Africa Rising: Can “The Dark Continent” Outshine Its Former Colonial Masters?
By: Raymond Tham Date: 29 September 2011

He who laughs last laughs best. For decades, European countries were the colonial masters of Africa, dividing the continent at their own whim and exploiting the abundant resources available for their own purposes. Yet today, there has been a paradigm shift where African nations are now leading the world in economic growth and can more hold their own against their ex-colonial masters.

Africa Rising: Can “The Dark Continent” Outshine Its Former Colonial Masters?
"The Outside World Still Sees Africa Of Yesterday. We Believe This Is Africa's Time."
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Throughout history, the African continent and its people have been victims of unfair discrimination and exploitative practices. Africa’s main oppressors have always been its former European colonial masters, who dubbed the region as the “Dark Continent” back during the early 19th century. While the origins of the term reflected how little Europeans knew about Africa (map makers back then would often leave the region dark as they had no clue of its interior geography), the term soon began to carry racist undertones with it as rampant discrimination began to spread across the region in the wake of a mad scramble for colonies among the European powers.
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For decades, the European powers exploited Africa’s resources and its people, often possessing attitudes of superiority and a sense of mission. Even as the decolonisation of Africa began, the Europeans took it upon themselves to carve up Africa by drawing up arbitrary colonial-era borders rather than attempting to correspond to traditional African territories. This in turn led to internal conflicts within African countries, further destabilising the region and hindering economic progress for a prolonged period of time.

While their former colonial masters were bickering over possible solutions for a debt crisis that is slowly eating away at the heart of Europe, some African states were quietly presenting their own structural reforms that have helped them to manage national debt and public finances.

The tiny African state of Gambia, for instance, has seen its total expenditure and net lending fall from 22 percent of its GDP in 2009 to 21.2 percent, with capital spending cut to 6.3 percent from 7.5 percent and further reductions expected to 5.4 percent and 4.6 percent in the next two years.

The overall fiscal deficit of Gambia also fell in 2010 from 3 percent of its GDP in 2009 to 2.7 percent. Gambia’s fiscal deficit is projected to drop to 2.4 percent this year and 1.5 percent in 2012.

Cape Verde is another African country that is gradually reversing its fortunes. It’s 2001-08 Public Financial Management (PFM) reform, for example, led to improvements in expenditure management, while the 2009-12 PFM Action Plan has sought to increase transparency in revenues by strengthening taxation, customs and budget procedures and by reinforcing the national planning system.

Cape Verde also managed to see a 4 percent increase in government revenue in 2010, thanks to an increase in efficiency with cross-checking auditing procedures – all this despite a 5 percent decrease in corporate income tax as well an increase in tax waivers and moratoriums.

According to the African Economic Outlook, the island country will also see tax revenues reach up to 28 percent of its GDP in 2017, up from 20.8 percent in 2010, through gains in efficiency and private sector development.

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