2011 LOOKS LIKE BEING THE YEAR THAT WILL go down in history as when Africa made the big transition from its chaotic past into a future that is full of promise. The continent has bewildered foreign pundits by the speed with which this final transition was achieved and many still cannot believe the evidence in front of their own eyes.
Africa growth statistics in the face of a global slowdown are now legendary and the rise in the continent's per capita incomes is being regarded with some envy, even by the emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil. From all indicators, it is very likely that Africa will hammer down its poverty rates faster than other emerging regions and its per capita incomes are likely to outstrip its fellow travellers on the way to prosperity.
While huge challenges remain, Africa today is confident it can overcome them under its own steam. The biggest difference that has occurred over the past decade is that the scales have finally fallen from African eyes and the realisation has dawned that neither East nor West has the power to change Africa's destiny. This lies in African heads and hands and Africa is now ready.
But what has brought about this remarkable change? Historical distance eventually clarifies what may have appeared foggy at the time it was occurring. We can now clearly see that when Africa attained independence, it did not step into a perfectly free and fair world. It stepped into a world dominated politically, militarily and economically by the West. While it set out its own priorities - which were mainly to close the enormous gap in education and living standards it had inherited from its colonial era, the world had other priorities and other agendas for Africa.
Maintaining the status quo
The power of the West lay in its industry and capital, and growth took the form of a seemingly insatiable appetite for consumer consumption, buttressed by the military-industrial complex.
The massive industrial base was built on the extraction of cheap resources and cheap labour in the developing world', without which the cornucopia of goods and services would have dried up. It was essential that this status quo be maintained.
We can now read learned tomes from academics such as Paul Collier and an increasing number of other researchers on how this was achieved. Policies fashioned in Washington, London and Paris, despite what was said in the public space, were not aimed at the real development of...