“I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.”
– Nelson Mandela
The Economist this week reports on the launch of a version of the Monopoly board game based on Lagos, Nigeria. This is the first time the game has been customised for a city in Africa, and it is telling about the times we live in.
With a population of about eight million, Lagos is the second fastest growing city in Africa and the seventh fastest growing in the world. The city is littered with landmarks, a game-maker’s dream. The Monopoly board game could be the perfect gift for those who wish to take a tour around Lagos, without enduring the city’s relentless traffic gridlock.
The launch of the game is a sign of the times. Nigeria is one of the frontier economies, the fastest growing countries in the world as the growth in the BRIC economies is slowing down. Overall Africa’s economic pulse has quickened, infusing the continent with a new commercial vibrancy.
According to research by McKinsey, overall African real GDP rose by 4.9 percent a year from 2000 through 2008, more than twice its pace than in the previous 20 years. The major driver is the increase in production and price level of commodity products, but also telecommunications, banking, and retailing are flourishing. Construction is booming. Venture capital and private equity inflows are surging.
Many of Africa’s 50-plus individual economies face serious challenges, including poverty, disease, and high infant mortality. Yet Africa’s collective GDP, at $1.6 trillion in 2008, is now roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s, and the continent is among the world’s most rapidly growing economic regions. This acceleration is a sign of hard-earned progress and promise for the future.
From the view point of many in the West, Africa remains a continent of woe, a place stalked by ethnic conflict, corrupt dictatorships, religious strife, war and famine. But today, at last, the flawed mythology that treats Africa as a homogenous disaster area is being challenged by investors, economists, fund managers and academics.
Africa, the cradle of mankind, now has more of the world’s fastest-growing economies than any other continent. The previous bottom billion is becoming the fastest billion.
We in Bearing are active with projects in Africa from our office in Johannesburg and also with experts travelling from Europe. We work with three kinds of projects; development of places, cities and regions, with strategy and business development and funding for companies and ventures, where we have special expertise in the financial sector and we also work with corporate innovation, which is a very exciting area much in need in strong-growth African businesses.
I have myself been working part time on projects in South, East and West Africa since 1997 and the development over the past 15 years has been very interesting to follow. By visiting different locations in Africa regularly I can see the changes as they take place. To give one example the airport in Maputo in Mozambique used to be one of the most primitive on the African continent. Then in 2010 a new international terminal was opened with a capacity of 900,000 passengers a year. A cargo terminal and a new domestic terminal are in development. The difference from before and after 2010 is staggering and a true leapfrog development from the past.
Recently a research team at Renaissance Capital headed by the chief economist Charles Robertson published a new book, The fastest billion – The Story Behind Africa’s Economic Revolution. In the book the authors outlines the continent’s growth trajectory over 30 years. Projections indicate that Africa is already attracting more foreign investments than India and Bangladesh owing to a faster growth rate. The continent, the authors say, has the unique advantage of “leapfrogging” through various stages of economic development, which the more developed western states had to go through in growing their economies over decades.
The interested reader can find a video below, including an interview with Charles Robertson and including the story and arguments from the book.
Returning to the story of Monopoly, the history of the game can be traced back to 1903, when an American woman named Elizabeth Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George.
The Monopoly game was originally developed in America based on the streets of Atlantic City. By 1934, the currently popular version had been created which formed the basis of the game sold by Parker Brothers. Bestman Games, which holds an exclusive license for the Lagos version, is hoping the latest franchise will prove as popular in Nigeria as the versions about more famous large cities.
Apparently Nigerians love board games, especially Scrabble. The country has its own Scrabble Federation which runs an interclub championship across Nigeria’s 36 states. The national team won this year’s Africa Scrabble Championship in Kenya.