Togo is as similar as the rest part of West Africa. It is a small, poor country that is home to a few worldwide famous football players and there is a very important bank. 21 years ago, a bank called Ecobank was opened in the capital city Lomé. According to bank manager Arnold Ekpe, this corporation employs 11,000 people in 680 branches in 26 countries and has a balance sheet of $8 billion.
Unlike many other banks, Ecobank is expanding. It has opened 200 branches since 2006 and plans to set them up in three more countries. The annual profit in 2007 was 47 percent, which is about 191 million dollars. Even more unusual is the fact that this bank is able to raise money in the capital markets affected by the economic crisis. And that is at a time when the banks around the world are in another historic crisis. But it is no less surprising that now some of the best bankers in the whole world come from an area called Togo.
For many years, Africa was portrayed as desperate place where only war and lack of food can flourish. According to this approach, if anything grows in Africa, it is only suffering and alleviated to do so by sending foreign aid, which now amounts to $40 million a year for the industry. It goes without saying that each year, as they begged again and flooded again with a new disaster, some people began to wonder, if all that money was helping at all. They argue that aid creates dependency, incites corruption, undermines democracy, and stifles development. There is no doubt that the discussions are important. But they overshadow more important fact. The success of Ecobank is not an isolated signal and aid is no longer the main source of Africa of foreign income. Africa is becoming a business goal.
Africa is still a continent of natural resources and land products with its forests, oil fields and mines. Africa still has its Darfur, Somalia, Congo, and Zimbabwe. But the prices of natural resources and agricultural products are higher than they were in the 1990s. Most Africans do not belong to the middle class yet, but most of them no longer live in terrible poverty. According to the World Bank, the percent of Africans who survive for $1.25 and less per day fell from 59 percent up to 38 percent in a period from 1996 until 2019.
The World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan, says a change has really taken place in the last few years. Now the continent has great potential and now Africa offers more opportunities than any other place in the world. Probably the most convincing proof that Africa is now a business goal is cooperation with China. Trade between Africa and China has grown by an average of 40% over the past decade. Chinese engineers work across the continent: mining copper in Zambia, cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo and drilling for oil in Angola. However, this is not entirely exploitative. China has bought access to these resources by agreeing to build new infrastructure in Africa: to build roads, railways, hospitals, and schools across the continent.