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Land and Water in Africa

Africa in 50 years' time. The road towards inclusive growth

Date of Editorial Board meeting: 
Publication date: 
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Abstract in English: 
"Since the advent of independence for most African countries, the African continent has struggled with a seemingly endless array of development challenges, from civil war and political instability to epidemic disease, chronic food insecurity and pervasive poverty. However in recent years, Africa has experienced an economic resurgence. The emerging economies, particularly Brazil, India, South Africa and China, have recognised Africa’s potential as an investment destination and a source of natural resources. Over the past decade, despite the successive global food and financial crises, Africa has been growing at an unprecedented rate. Though it will take decades of growth to make major inroads into Africa’s poverty, there is now a growing optimism about Africa’s potential. Africa has some of the most abundant natural resources in the world, many of which are yet to be tapped. These include not just minerals and oil, butalso bountiful possibilities for clean energy. But natural resources are not Africa’s only advantage. While Western countries are shouldering the burden of aging populations, Africa is the world’s youngest continent. If it invests in education and training to develop the potential of its youth, Africa could become one of the most dynamic and productive of economies. In a rapidly changing global environment, Africa needs to seize the initiative and take advantage of these emerging conditions. It needs policies that maximise its comparative advantage and bring about the necessary structural changes in its economy. It needs to invest far more in its young people and in the hard and soft infrastructure required for growth. And above all, it needs institutions that are capable and responsive, and leaders in politics, business and society willing to behave in a democratic and accountable manner.

The future, as always, is shrouded in uncertainty. But many of the trends that will determine Africa’s future prospects are already visible today. If we are clear sighted in our analysis, we can begin to identify the challenges and opportunities that lie before us. Recently, there had been extraordinary tide of political events which led to revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, civil war in Libya, and stirrings of discontent across a number of other countries. These events reveal that the growth experienced in Africa over the past decade – important though it has been in the fight against poverty – is not sufficient. Too many Africans have been excluded from its benefits. Growth is inclusive when it creates economic opportunities – the pace of growth – while ensuring equal access to them – the pattern of growth. But growth in Africa has been narrowly concentrated in a few sectors and geographical areas.

Inequality has become more pronounced and more visible. Young Africans are finding themselves excluded from the labor market and the formal economy with rising youth unemployment. Unless we can find a way to promote inclusive growth, then growth itself may become a source of instability. Given that Africa’s independence began about 50 years ago, for the next 50 years this document assesses the economic and human development prospects in Africa. It identifies the drivers of change and their likely consequences over the next half century, and proposes policy choices that will enable Africa to fulfil its potential in the years ahead.
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