Cape Town - The year 2017 saw some major milestones for the African continent from the unseating of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, even SA had its own shake-up in the ruling party and of course an increase in border-less travel for African citizens due to certain visa changes.
With 2018 promising to be the year of innovation, Africa’s growth outlook is expected to be more stable following previous tough years. However internet cut-offs continue to affect both Africa’s digital and informal economies, as climate change and massive population growth continue to present challenges in the years ahead.
These charts as shared by the Atlas.com give some insight into what's ahead for the continent in 2018.
Eased travel restrictions
African governments will be pushing for more open borders to encourage intra-regional trade and tourism - however the African Union passport is far from a reality.
Key visa changes in 2017 saw the likes of Cape Verde, Comores, Egypt, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Tongo, Tunisia, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Namibia announcing visa on arrival policies for African visitors.
SEE: A borderless Africa? Some countries open doors, raise hopes
The Seychelles is tops when it comes to visa-free access overall, while other countries such as Benin, Botswana, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, Senegal, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are visa-free for South Africans.
SEE: Visa-free travel: Why is SA's passport power declining?
With 2018 promising to be the year of innovation, Africa’s growth outlook is said to look more stable following previous tough years - thanks to a young and tech-savvy population.
It's no secret that most of the tech-savvy popular consist of millennials who spent hours of their time on the internet, some browsing through social media accounts and others trying to come up with savvier ways of using this bespoke tool.
According to Quartz Africa, internet providers in Africa will look to improve connection speeds on the continent as broadband internet speeds remain below the global minimum standard.
Compared to Singapore where it’ll take only 20 minutes, the fastest it would take to download a 7.5-gigabyte HD movie in Africa is nearly two hours.
In Gabon, the lowest ranked African country for broadband speed, it’d take nearly two days. But when it comes to mobile some African countries are already doing well. Kenya has faster mobile internet than the average in the United States.
With the Internet consuming most of our everyday lives, however, the publication reports that while Ethiopia, Cameroon, Togo, and Somaliland had a targeted internet shutdown, a new method last year finally showed how internet cut-offs were affecting both Africa’s digital and informal economies.
Quartz Africa says this trend of cut-offs will be a permanent one in 2018, with the DR Congo blocking the internet and SMS services ahead of the protests citing “state security.”
Internet shutdowns continue to cost Africa's economies
A ticking financial bomb for Africa
While it is not all gloom and doom, according to the publication, Africa is facing a ticking financial bomb due to spiralling debt levels risk racking up billions of dollars in debt, the lion's share of which rests with these countries as detailed below.
Climate change impact
With climate change being one of the fastest growing threat in Africa, manifested by rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns leading to floods or severe droughts.
Currently, Cape Town is facing a water crisis due to an unprecedented drought, with Level 6 water restrictions in place in order to avoid taps running dry entirely.
SEE: Hello 2018, hello ‘largest water restrictions' for Cape Town yet
Added to that, Nelson Mandela Bay dam levels, in the Eastern Cape have hit an all-time low of 26.94 percent.
Researchers have predicted that in 2030, Lagos, Cairo and Kinshasa will each have to cater for over 20 million people, while Luanda, Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg will have crossed the 10 million mark. By 2035, close to 30 million people could live in Lagos alone, turning Nigeria’s commercial hub into the largest megacity on the continent.
While Africa’s cities are growing rapidly in population, they are also developing informally as current urban planning has proven to be ineffective, and private development is often deterred by opaque or inappropriate regulations.
SEE: Africa: Reshaping the continent's mega-cities for the better
Added to that, Quartz Africa says around 1.3 billion people will be added to Africa’s population in 2050, according United Nations data.
Of the 47 least developed countries which will jointly see their population double by 2050, 33 are in Africa.
Africa learning more from China
With China now the top destination for anglophone African students studying abroad overtaking the UK and the US, Quartz Africa says the number of African students in China has jumped to almost 50 000 in 2015, from less than 2 000 in 2003.
China aims to make its universities more internationally competitive by providing education to Africans with "an extension of soft power and a way of influencing Africa’s next generation of elites and academics".
Investment in Africa
Since 2016, there has been an uptick in start-up investments across Africa, with one estimate putting it at $366.8 million.
Countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya have had the luck of investors showing more faith in regarding financial start-ups.
Data shows Nigeria, over the past few years, has attracted more funding than anywhere else across the continent, boosting its tech ecosystem and witnessing the opening of tech hubs by Google, Facebook, and others.
According to Quartz Africa, start-ups like payments service firm Flutterwave raised $10 million (about R 123 m.) and Andela, which trains and pairs coders with global companies, raised $40 million (about R 493 m).