Almost half of all Africans survive on less than $1,25 a day. And although economies are growing on the continent, there are warnings now that Africa's prosperity is being threatened by its uncompetitiveness.
African economies have, despite a global financial crisis, experienced steady growth. But a report released on Friday says these successes must be accompanied by long-term plans to preserve that growth, while also improving living standards.
Increasingly we are seeing a determination to consolidate across blocs .... Another positive thing is that Africa is beginning to invest in Africa; the fastest FDI [foreign direct investment] growth curve has been African investment on to the continent and that is a really important trend change.
Africa has come a long way economically over the last 10 years, but how does it stay on track? To tackle that question, the continent's most influential leaders and thinkers have been meeting in Cape Town this week.
The 2013 Africa Competitiveness Report, jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, suggests that closer regional integration is crucial to address this weakness.
The report also recommends:
- Improving competitiveness: Africa lags behind other emerging regions as a whole in competitiveness. The report recommends improving public institutions, deepening regional integration, and providing better education
- Facilitating trade: Too many of Africa's exports are focused on commodities and its share of world trade remains low. It recommends getting rid of unnecessary bureaucracy and investing more in new technology and communication
- Building better infrastructure: Better roads, reliable electricity and properly functioning ports will make Africa more attractive to investors who can create jobs
The African continent is said to have great potential. And South Africa's expanding economy is helping to drive its resurgence. But unemployment is preventing many people from sharing in South Africa's economic success. Nearly five million people in the country are unemployed.
But South African President Jacob Zuma is optimistic about the changing economies on the continent. That is especially true now that South Africa has joined the economic union made up of Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRICS.
"You are all aware that many major events over centuries have bypassed us. Africa seemed not to be existing, when the world was active in many ways," Zuma said. "This time around, I think the BRICS link indicates that Africa cannot be bypassed by the events that are changing the landscape, economically, politically and socially of the world."
So, what does it take to achieve this integration? Why is economic growth in Africa not benefitting the masses? And who is to blame?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Oladiran Bello, the head of governance of Africa's Resources Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs; Aly Khan Satchu, an economist and CEO at Rich Management; and Gibril Faal, chairman of the African Foundation for Development.
"We have no option but to be optimistic - it is glass half full. But the point is, how do we make sure that the even half-full glass is shared in a very equitable manner so that one can build a base of sustainability and enduring development?"
Gibril Faal, African Foundation for Development