Chelsea Follett: Joining me today is David Ansara, the Chief Executive of the Free Market Foundation, a South African think tank and the host of the Solutions Podcast. And he joins the Human Progress Podcast today to discuss the state of human progress, free markets and individual liberty in Africa as a whole. How are you, David?
David Ansara: I’m fantastic. Great to be on your show, Chelsea.
Chelsea Follett: Thank you so much for joining me and being on the other side of the podcast. So give us an overview, what is the broad state of free markets and individual liberty and progress in Africa today?
David Ansara: Well, I think it’s very important to preface any discussion about Africa with this caveat which is that it’s a very heterogeneous place. It’s almost trite to say it, but there are 54 countries in Africa, 55 if you include Western Sahara. But that means that the continent is extremely plural, there are lots of different languages spoken, lots of different ethnic and cultural groups. And so, you must always be very cautious about making broad brushstroke assessments of the state of the continent. But I think there are a few kinds of general trends that we can observe. And I think what has been very interesting, and particularly if we focus on human progress, is just the extraordinary gains that have been made across Africa, albeit from a low base.
David Ansara: I think during the Cold War and the immediate post-liberation period, many countries, if you consider Ghana for example under Kwame Nkrumah, there was definitely a tilt towards socialism and nationalist policies, very highly interventionist states across a lot of sub-Saharan Africa. If you consider countries like Tanzania and later Angola and Mozambique, our neighbors here in South Africa, during the 1970s both tilted pretty aggressively towards Marxism. There was a high degree of state centralization, a lot of bureaucracy, also a lot of high tariff barriers. Many African countries were quite isolated and cut off from the rest of the world, and mostly focusing on commodities exports. But since the end of the Cold War, I think that there’s been quite a change, not only in terms of economic openness, but also in terms of broader liberalization, so a more political openness.
David Ansara: There has also been some slippage there. So it’s really a mixed picture, Chelsea. There are still pretty significant security concerns in large parts of Africa. I just returned back from a trip to Kenya. My partner is Kenyan, so I went there to go and visit her family. And it was definitely noticeable, even though there haven’t been any terrorist attacks there recently, there is a sense of high alert, barricades in front of buildings, searches for bombs and so on when you go to the shopping mall. And so that is a problem that has characterized many African states. We also have a very weak often hostile state institutions, a low level of trust in the legitimacy of state institutions.
David Ansara: But I think what really struck me on my trip to Kenya and in my travels to other African countries is a kind of a sense of a bit of a hustle culture amongst many Africans. They are not really reliant on the state for anything. Nobody’s waiting for the government to come to save them. It’s a kind of an incredulous attitude that most Africans have towards their governments, ’cause unfortunately many governments in the continent seem to be fairly parasitic. But there’s a sense a can-do spirit, there’s a lot of trading that happens, and sometimes that trade is frustrated because of lack of infrastructure and maybe overbearing rules and regulations. But generally, people have a sense of optimism and a can-do spirit and are really driving the growth themselves.
Chelsea Follett: What would you say are some of the strengths and opportunities for Africa right now?
David Ansara: Well, I think a big strength is a demographic dividend. So, sub-Saharan Africa has a very young population relative to the rest of the world. So if you consider the developed world, countries like Japan, Italy, they’re really suffering from low population growth. And so there is a huge potential dividend, I say a potential there because it’s not a fair complete… Young men with no jobs and nothing to do tend to also cause trouble as well. But there is huge potential there, particularly if you consider countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, very large up-and-coming populations. Even here in South Africa, we have a relatively youthful population. So that there is a potential dividend there to be tapped into. But you also need an enabling policy framework. You need economic opportunities to be in place. You need a good set of skills and education. So that’s definitely an opportunity. I think another opportunity is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
David Ansara: Many African countries are quite fond of these multilateral agreements, and we’ve seen institutions like the African Union being fairly bureaucratic, quite glacial mostly a club of dictators and long-serving politicians. But there is this silver lining, that the AU has driven the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. And this proposes radical reductions, over the next 12 years or so, about 90% of tariffs are aimed to be reduced. So there is a broad consensus in Africa at the moment that we need to improve the levels of intra-African trade. So if you had to look at a map of Africa’s rail networks, you would see mostly its lines going from the interior outwards to the coast. And that is a hangover, if you will, of the fairly resource-intensive extractive nature of many African economies.
David Ansara: So as a consequence also of geography and various other political factors, the rate of trade between African countries is pretty low, it’s roughly at about 10 to 15% whereas in I think a continent like Europe, intra-European trade would be north of 60%. So there is a sense that Africans need to start engaging in a commercial way with each other more. And something like the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, I think has potential, and again I stress that term potential. I think there’s still a number of non-tariff barriers in place. Anybody who’s tried to take goods across borders in sub-Saharan Africa will be met by many kind of the meddling officials trying to extract bribes, infrastructure like roads and so on tend to be quite inefficient and ineffective. So that also frustrates trade. And there’s a lot of protection of special interests, so local businesses and so on, that are fearful of external competition.
David Ansara: Now, of course, you would know that trade is a rising tide that lifts all boats, and opening yourself up to foreign competition actually generates more economic opportunity. So I think what’s interesting there with the free trade areas, that it’s been couched in almost like the African nationalist rhetoric of old of African self-sufficiency and African sovereignty over its own affairs. But classical liberals like myself are very excited about it because even though that language is a bit alien to us, the potential outcomes are hugely beneficial, and there’s major upsides to be had there.
Chelsea Follett: So those are some of the strengths of Africa, some of the opportunities for the continent. What about some of the weaknesses, some of the threats to progress on the continent?
David Ansara: Yes. So I think governance issues still really remain quite a big problem. I mentioned that I was in Kenya recently, and despite economic growth in Kenya being forecast by the World Bank to be about 5.2% next year, there are some serious concerns there about corruption, even though corruption is… There have been many anti-corruption laws being passed, and it’s supposedly illegal, it’s quite common for officials to try to extract bribes and so on. And the new government of William Ruto has also been mired in accusations of corruption. So and that is a story that has affected many African countries here in South Africa. We’re also dealing with endemic corruption that has resulted in our national energy utility Eskom being abused, and that has resulted in rolling blackouts.
David Ansara: So don’t be surprised if this conversation is cut short at some point just because my power goes out. But so… And that really extends across all spheres of government in South Africa. The president himself was… It was found that he had about $6 million worth of US currency hidden in his couch in one of his game farms, and some pretty serious were questions being asked about the origins of that money and why it was not disclosed and so on. So even President Ramaphosa is finding himself ensnared in some of these allegations. And so there are a few outliers in terms of governments, Mauritius, for example, has had a very good track record. It’s promoted very pro-business policies, and also that’s a pretty safe place for you to do business, private property rights are respected. Botswana is also a positive growth story.
David Ansara: But you asked about weaknesses and threats, and I think one of the major ones there, and we’re dealing with this in South Africa, is respect for private property rights. In The Economic Freedom of the World Report, which we at the Free Market Foundation we host an annual event where we discuss some of the findings of this report that’s produced by the Fraser Institute in Canada, one of the key pillars of the economic freedom of the World Index, which measures economic freedom around the world, is respect for the rule of law and private property rights. And that is a very mixed picture in sub-Saharan Africa.
David Ansara: In South Africa, we have constitutional protection for private property rights in section 25 of the Constitution. That is a result or consequence of the negotiated transition in the 1990s out of apartheid and into the democratic system. But recently there have been moves to amend the constitution to include expropriation with nil compensation, which would really dilute and undermine private property rights. There’s also the expropriation bill, which is before parliament. So the constitutional amendment was actually not successful, that required a two-thirds support in parliament. But subsequent to that, the expropriation bill has been introduced in Parliament trying to, through normal legislation, introduce expropriation without compensation.
David Ansara: So any investor that is looking to set up shop in sub-Saharan Africa is gonna be asking, “How secure are my long-term investments? So if the politics changes, will a minister decide that now he wants to expropriate my factory or my farm?” And security of tenure is really critical and is quite weak. If you want to purchase property in Mozambique, for example, you have to take a 99 year lease. And that is perhaps not as comforting to a potential investor. So, I think sub-Saharan African countries really need to take this seriously, and I think the countries that do take it seriously are the ones that yield the benefits, I mentioned Botswana and Mozambique. And there’s also huge amounts of liberalization happening in countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana is also experiencing positive growth. So you can see my earlier statement that Africa is heterogeneous, really it is quite a mixed bag.
Chelsea Follett: All right. So on that note, you’ve already mentioned some of the countries which you feel more hopeful about, but could you go into more detail on which countries or areas maybe have a more hopeful outlook and which areas you are more fearful about their future?
David Ansara: Yeah. So, I think, obviously the COVID pandemic was globally a very disruptive force, and that has meant that global supply chains have been shown to be very brittle. There’s the war in Ukraine, which has also affected global economies. So that’s meant that many African countries are suffering from inflation. Some countries are very resource rich and are oil exporters, but many are, like South Africa, are actually net oil importers, so we’ve seen fuel prices rocketing, but so has countries like Kenya. So that is creating headwinds, and how governments respond to that will really be determining of how successful they are. So in South Africa, we had quite a harsh lockdown, not quite as harsh as in places like Canada or New Zealand and so on, and there was very little acceptance of that.
David Ansara: So, there was a lot of delinquency amongst the population, just basically did not comply with many of the lockdown edicts. But I think as we emerged out of the pandemic and into this rather uncertain volatile world, we’re beginning to see the differences. So like I mentioned, Mauritius has positioned itself as a global hub. Tax rates are very low there. Many South Africans are purchasing property in Mauritius, and it’s displacing South Africa as a so-called springboard into the rest of the continent. It has double taxation agreements with many countries. The standard of living is quite good there. It’s a very global and cosmopolitan, and a capital can flow in and out of Mauritius pretty easily.
David Ansara: You don’t have to be a citizen to open a bank account, for example, in Mauritius or to buy a property. You can go and work as a remote worker there for a year on a special visa. So they’re really leaning into globalization and are seeing the benefits of that. Botswana is very blessed with a rich endowment of diamonds, but it is also starting to diversify it’s economy. It has a relatively small population, but it’s very well governed, so it has fairly strong institutions. But right next door is Zimbabwe, which many years ago started systematically violating private property rights, expropriating farms without compensation, and also experimenting with aggressive monetary easing, which resulted in runaway hyperinflation in the trillions of percentages.
David Ansara: So that has been devastating for a country like Zimbabwe, and I think is a real cautionary tale. And there are many Zimbabweans who now live in South Africa, who have fled the tyranny and the economic decay that has occurred in Zimbabwe. I mentioned Ethiopia, that was the darling of the development world, but Ethiopia is currently, or has been experiencing for the last couple of years, a quite devastating civil war, which has put a halt on much of their growth in the Tigrayan Region. There is a very violent and bloody conflict occurring there between the government and the Tigrayans with the assistance of the Eritreans.
David Ansara: So the Horn of Africa is always pretty unstable in terms of security terms. And the situation in Somalia obviously hasn’t improved. West Africa, as I mentioned, there’s some pretty positive signs of growth in countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal. I think Nigeria is a country that never quite lives up to its potential. I once heard a joke about Brazil, that Brazil is the country of the future, and it always will be, and you can say the same thing about Nigeria. A very dynamic population, if you’ve ever been to Lagos you’ll just be struck by the frenzy of commercial activity that happens there and the innovativeness of Nigerians. But again, let down very much by the political class which… And also by the security situation as well, particularly in the north of the country. So I think it is a bit of a mixed picture.
David Ansara: And many people often look to Rwanda as a shining economic light. And certainly the Rwandan government under Paul Kagame has embraced business and has positioned itself as an investment destination. But also some pretty worrying signs there in terms of concentration of political power. Mr. Kagame seems to have no intention of ever relinquishing the presidency there. And many of the ethnic tensions that characterized the build up to the 1994 genocide, I think have been suppressed. So many people will look at the clean streets of Kigali and comment about how wonderful the growth story is there. But my view of Rwanda is actually that it’s quite brittle.
David Ansara: And then in Zambia, I think that is a true shining light. We’ve had a peaceful exchange of power through a very competitive democratic process. And the previous government, which was woefully corrupt, has been replaced by President Hichilema. And HH, as he’s affectionately referred to, is undergoing and implementing a raft of reforms. And so a country that was traditionally very dependent on the copper industry and on tourism is starting to get it’s house in order. It’s meeting some of its commitments to international lenders, where in the recent past it was defaulting on some of its loans. So I think that that is a hugely positive story. And in many respects, sitting here in Johannesburg, there are some cautionary lessons for us here. I think South Africa often thinks that it’s quite exceptional, that it’s very different to the rest of Africa, but in many respects, some of these African countries are eating South Africa’s lunch.
Chelsea Follett: You mentioned the pandemic at one point. How has the pandemic recovery been for Africa?
David Ansara: Well, look, I think some of these headwinds that I mentioned before have obviously been quite disruptive, particularly the soaring energy prices and food prices and so on. So that is frustrating the recovery. But I mentioned Kenya’s very high growth, 5.2%. That’s in spite of some of these factors, and with all of the political risks that characterize there as well. So and when I was in Nairobi, you could see there was a new expressway that had been built there, which is alleviating many of the traffic problems. And everywhere you go, there are new buildings springing up. And it was quite noticeable for me, having last been in Nairobi in about 2015 or so. The skyline is looking dramatically different.
David Ansara: And the last time South Africa had economic growth of over 5% was in the mid 2000s. So I was quite jealous of the growth story there. But I think what was quite interesting about the pandemic is that, either through lack of respect for COVID lockdown restrictions or just the impossibility of enforcing these kinds of restrictions, actually much of sub-Saharan Africa escaped some of the worst excesses of the lockdowns. And so many people just continued to go about their business, whereas in parts of the developed world, if you were in your apartment in Amsterdam, you didn’t really have much choice, for example, if you’re in New York or wherever, So in many respects, the weakness of the state apparatus in many African countries was actually an advantage because it meant that some of these huge disruptions of economic activity just didn’t really occur. And also in terms of the virality, I’m not quite sure I understand why, but morbidity rates were a lot lower in sub Saharan Africa as well. South Africa had much higher rates of infections and deaths, that could be a reporting issue. But in many respects, I think the developed world actually was hit harder by the COVID responses.
Chelsea Follett: Sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s poorest region. How can this region unlock its own economic potential?
David Ansara: Okay. Well, the ingredients that I would say are well tried and tested. You don’t need any new fancy economic models. It’s not like you need an army of technocrats to implement this stuff. I mentioned the Economic Freedom of the World Report earlier, and the five pillars that they recognize as being important are the size of government, the legal system and property rights, which we’ve spoken about, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and appropriate regulation.
David Ansara: And I think if you look at some of the indicators from that, there is just quite a vast difference between the countries that are more free and the countries that are less free. So if you look at the freest quartile of nations in that Economic Freedom of the World Report, the freest 25% of nations, when you adjust for purchasing power, they have average incomes more than seven times higher than the average incomes of the least free quartile. So average incomes in the top quartile are about $48,000, adjusted for purchasing power, and then in the lowest, in the least free quartile, it’s about $6500.
David Ansara: And the Fraser Institute, they also show that in the least free economies, almost 31% of the population lives in extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day. And that’s compared to just 2% of the population that lives in extreme poverty in the freer states. So I think economists and policymakers tend to get quite caught up in deliberations over policy. And to perhaps the man on the street, it could seem like a very technically complicated exercise. But if you respect those basic principles of keeping government functions and the size of the state at a relatively modest level.
David Ansara: Many African states government consumption accounts for a great majority of consumption in the country as a whole, and most of the middle classes in many African countries are civil servants or they work at universities or something like that. And that creates a lot of bloat. It also means there’s an opportunity cost. Somebody who’s working for the government, they could otherwise have been adding new value into the economy if they were pursuing entrepreneurial objectives. So keeping government small, I would say is really essential.
David Ansara: Then legal system and property rights, so we’ve spoken about the importance of private property rights, but the rule of law is also important. And here at the Free Market Foundation, one of our policy units is the rule of law project which seeks to act as a watchman to ensure that the rule of law is respected. And the rule of law is important because it is designed to treat everybody equally before the law, whether you are the president in the State House or the person sweeping the floors of the State House, you have the same rights afforded to you regardless of your power.
David Ansara: The rule of law also says that laws should be transparent, understandable and rational, and that they should be clearly understood and easily understood, not hidden behind obtuse language and reams and reams of legal documents. So that requires well-functioning courts. I was speaking to a lawyer in Nairobi who was explaining to me why she’s not involved in criminal law and why she prefers corporate matters. And she was explaining that bribery of judges is very common, and the whole system is pretty dirty. And that creates a lack of trust in the courts. It also means that those with the most power and resources tend to dominate.
David Ansara: So that, I think, is one of Africa’s real Achilles heel. There’s a lack of respect for private property rights as well as the rule of law. And many critics of pre-market policies, particularly here in South Africa, will say, “Oh, well, private property rights, those are just there to defend the interests of the wealthy or the most prosperous in society.” And we would say, “No, it’s actually the poor people in your society who need private property rights the most, ’cause they are actually the most vulnerable to the excesses of state action.” If you consider an informal settlement, it’s very common for a local policeman or municipal official to come and just say, “Well, you have to dismantle your shack and move your entire home because we tell you to.”
David Ansara: So there is a lot of dead capital in many African countries, so families which have lived on properties for sometimes generations, but they don’t have no legal recourse, no title to the property on which they resides, there is that Hernando De Soto principle. So we, as the Free Market Foundation, we’re not just a think tank, we also like to have a practical implementation of our ideas. That’s why several years ago we started the Khaya Lam Project, which essentially assists poor homeowners with their applications to receive title deeds for their properties. And in some cases some of the beneficiaries… We’ve had over 10,000 of these transfer deeds titled that we’ve helped to facilitate.
David Ansara: In some cases the beneficiaries are in their 80s or 90s, they’ve lived in their home their entire lives but they’ve never had legal recognition of that. And it’s quite emotional and moving to see some of the handover ceremonies that we’ve run with the Khaya Lam Project. And that is a really impactful way of driving development. You don’t need some massive World Bank loan or a foreign NGO coming and running an expensive project, you just have to give people legal recognition of their property, protect their property, and they will create prosperity for themselves.
Chelsea Follett: Many people in the United States and other rich countries think that the way to combat poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere is mainly through foreign aid and through charity. Why do you believe that free trade is superior to aid when it comes to economic development?
David Ansara: Yeah. Well, in anticipation of this conversation, I picked up this book by Bull Easterly, “The Tyranny of Experts.” And I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve listened to Easterly talk on a number of occasions. And I think there’s a big debate in the development world about the efficacy of aid. And I think one of the problems is a political problem, Chelsea. Often international aid agencies, they prefer or perhaps are mandated to work with local governments. So we were speaking about Ethiopia earlier, Meles Zenawi, he was very much the darling of the development world, but he often would use development funding to actually distribute patronage in his country for buying political favour.
David Ansara: We mentioned Paul Kagame in Rwanda as well, there’s… I think he’s been very effective in playing the international donor community and actually using that, carrying that favour to entrench his power and his regime’s control over that country. So really I think there’s a tension here between a status view that development is a sort of top down activity, that if you just get the right mix of laws and institutions and policies, then you can achieve development versus a much more bottom up approach, which says, well, actually how you can achieve prosperity is… And how every country really has achieved prosperity is by empowering individuals, protecting their capital, ensuring that they can trade freely with one another. So and alot of the funding that goes into some of these global development aid projects is actually used for the administration of those projects.
David Ansara: So if you had to go to a country like Malawi or Tanzania, whenever you saw a four-wheel drive motor vehicle in the city, you’ll be pretty certain that has been driven by somebody who works in an international NGO. So I think there is a big push, and I think the… Towards direct giving, which I think seeks to minimize some of the overheads and prioritizes direct cash transfers. So I think altruism is still quite important, can still be effective, but if you contrast that to, for example, the growth of telecommunications, how that has transformed agriculture in rural communities, cash transfer systems like MPESA, these are emergent market forces or services that are creating prosperity orders of magnitude larger than what any NGO can achieve.
David Ansara: So I think there’s still definitely a role for international organizations to play, for example, in disaster relief and emergency responses, famines and so on. But as Amartya Sen has indicated, liberal democracies with market economies very seldom suffer from famines. So I think if you get the systems right and you focus on the individuals and the bottom up approach, then I think you can achieve a lot. It’s not quite as sexy as running a well-funded United Nations project, for example, but it’s more durable and also respects the agency of Africans. And so Africans are not just merely the recipients of aid, but they are equal partners in a trading, a global trading, environment.
David Ansara: What distorts their position and their equality is very often trade barriers that are agreed to by governments so tariffs, import duties, non-tariff barriers as well. So that often frustrates the ability of individuals to achieve their own ends. And I think if you consider some of the gains, I think GDP per capita has increased by about 30% across Africa in the last 20 years, if my numbers are correct, that is a considerable leap. And that is just, I think, mostly from removing barriers and letting people get on with the business of improving their own circumstances. ‘Cause naturally people are ambitious, they want to improve the lives of their families, they want their children’s lives to be better than their own, and they’re hungry and they’re gonna go after that. They just need the right conditions in which to operate.
Chelsea Follett: We’ve been speaking about sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, but of course you are based in Johannesburg in South Africa, so let’s zoom in to South Africa, which you know the most about. It’s still the richest country in sub-Saharan Africa, but there’s been some talk about South Africa losing its competitive advantage. What are your thoughts on that?
David Ansara: So South Africa’s GDP per capita is around $7,000 per head, which is, as you say, higher than many African countries, but that hasn’t improved since about 2006, if you go back to then, it’s been pretty stagnant. So there is a huge opportunity cost if you think that growth compounds over time, and many of our poverty levels are increasing. And that wasn’t always necessarily the case. So between 1994 and 2008, living standards improved, there was mass extension of piped water, electrification, etcetera, access to health care. And that was in the immediate post-apartheid period.
David Ansara: But since 2008, we had the global financial crisis, also the ascension of Jacob Zuma to the presidency of the African National Congress. And much of the… I think corruption was always a problem within the ANC government, but that has really accelerated under the state capture period. And Mr. Ramaphosa, who succeeded Mr. Zuma, he came in on the back of a wave of expectation that he was going to reform not only the state and the party, but also the economy. In my previous role, we were arguing that those expectations were misplaced, but I think that position has been vindicated. The last four years have been an utter disappointment in many respects as South Africa is going backwards on several indicators.
David Ansara: So the power situation that I mentioned as acute, that is putting a hard ceiling on economic growth. And so I’ll be very surprised if South Africa grows above 2% in the next year. And so, yeah, a lot of those problems, again, are political problems. South Africa actually has a fairly diversified economy, lots of financial services, retail, tourism, that are potentially significant comparative advantages. But our infrastructure is crumbling, the energy security means there’s been a decline in gross fixed capital formation, which is an indicator of hard investment in the economy, so the construction of factories or sinking of mine shafts.
David Ansara: So in the early to mid 2000s, gross fixed capital formation was about 25% of GDP, it’s now down to around 11% of GDP, which shows you that investors are not willing to take a long term bet on investing in South Africa. So that measure is a much clearer indicator than, for example, portfolio flows, hot money coming in and out of the country. So a lot of these problems are political. When you put legislation through parliament that tries to give the state power to expropriate properties without compensating those people ostensibly for the purposes of land reform, when you make threats to nationalize health care in South Africa, when you threaten to implement a prescribed assets program which would empower the state to dictate how asset managers allocate their portfolios and drive capital towards failing state-owned enterprises, the size of the state has mushroomed in South Africa.
David Ansara: So all of these things, when you implement them, have a consequence. “A is A,” as Ayn Rand used to say. And so that… There is a direct and clear line between hostile policy and some of the downside risks that South Africa is facing, not withstanding, of course, some of the challenges in the global environment which obviously aren’t helping.
Chelsea Follett: We usually try to end these podcasts on a positive note. So I’m curious what you are the most optimistic about with regards to Africa’s future?
David Ansara: Well, Chelsea, I’m actually quite bullish about Africa. I think, there is a lot of innovation that’s happening in the continent, much of it out of necessity. I think there’s also a sense of opportunity and open-endedness. I think many developed countries actually are struggling with this sense of embracing new innovation and technology, and I think Peter Thiel has spoken about it, lack of fundamental optimism in the future. But actually, and as you’ve documented so well in your podcast and on other platforms in your work and in your books as well, the story of human progress is profound. It’s, by all measures, progress is going… That line is going up and towards the right. But I do get a sense of, in many Western countries, that there’s a self-doubt, a bit of a skepticism about the future.
David Ansara: But I don’t really see that in Africa actually. I think there’s a lot of concern, for example, here in South Africa, but there’s a sense of change being imminent in the air, that potentially we could see, for example, a coalition government coming in and displacing the ANC. Many of these post-liberation movements, if you think of SWAPO in Namibia, in Angola as well their electoral majorities are declining, and that’s potentially going to usher in a period of much more competition in terms of political ideas. So I think there are huge opportunities to be had, there are virgin markets, new consumers that are coming on board. Many people are having much more access to the internet and are bypassing traditional university systems.
Chelsea Follett: So before fewer Nigerians in the slums of Lagos… Maybe the elites in Lagos could have gone to study at King’s College in London, but you would never have had that opportunity. But now, you can teach yourself through Khan Academy or Coursera the skills that you need. So, I think Africa is very well positioned to actually take advantage of some of the global opportunities. And much like a country like India did, for example. Africa’s also located in a very favorable time zone, so things like remote services, particularly in our post COVID Zoom era, the potential for economic integration into the rest of the world is just enormous.
David Ansara: And I think also Africans have that hunger, that fire in their belly, to improve their circumstances, whereas, perhaps, maybe in many Western countries, there’s a sort of a complacency, there’s an expectation that living standards have always been a certain way and will remain that way forever, and you’ll have generous summer holidays in France or wherever you happen to live. But Africans have a real hustle and grind mentality, and I think that that’s going to be able to take them very far indeed. So, yeah, I think there are definitely some headwinds, there are security issues, there’s still a lot of vulnerability to extreme weather events like droughts and so on, there’s energy issues. But I think these are all solvable problems, I don’t think that this is cause for despair. I think problems breed innovation, and I think Africans have that innovative spirit to change their circumstances and to get things done.
Chelsea Follett: Thank you so much for talking with me, David.
David Ansara: My pleasure, Chelsea.