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Vineet Thakur

Edited by Theodre Ahlers , Hiroshi Kato, Harinder S. Kohli, Callisto Madavo and Anil Sood
Oxford University Press, New Delhi , Centennial Group International and JICA , 2014, pp. 489, Rs. 2495.00


Any book that announces in bold letters ‘Africa 2050’ on its title page needs to be read with caution. Try imaging a book titled ‘North America 2050’ and my anxiety would perhaps make more sense. Can countries in North Africa be compared to, leave alone clubbed together with, a Zimbabwe or a Botswana in Southern Africa? Consequently, can there be a common ‘vision’ for a continent that is only next to Asia in terms of the number of countries? Except for the çolour line that seems to loosely bind much of sub-Saharan Africa, there are enough reasons to believe that in the 21st century, from Nigeria to Niger and South Africa to Sierra Leone, countries in Africa have followed diverse patterns of development, or lack thereof. The fetish for the size of markets in modern economics, which solicits com-parisons of a country like India or China with a 54 country continent, evokes apples and oranges scenarios. Interestingly, while the book under review admits to all of it (p. 3), this admittance becomes merely a footnote—acknowledged, tucked away and forgotten.   This is an important book, nevertheless. The first decade of the new century was promising for Africa, if one goes solely by the GDP growth figure of 4.5 percent. The conflict spiral that many African countries were caught in in the early 1990s had slowly given way to stability, so much so that Thabo Mbeki from South Africa had claimed an ‘African Renaissance’. Situated against this background, the authors discuss the new challenges that the African countries face in the next four decades. Further, they suggest a consolidated ‘action agenda’ to claim the 21st century as an African century. Accor-ding to their ‘big picture’, by 2050, Africa will have a population of 2.1 billion with a workforce of 1.1 billion. Since Africa has only now begun to reap the benefits of its increasing labour force, its demographic dividend would last longer than others. 1.4 billion Africans would be classified in the middle class and the continent would have 300 million fewer poor people. If Africa sustains its current GDP growth rate of 6.6, its share of GDP would increase threefold. 60 percent of Africans would move to the cities and 90 percent of economic activity would be concentrated in the ever-growing urban spaces.   These are all staggering, impressive figures, but they come with the rider of good governance. The realm of possibility for Africa in the next four decades, the authors posit, lies ...

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