The notion of “Africa rising” is understandably alluring. The vision of hundreds of millions of Africans striding into the middle class, mobile phones in hand, is certainly a refreshing antidote to endless images of death and deprivation. But while there is no denying that economies are growing rapidly across the continent, this feel-good narrative risks distorting reality, making it even more difficult to develop and adopt effective policies to truly improve African lives.
Just because some African economies are recording annual growth rates of more than 6 % does not mean that the lives of average citizens are necessarily improving apace; wealth disparity is rising even faster. In Kenya, for example, the mortgage market has only increased from 7,600 homes in 2006 to 20,000 homes in 2012.
Much of the overhyped economic growth is fueled by the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, investment in the telecommunications industry, and infrastructure development. Most of the profits and benefits from this growth go into