Home » Comment: Embracing self-awareness — the key to genuine economic transformation in Africa

Comment: Embracing self-awareness — the key to genuine economic transformation in Africa

by Francis Ikome

The momentum is here. We are witnessing a shift in mindset among many of Africa’s political leaders that is essential for Africa’s true economic emergence.

Despite what is now unfolding in Niger, where leaders in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are being pressured by external forces to use military means to address the country’s ongoing state crisis, we must acknowledge their small yet significant efforts so far to retain diplomacy and avoid military conflicts among Africans at all costs.

The stakes are high, and the implications go far beyond what is currently happening in Niger.

Africans’ focus must remain steady on self-awareness and solidarity. Stakeholders ought to embrace the take aways from last June’s meetings in Paris, where many heads of states, including Kenyan President William Ruto and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa clearly demanded respect for the African population and the rapid implementation of financing reforms as a pre-requisite for any prospective future bilateral initiatives with Western partners.

This is what Africans need at the leadership level to truly manifest their economic development; becoming more self-aware and having a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and cultural contexts. This mindset empowers individuals, communities, and nations to make informed decisions, set realistic and achievable goals, and harness their unique assets to effect meaningful change. In the African context, self-awareness extends to acknowledging historical, social, and economic complexities while embracing a proactive approach to development.

For decades, Africa’s economic narrative has been one of potential and promise. Vast natural resources, a youthful population, and untapped markets have attracted interest from around the world. However, to fully unlock this potential, a shift toward a self-awareness mindset is essential at all levels of society. Understanding local needs, fostering entrepreneurship, and leveraging indigenous knowledge systems are integral components of a successful economic transformation strategy.

The rise of African entrepreneurship and the rapid implementation agenda of AfCFTA are testaments to the continent’s readiness for self-driven progress. A few examples include Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, who has been seeing tremendous financial returns from its clinker exports to other African nations where the AfCFTA is fully operational. Likewise, Narendra Raval is expanding his steel operations in Kenya while leveraging the opportunities presented by Kenya’s Finance Act 2023.

The interconnectedness of the global world allows Africa to tap into knowledge, expertise, and resources from around the globe. A self-awareness mindset encourages collaboration that is mutually beneficial. Rather than being passive recipients, African nations can engage as active partners, contributing their unique insights to global conversations while benefiting from international expertise as well.

The ongoing shift toward a self-awareness mindset among Africans marks a critical juncture in the continent’s journey toward genuine economic transformation. By fostering self-awareness at the individual, community, and national levels, African nations can chart their paths to prosperity, rooted in local context and guided by global insights. This transformative journey is not only about economic indicators; it’s about empowering people to reclaim their narratives, celebrate their identity, and drive a new era of inclusive, sustainable growth.

As the African continent continues to evolve, embracing self-awareness as a foundation for economic transformation promises a future that’s both empowered and empowering — a future that taps into the authentic essence of Africa’s diverse nations and peoples. Africans have a unique chance now to manifest an economic comeback that promises to stun the world.

Francis Ikome is an Africa trade specialist and the executive director of the European Association for Economic Cooperation with West African States (EUROWAS).

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