What will Africa be like in 2025? The UNDP asked this question as part of a major research programme and came up with a number of likely scenarios--some positive, some negative. Which will outweigh the other depends largely on Africans themselves. Tom Nevin reports.
"Africa does not have the divine right to succeed in her endeavours in the current age. Nor is there a supernatural force that can will us to fail. How events unfold over the next 20 years or so depends in large measure on what we Africans do."
With these words, South African President Thabo Mbeki opens Africa 2025, a groundbreaking study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that peers into the mists of what life in Africa could be like 21 years hence.
Quite simply, Mbeki is restating his contention of the past 10 years: that Africa holds its fate in its own hands. It cannot, nor should it, cling to the apron strings of the developed nations forever.
In preparing the study, the continent's researchers started by drawing up a situation report of the key trends that have come to define Africa.
"The first is the population boom currently being experienced," says analyst Ferial Haferjee. "Contributors believe this is not exceptional, but that 'Africa is catching up to its former proportion of the world's population'."
The boom, however, is also responsible for low economic growth and developmental stagnation--more so than Aids, environmental problems, corruption and bad governance. Record numbers of young people are presenting African governments with a hefty education bill, while the continent also has the highest earner-dependent ratio in the world.
"Urbanisation is another important trend," notes Haferjee. "In 1950 about 10% of populations across the continent lived in towns and cities. This figure has since tripled."
AFRICA A "RENT ECONOMY"
The study contends: "Africa on the whole is a rent economy", and this presents a vital challenge to the way in which most African economies are structured. Thus far there has been little foreign investment in sectors other than those that relate to commodity exports. "The process of accumulation in the continent has not yet truly begun," says Africa 2025. "Sub-Saharan Africa remains locked in a pattern of high indebtedness, is marginal to international trade and investment flows, and has a huge informal economy."
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