Babatunde Ogunleye-Johnson, Fall 2009

Africa in the 21st Century
Africa is the second largest continent in the world in land and population. Often referred to as the black continent because of the skin color of its many inhabitants, Africa can be described as a continent full of enormous potentials but one that has over the years failed to realize in reasonable proportion any meaningful development. Colonialists besotted the black continent for about three hundred years through unwarranted and severe acts of exploitation and she has since remained in the swamp of underdevelopment, a feat comparable to that of a drowning ship on the high sea. Africa of the twenty-first century no doubt remains in the throes of underdevelopment compared to the rest of the world, especially Southeast Asia and South America who were considered underdeveloped some decades back. However, it is pertinent to note that there have been significant transformations, developments, challenges, as well as socio-economic and political gladiators that have changed the face of the Africa both for good and otherwise. Perhaps, the most significant transformation recorded on the continent of Africa so far in the 21st century is the establishment of a more formidable force that stands to champion the cause of the continent as a united entity, (this organization was christened the African Union, (AU)). It was launched in 2002 in Durban, South Africa about thirty-nine years after its precursor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. Another remarkable development brought about by the launch of the AU is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) set-up to, among other things, rid the continent of corrupt, inefficient governments that are unresponsive to the plight of their citizens. NEPAD has been described as a holistic, integrated sustainable development initiative for the economic and social revival of Africa.

Text of a paper submitted for assessment in an African civilizations class at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria

Babatunde Ogunleye-Johnson, Fall 2009

Similarly, in the area of socio-economic development, Africa has made progress albeit slower than expected but altogether inspiring hope for a better tomorrow. Interestingly, “the competitiveness of African economies is also improving according to the 2007 Africa Competitiveness Report although a lot remains to be done on that front. Countries are assiduously seeking out ways to diversify their economies and to increase value addition along the value chain.” (AU Commission, 4). The report also suggests that, “there is good news on the growth front. The growth resurgence that began in the mid-1990s with a few countries has since spread to most countries of the continent. In 2007, over 39 African countries had been growing persistently for more than three years at an annual real rate of 3 per cent and of these, 15 had grown at 5 per cent or more. There has also been an increase in investment in people. Evidence shows that gross enrolment rate in all levels of education has grown as has completion rates.” (AU Commision, 4). Politically, Africa of the 21st century has largely experienced improvements in the democratic processes across the continent. This stems from the African Governance report of the Economic Commission of Africa as well as other similar reports. Instances include the handover of power peacefully in Ghana after a generally acclaimed free and fair election recently. Succinctly, democracy is gradually taking root in the black continent often associated with dictatorship and military incursion into government affairs. Worthy of note is the reduction in armed conflict across Africa in the last decade, as “the number of violent conflicts has significantly fallen in spite of the emergence of conflict in the Sudan’s Darfur region, and episodic rebellions in Chad. The conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all ended providing some space for economic growth and social development to resume. However, the enormous economic, political, and social consequences of these conflicts remain palpable.” (AU Commision, 4). Text of a paper submitted for assessment in an African civilizations class at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria

Babatunde Ogunleye-Johnson, Fall 2009

However, one cannot but highlight the myriads of challenges faced by Africa as she strives to restore herself to her rightful place in world affairs in this 21st century. Few of these challenges includes, the problem of sustaining economic growth and creating employment in the face of new global actors, rising food and energy prices, climate change and improving governance and building a capable state. There are also new challenges on the social front such as ensuring long-term financing for treatment for people infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and those living with the Acquired Immune deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in addition to the challenge of legal empowerment of the poor. How Africa addresses some of these new 21st century challenges is critical for determining how Africa fares in the 21st century. Even though Africa remains largely underdeveloped, it is without mincing words that I state, that the continent is capable of turning her fortunes around, if only the right kind of leadership is put in place across African States. A case in point is the recently released index of African Governance rankings for 2009 where countries ranking tops portrayed exemplary qualities of good leadership and prudent management of their nation’s resources. Specifically, countries like Mauritius, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana, Tunisia, Ghana, Algeria, Namibia, and South Africa ranked tops and are waxing strong in the enhancement of quality of life for their citizens as a result of fairly accountable and transparent leadership. Other African states are encouraged to borrow a leaf from their progressive counterparts and turn a new leaf to keep pace with the rest of the rapidly changing world as Africa looks forward to the second decade of the twenty-first century with tremendous hope for a better tomorrow.

Text of a paper submitted for assessment in an African civilizations class at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria

Babatunde Ogunleye-Johnson, Fall 2009

Work Cited First Joint Annual Meetings of the AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. “Meeting Africa’s New Development Challenges in the 21st Century: Issues Paper” Addis Ababa: AU Commission, 2008. http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/en/section/the-ibrahim-index/scores-and-ranking. “The African governance index and rankings”

Text of a paper submitted for assessment in an African civilizations class at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria

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