Sharp changes are afoot throughout the globe. Demographics are shifting, technology is advancing at unprecedented rates, and these changes are being felt everywhere.
How should we develop strategies to deal with this emerging new world? We can begin by understanding it.
The papers and discussion brought into stark relief Africa’s current reality and the dramatic transformations that are being driven by the megatrends of demography, climate, and technology. The roundtable also highlighted the enormous challenges these transformations will present. Together they paint a picture of Dickensian contradictions, with both bad news and good news, and reasons for both hope and deep concern.
It is perceived that economic nationalism has slowed the meteoric rise of global trade. Since the Uruguay Round created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, trade of goods and services has become a dominant feature in global economic growth. As a result, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries have graduated from subsistence living to middle-class status. The accession of China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 accelerated both the volume and character of global trade. By 2008, Global Value Chains (GVCs) have come to explain up to 70% of global trade volumes. GVCs optimize comparative advantage across borders and have enabled innovation in trade logistics and services technologies, in addition to a general WTO commitment by member states to facilitate trade.
In Africa, as in every region, it is the quality and characteristics of governance that shape the level of peace and stability and the prospects for economic development. There is no more critical variable than governance, for it is governance that determines whether there are durable links between the state and the society it purports to govern. The nature of governance is central because it determines whether the exercise of authority is viewed as legitimate. Legitimate authority, in turn, is based on accepted laws and norms rather than the arbitrary, unconstrained power of the rulers.
Africa is often described as the continent most at risk to the negative effects of climate change, both because of the expected change itself and because of the perceived lack of capacity of Africans and their governments to adapt. This paper provides an overview of what is known and unknown about Africa’s climate future and examines how possible changes may challenge four critical and inter-related areas: agriculture, health, migration, and conflict.
No general statement about African demography is true. The variation in the continent is too great. Africa today includes giant countries with populations near or exceeding 100 million (Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria) and tiny countries with populations under 1 million (Comoros, Djibouti, Cabo Verde, Reunion, Mayotte, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles). It includes countries where fertility is rising (Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Seychelles), countries where fertility is high but stable, falling by less than 1% per year (Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and ten others), and countries where fertility is high but falling very rapidly, 2.5% per year or more (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone). It also includes countries where fertility rates are exceptionally high, exceeding six children per woman (Niger, Somalia, Chad, DRC, Mali) and countries where fertility has fallen to replacement levels (2.1) or below (Tunisia, Mauritius). Annual population growth rates for African countries range from under 0.5% per year (Mauritius, Central African Republic, Libya) to eight times that rate, or about 4% per year (Niger, Equatorial Guinea).
Africa is home to a burgeoning digital domain. Africans across the continent are taking notice of what mobile internet technology offers them. In fact, the vast majority of Africans believe that increased internet access offers paths to improved education, economies, and personal relationships. Though there is scepticism about the role of mobile internet technology in politics, there is a generally positive interpretation of where it could lead. Africans are not timidly wading into the technological fray but rather enthusiastically diving in.