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Transformations, top African trends of 2012, and what 2013 holds

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Several trends, key among them mobile money  transactions in billions of dollars, point to a continent pushing the economic growth frontiers; a continent where extraordinary changes are taking place, from governance to the arts, health, and renewable resources. TEA Graphics/FILE

Several trends, key among them mobile money transactions in billions of dollars, point to a continent pushing the economic growth frontiers; a continent where extraordinary changes are taking place, from governance to the arts, health, and renewable resources. TEA Graphics/FILE  Nation Media Group

By LEE MWITI Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, December 29   2012 at  16:50

In Summary

  • In addition to the economy, there are other areas where extraordinary changes are taking place, from governance to the arts, health, and renewable resources.
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Since March, 80 of the estimated 130 mobile money transactions globally have been in Africa, with their total worth already in the tens of billons of dollars, and astonishingly, still growing.

These and other trends in 2012 pointing to a continent relentlessly pushing the economic growth frontiers — and as a destination for new investment and the simply outlandish returns on risk — suggest that Africa really is the happening region that has been portrayed in such glowing terms in the media, a sort of Africa 2.0 if you like.

As we show in this report, in addition to the economy, there are other areas where extraordinary changes are taking place, from governance to the arts, health, and renewable resources.

Africa watchers would do well to look out for these areas going into 2013:

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The rise of technocrats in government

This year, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation failed to find an African leader worthy of its $5 million Governance Prize, the third time it has failed to do so in its six-year existence.

This sparked debate about the dearth of leadership on the continent, and the need to rethink the concept of trying to “bribe” leaders to do their job.

But in a brilliant article for Forbes, Harvard professor Calestous Juma chronicled how elections this year have brought to the fore a different type of leader — the technocrat.

This year alone Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, Tunisia and Somalia all picked engineers for their top offices, leading Prof Juma to argue that “the road to [African] democracy is being bridged by a rising technocracy.”

The African Union picked a medic, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as its chair. Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is a university professor and dean. Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsy is an engineer by training, as are close to half of his Cabinet reportedly.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is another engineer. Interim Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki is a physician with a human-rights advocacy background.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma had a stellar career in the insurance industry. Senegal’s President Macky Sall is an engineer by training. His premier, Abdoul Mbaye, is a banker.

“The change in the technical background of African leaders may appear random, but it represents a significant realignment of Africa’s top positions with the continent’s contemporary development challenges,” wrote Prof Juma, who also co-chairs the AU’s High Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation.

The technocrat wave had already visited struggling Europe last year following the advent of the Eurozone crisis, especially in Italy and Greece, as non-politicians secured briefs to carry out the painful reforms that purely political operators would not want to take on their own.

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