Time is not on the side of Africa to make the 21st century the continent’s century for development. Underpinning the pace (or not) of progress is the need to make sound rather than popular policy decisions, and act on them.
By 2050, Africa’s population will double to more than two billion. The vast majority of these people will be under the age of 25 and live in cities. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, with whom I co-authored Making Africa Work, outlined the problem facing the continent perfectly when he said recently:
“Unless there is a major change in the speed of economic development across the continent, we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb.”
It is against this background that the pace and progress of policy development across Africa must be considered. Yet, too often have brave policy decisions been ducked and political self-interest taken precedence at the expense of long-term policies developed for the overall national interest.
Politics and choices matter in dealing with poverty, as Asia shows, and Africa’s record is at best mixed in this regard.
Few countries have seen this more starkly than Zambia, where a desperate government, starved of resources to pay the salaries of an…