It is a great pleasure for me to be able to address you on “Africa today and Africa Tomorrow”.
It is an important topic – because whichever way we look at it the future of Africa it will, for better or for worse, have a significant impact on people in the United Kingdom and Europe. Africa could become an increasingly important trading partner and supplier of essential minerals and foods. It could also become a favourite tourist destination and a lucrative market for British and European exports.
However, if the continent fails, it could present Europe with almost insurmountable moral, financial and strategic challenges. The world is still shocked by the deaths of hundreds of Africans – mostly Eritreans – who were drowned when their hopelessly inadequate vessel sank on its way to Italy. But what would happen to Europe’s porous southern borders if there were persistent man-made crises or famines in Africa?
In 2000, at the beginning of the new millennium, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki claimed that the 21st century would belong to Africa:
After five hundred years of exploitation and domination by Europe, Africa would finally emerge from the shadows of global affairs and take its rightful place on the world stage.
The World Bank’s response was “Yes, Africa can claim the new century … but this is a qualified yes”. It was “conditional on Africa’s ability – aided by its development partners – to overcome the development traps that kept it confined to a vicious cycle of underdevelopment, conflict, and untold human suffering for most of the 20th century”.
In its lecture to African leaders, the World Bank proposed development strategies that would be focused on:
- Improving governance and resolving conflict;
- Investing in people;
- Increasing competitiveness and diversifying economies; and
- Reducing aid dependence and strengthening partnerships.
How has Africa fared since then – and is it still on track to claim the 21st century as the African century?
Read full text of speech HERE.