23 American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 100, No. 8 | www.ceramics.org Celebrating 100 years While challenges such as agricultural waste may be more acute in Africa, these issues transcend borders and require a global perspective. “We can see the local problems. We can adapt science and technology to help our people,” says Oluwagbenga Johnson. But equipment and facility limitations constrain his research capacity, so he has looked abroad for collaboration support. “I see what they present, and I see what I’m presenting,” he says of his experiences at con- ferences in Europe. “It’s not that we can’t reach that height that they have. But unfortunately, we don’t have those capacities in terms of equip- ment.” He believes that multilateral collabora- tion would make better use of Africa’s mineral wealth, provide a better job market within engineering, and secure the continent’s future. Johnson is no stranger to working across borders. Born in Nigeria, he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in South Africa and now works in Namibia. One area of focus in his ceramic material research is cutting tools applications, and he believes his team was among the first in the world to conduct extensive research for this purpose into boron suboxide (B 6 O). “We were basically looking at improving some of the properties of the fracture toughness of the material,” he says. His work continues to explore “the relationship between the pro- cesses, structure, properties, and performance of these engineering materials.” One recent area of emphasis in his work is developing engineering materials from locally sourced raw materials such as rice husks. The university’s agricultural campus operates a rice farm, and the husks presented a waste man- agement challenge. Johnson and his colleagues developed a process for converting those husks into silicon carbide, which they then combine with aluminum to create a composite. In this way, they simultaneously reduce agricultural waste and make silicon carbide—which does not occur in nature—more economically acces- sible on the local market. While the U.S. eyes Africa as an export market, Johnson notes that the continent has equally strong potential as a supplier of goods in demand. Namibia, for example, has the largest deposit of uranium oxide. “But if we produce the uranium cake, there’s nothing much we can do with it,” he says. “It has to go overseas.” As a result, he recognizes that moving from research to commercialization requires value-added steps that depend on cross-border partnerships. To ensure that its students keep pace with industry developments and can contribute meaningfully to those partnerships, the univer- sity revamps its curriculum every five years, a process that it completed most recently in August. The latest enhancements focus on problem-solving and digital skills as well as the soft skills necessary to keep pace with changes in the industry and the work environ- ment. This focus is intended to help students and next-generation professionals meet international expectations and take their place in the global market. 100 Oluwagbenga Johnson, mechanical and metallurgical engineering professor, School of Engineering and the Built Environment, The University of Namibia Oluwagbenga Johnson AFRICA MARKET SNAPSHOTS A wealth of contradictions: in Africa, resource-rich countries seek an end to their economic struggles By Alex Talavera and Randy B. Hecht We look at six of the continent’s biggest economies and the challenges they face in converting national wealth to household prosperity Africa is home to a formidable collection of natu- ral assets: 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 12% of its oil reserves, and 8% of its natural gas. Add to that 40% of the global supply of gold and as much as 90% of the world’s chromium and platinum—plus the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, and uranium on the planet.a But while these resources could be engines of development throughout the continent, the United Nations Environment Programme notes that a “significant share of these resources” is “used unsustainably” or “lost through illegal activities,” with the result that “the stream of benefits generated from these resources is being reduced over time.” The UN agency estimates that each year, Africa loses $195 billion of its natural capital “through illicit financial flows, illegal mining, illegal logging, the illegal trade in wildlife, unregulated fishing and environmental degradation and loss.”a That lost revenue reduces Africa’s investment in its own development—with consequences that further hamper its capacity for economic growth and progress. For example, the World Bank notes that in recent decades, Africa’s food import bill has more than tripled to $35 billion a year, even though “much of this imported food could be produced locally, creating much needed jobs and incomes.”b The global pandemic dealt a further blow to African countries’ plans for development and eco- nomic growth. Despite that, Statista reports that for 2020, there were six countries in Africa that had a GDP in excess of US$100 billion: Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Kenya.c Here, we look at market conditions in each of those countries. Note that we have eliminated GDP reporting because as throughout the planet, 2020 figures are not representative. If your company is considering doing business with a partner in Africa, you may also find it use- ful to consult the U.S. Africa Business Center’s Investor Confidence Indicator for Africa. (https://www.usafricabusinesscenter.com/investor- confidence-indicator-for-africa) Algeria: Hydrocarbon- fueled foreign commerce Algeria’s fortunes rise and fall with hydrocarbons, which generate approxi- mately 30% of GDP, 60% of budget revenue, and nearly 95% of export earnings, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. The country has the world’s tenth-largest reserves of natural gas and third- largest reserves of shale gas, ranks 16th in proven oil reserves, and is the sixth-largest gas exporter. While oil prices were high, these assets “enabled Algeria to maintain macroeconomic stability, amass large foreign currency reserves, and main- tain low external debt,” the World Factbook notes, but “since 2014, Algeria’s foreign exchange reserves have declined by more than half and its oil stabilization fund has decreased from about $20 billion at the end of 2013 to about $7 billion in 2017.” Since 2015, the country has instituted protectionist policies—including import restric- tions—and in 2018, the government announced the indefinite suspension of 850 products. Services account for 47.4% of GDP, followed by industry (39.3%) and agriculture (13.3%). The industrial sector is led by petroleum, natural gas, light industries, mining, electrical, petrochemi- cals, and food processing. The labor force of 10.8 million is employed in services (58.4%), industry (30.9%), and agriculture (10.8%). Exports of crude and refined petroleum, natural gas, fertilizers, and ammonia generated $34.37 billion in 2017. Leading export partners include Italy, France,
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