transparency and more democratic accountability,” he said.