Thursday, 25 September 2014

Assessing the future of Africa in the 21st century

 Published: August 19, 2007 on Helium

The future of Africa in the 21st century is split between two images - the "bad news" and the "good news".
The first image is one of a struggling poor Africa, lagging behind the political and technical advances of the rest of the world.
The other image may be found in the huge changes initiated by some African countries.
Some countries simply do not quite fit the overall image of a "backward" Africa.

If Africa's future is based on an ECA study completed in the early 1990's and other estimations, it looks very grim.
1. Poverty is widespread and severe. 51% of sub-Saharan Africa (including South Africa) lives below the poverty line of $34 per person per month.
2. Population growth in Africa is 2.98% higher than any other continent and food supplies fall well short of population demands.
3. Many "soft" loans from richer countries have encouraged a large number of African governments to depend on international aid (ODA). In some cases, this aid accounts for a large proportion of GNP (gross national product). For example, in Mozambique ODA is 74% of GNP, in Gambia 50.7% and in Somalia it is 47.6%. Of an estimated 25 to 30 million displaced persons world-wide, 50 to 66% live in Africa.
4. Over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa is troubled by civil strife. Victims are pre-dominantly women and children. Many countries are "lost" since gaining independence, mainly in the 1960's, from colonial rule. There are many contenders who fight to rule, but not many who can. There is no unifying, governmental heartland of Africa.
5. Traditional African export products, such as cocoa, copra, cotton, and palm kernels, are no longer in high demand. Sub-Saharan Africa's participation in world trade has fallen from 4% of international trade in the 1960's to 1.5% in the early 1990's.
6. Piracy of fishing territories beleaguers West African countries dependent on fishing for income.
7. Poor planning has resulted in expensive, technological disasters. The Lake Chad irrigation system, built in the 1970's, failed because of poor planning. It failed because it did not account for natural flood and drought cycles. Millions of dollars were spent on kilometers of useless, dry channels.
8. Transportation networks, apart from in Morocco and South Africa, are highly underdeveloped. In many African countries there are no railways. Those that do exist are old, remnants of colonial times. Bicycles are becoming a preferred means of transport (but denied women) in many poorer countries.
9. Sudan, Mauritania and Niger still practise a slave trade.
10. In December 1998, UNAIDS reported that 70 per cent of the people who became infected with HIV in 1998 came from Africa. It is projected by 2010, there will be 18million AIDS orphans in Africa. In South Africa and Zambia around 15-20% of adults are infected with HIV.

From these statistics, Africa appears to be in almost a hopeless condition to meet the demands of integrating effectively into a 21st century world.

But Africa is made up of 56 countries, some with profiles that don't quite fit the overall image of a struggling Africa in the 21st century.

The "superpower" of Africa is South Africa. Diverse racial communities function side by side. South Africa has the continent's largest and most stable economy, based on strong manufacturing sectors and sound mineral exports. Tourism is a key component in the economy. On the negative side, unemployment is high and AIDS afflicts a high percentage of the population.

There are three politically stable countries in Africa. In East Africa, Kenya has tourism, horticulture and tea to support a viable economy. Botswana can claim to have Africa's longest, continuous multi-party democracy. It is a middle income nation courtesy of being the world's largest producer of diamonds. In West Africa, Gabon has had just 2 presidents since independence from France in 1960. 40 ethnic groups are here, and yet civil strife has been avoided.

There are two countries with the most potential. Tanzania has not suffered civil conflict as have other African countries. Tanzania's tourist attractions of Africa's highest mountain Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti could help this country meet 21st century challenges. Egypt may be famous for its ancient past, but in the modern world, its technological management of the Nile, as a viable natural resource could help the poorer, surrounding nations, particularly Sudan.

The big question mark in Africa is Morocco in the north west. In many ways, it barely seems to have any part in Africa. Ties seem to be bonded more with Spain, just across the narrow Straits of Gibralter. It appears more like a European region than an African one. Plus 98% of the country is Muslim. It is also an Arab world.

In the process of identifying progressing countries in Africa, it may be noticed they each represent north, south, east and west points of Africa. The central countries of Africa are noticeably absent. What if there was a bonding of progressive, satellite regions; like a form of national agreement between tourist regions or mineral rich regions? Then there could be a sense of unity in Africa, unlike any country in the world. Coastal solidarity could then help the struggling interior countries. Perhaps those countries involved in gold and diamond mining could establish a co-operative with collective, bulk buying and selling power?

Africa may be poor in unity, for now, but it is rich in desirable resources which attract world markets and tourism. Maybe just one government for Africa is not an option, but satellite governments with special interest areas? Africa, in the 21st century, could quite easily become a unique, progressive country uniting a diverse range of racial groups into one African dream, a better Africa.


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