Terrorism, Investment and Corruption, in that order.

Terrorism, Investment and Corruption, in that order.

The other casualty in the Nairobi shopping mall massacre is the Kenyan economy, reports the Huffington Post. It’s an important observation to write about  not least as it appears that this  al -Shabaab  atrocity was carefully planned to rock the new Kenyan government  to it’s foundations, middleclass Nairobi:

the shopping mall is a symbol of Kenya’s growing prosperity. And the individuals attacked were a cross-section of those who participated most fully in the economic growth. (Kenya’s GDP increased 4.6% in 2012, and 5.2% in the first quarter of 2013.) The attack was timed for Saturday morning to inflict maximum damage and destruction and targeted the high-profile Westgate mall typically frequented by expatriates, diplomats, and affluent Kenyans. These Kenyans, who benefited from economic advancement under former president Mwai Kibaki, have recently enjoyed an increase in spending power, and together with expatriates, have driven demand for property, luxury goods, fine dining opportunities, and the arts and services.

The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan went on American television shortly after the al-Shabaab attack in Nairobi to talk about the Kenyan shopping mall attack and share his observations about the serious problems facing countries like Nigeria and Kenya in 2013. Hear what he has to say to the USA in this video clip about Kenyan and similar Nigerian problems: terrorism, investment and corruption, in that order.

The background to his comments is rapid economic growth, in Kenya and Nigeria: two leading African economies but on opposite sides of the most rapidly growing continent in the world. This growth is, according to the African development Bank, due to improvements in economic governance in Africa and private sector investments. They note that the annual rate of foreign investment has grown fivefold since 2000.

One of the biggest problems, certainly more obvious with growth, in places like Nigeria or Kenya, is the lack of investment in infrastructure to support further growth. Africa has a rapidly growing consumer market, driven by middle class professionals but on the back of that is a growing poverty gap. The poverty line has fallen in recent years, from 51% to 39% across Africa but the challenge now is  to close those painfully large  inequality gaps, for example; between those living in large cities and those scraping a living in remote areas where there are so few amenities. These are the same same rural areas that are so easily penetrated by extremists, as we have seen in Nigeria and Kenya, in the northern dry and least densely populated parts. We all need to listen to what is a widespread consumer demand in Africa, for better communications, mobile banking services and consumer goods.

Africa’s and Kenya’s long term potential is surely tied to the growing middle and consumer classes; a fact not missed by their Somalia neighbours and al-Shabaab.

Martin Brown