Best Ideas of 2011: 2012, the Year of Archimedean Entrepreneurs

Authored by: Eric Kacou

2011 will live in history as the year Africa made a dent in the world, to paraphrase Steve Jobs. As previously discussed in this NextBillion series, The Economist, a ‘beacon of afro-pessimism’, headlined “Africa Rising” late last year. What a jump from “The Hopeless Continent” in 2000.

Thankfully, the cover underscores solid empirical evidence. Africa leapt forward at 4,9 percent last year in a growth starved world. While the Arab Spring heralded a new era of accountability, inspiring – some might suggest – the occupy Wall Street movement.

Moving beyond the Survival Trap

Anyone visiting Africa would be hard pressed to see Africans celebrate this feat. This is not for being an ungrateful people. Rather, it is because the growth spurt has not materialized into tangible improvements in the life of the average African citizen. At least not yet…

Who is the average African citizen? It is a young woman (or man) living off subsistence farming on a very small plot of land in a rural area. This citizen feels stuck scrapping to survive in the pre-industrial age while the rest of the world moves forward in the digital age.

In reality, most Africans are still mired in the ‘survival trap’, a vicious cycle that makes individuals, businesses and nations react to short-term crises instead of developing long-term strategies for prosperity.

This where Haiti and Africa share a lot more than meets the eye. Beyond a shared history and deep cultural roots, one realizes that their development indicators are very similar.

Today’s greatest challenge is the struggle for prosperity. It is also, arguably, today’s greatest opportunity.

Make no mistake: Freeing the 2.7 billion people struggling on less than two dollars per day from the survival trap is not optional. In reality, it is not only a moral imperative, but it is also an economic one.

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