Edinburgh Global

Africa 2024: Prospects and Forecasts

On 6 February the University hosted Africa 2024: Prospects and Forecasts, in partnership with the Royal African Society.

This event provides an annual point for enriching dialogue, bringing together experts to delve into Africa's political, economic, climatic, and cultural landscapes for the upcoming year. The panel discussions focused on themes of global health, COP 28, electoral and foreign policy, and business and entrepreneurship across the continent.

Mary Jobobson, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar pursuing an MSc in Data at the University’s Edinburgh Futures Institute, moderated the panel of University of Edinburgh academics and local entrepreneurs:

  •     Joyce Unuonga, Director/General Manager of John White & Son
  •     Dr. Tom Molony, Senior Lecturer in African Studies, University of Edinburgh
  •     Dr. Samuel Mwaura, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, University of Edinburgh
  •     Prof. Aisha Holloway, Professor of Nursing Studies and Co-Director of Edinburgh Global Nursing Initiative
  •     Prof. Liz Grant, Assistant Principal (Global Health) and Director of the Global Health Academy at the University of Edinburgh
  •     Dr. Geoffrey Banda, Senior Lecturer in the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies department in the School of Social and Political Sciences at The University of Edinburgh

Panel topics

Doing business in Africa and opportunities for collaboration

Joyce Unuonga

Successful business in Africa needs nuance and a commitment to fostering gainful business relationships over a purely transactional attitude. Joyce encouraged future entrepreneurs to avoid treating Africa as a homogenous space. She presented the business environment of the continent as the product of deep layers of identity and culture, reminding the audience that understanding and responding to the distinct needs of communities, countries, and regions is a key factor in ongoing success.  

Joyce Unuonga presents to the Africa 2024: Prospects and Forecast audience

“There are a number of challenges that come with doing business in Africa, but as the saying goes ‘success is determined not by the obstacles, but how we approach those obstacles’. Understanding that Africa is a continent not a country is the starting point of doing business in Africa.”

2024: Africa’s electoral landscape in a global year of elections.

Dr. Tom Molony

The world faces a potentially turbulent year of elections and an inevitable overhaul of the global political landscape. African voters will face new challenges to their participation in fair democratic elections, as generative AI and the use of misinformation become prevalent and powerful campaigning techniques. African leaders must make decisions on how they align themselves to the ideology of other nations as divisions grow between the United States, Russia and China. 

In Europe and North America, the foreign policy towards African nations will be determined by increasingly polarised voters and leaders. Far right candidates with isolationist and imperialist values continue to gain influence, a change that is likely to weaken the financial and political ties between the West and Africa.

Tom Molony, Africa 2024 Prospects and Forecasts

“One relatively new factor that may influence election outcomes on the continent is generative artificial intelligence. At the moment AI is only a small part of the contested information environment. But it has already begun to undermine democratic discourse around elections, and this is likely to increase as the technology becomes more popular”

Dr. Tom Molony

Entrepreneurship participation rate in Africa

Dr. Samuel Mwaura

Entrepreneurship rates are high in African countries, particularly amongst women, but is that something we should celebrate before we have investigated the factors which contribute to this growth? Dr Mwaura delivered a balanced take on this developing trend, reminding us that entrepreneurship is often an economic survival mechanism that can thrive under the pressures of difficult times. 

The rise of female entrepreneurship in African nations is a success story, but gender biases in cultural norms surrounding property ownership and inheritance make funding a fledgling enterprise more daunting for women than their male counterparts. As a result, many female-led businesses collapse in their first years due to a lack of collateral to secure funding for growth. Still, since the 1980s, there has been a concerning rise of the phenomenon of the underperforming neglected boy-child, in contrast, the fortunes of the girl-child have improved despite the barriers to female entrepreneurship. These shifting gender dynamics will be of significant interest to future research and policy.

Samuel Mwaura, Africa 2024: Prospects and Forecasts

“Africa is the only continent where female entrepreneurship does better than male entrepreneurship. From a sociological perspective Entrepreneurship is a way for people to express themselves and gain independence in societies where women have been oppressed by structures that are controlled by men. By engaging in entrepreneurship, these women can do things they care about and empower themselves by earning a livelihood.”

Dr. Samuel Mwaura

COP 28: Shifts in health in relation with climate change

Prof. Liz Grant

In Africa, warming climates have created extreme and unprecedented weather patterns with tragic consequences – a growing number of lives are lost to flooding, drought, disease, and famine. Deadly cyclones and destructive storms are decimating communities; malaria and other life-threatening diseases are spreading to new areas that were previously inhospitable to their carriers, and mass economic migrations driven by conflict and the loss of arable land have lowered food security across the continent. 

Professor Grant’s message was a simple one, if we want to combat the health crisis caused by a warming world then we simply cannot afford to separate climate issues from health issues.

Liz Grant, Africa Prospects and Forecasts

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, and seven of the ten most vulnerable countries in the world are in Africa. How do we make sure that countries acknowledge and stand by the health declaration that they have signed?”

Prof. Liz Grant

The Nursing Africa Workforce

Prof. Aisha Holloway

Problematic global trends in nursing are manifesting themselves in Africa, particularly the disparity in distribution of nurses between developed countries and African nations. Inequality in rates of pay, workplace violence, and diminished public support make nursing in Africa a challenging proposition, but increased international interest and research into the state of world nursing is an essential step in tackling these issues.

Professor Holloway outlined the vital steps being taken by worldwide organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) through their National Health Workforce Accounts in gathering data to fully understand the problems nursing faces globally and more acutely in Africa.

Aisha Holloway Africa 2024: Prospects and Forecasts

“There is a disparity, inequalities going on, and the backdrop to this is unethical recruitment from western countries, pandemic, conflict and a maturing workforce globally.”

Prof. Aisha Holloway

The shift in disease demographics from communicable to non-communicable diseases in Africa

Dr. Geoffrey Banda

Dr. Banda concentrated on how any genuinely resilient system for global health security can only be achieved if local health security becomes its foundation. The global pandemic exposed a common vulnerability in African nations, a dependency on nations outside the continent for pharmaceutical production, that they must address if they are to meet the challenges of worldwide health disasters like Covid-19 in the future.  

Dr. Geoffrey Banda - Africa 2024: Prospects and Forecasts

“Local health security is the foundation of global health security and there are two messages that became clear to African leaders during the pandemic. The first is that in times of global crisis, you are alone. The second one? Local pharmaceutical production is a national health security issue.”

Dr. Geoffrey Banda

The University and Africa

The University has a deep and longstanding relationship with Africa, and is proud of its high-profile scholarship programmes, ambitious and impactful interdisciplinary research and academic partnerships. This event, and others like it, are an effective way to bring together those in the University and wider Edinburgh community who have an interest in the African continent. It is just one of the ways the University demonstrates its commitment to engagement in global regions, and to building innovative global partnerships for research, teaching, and impact.


Learn about the work of our Africa Regional Team

Regional engagement: Africa

Find out more about the Royal African Society

Visit the Royal African Society website