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Africa is emerging on the world scene as a region with growing capacities and aspirations to shape the global economy as well as its own. Even as it struggles to build strong, responsive governments at the state level, it is leveraging regional alliances to amplify its role in international diplomacy. Its relationship with foreign investors—China, Brazil, India, and even newly emerging economies like Turkey, Malaysia, and its own South Africa—will create patterns of mutual dependence. Perhaps the greatest challenge, however, will be building the bridges between the opportunities afforded by the global economy and the interests of people who, to date, have played only marginal roles in that economy. From families who depend on wild forests for livelihoods to those who have found their way into the informal settlements of Africa’s emerging megacities, Africa faces a distinctive set of critical questions as its people strive to improve their lives.

The Critical Questions

Action Zones

Women bear the majority of the economic burden in many African households and now account for over half of migrant workers in some countries. But they remain under-represented in politics, and legislated rights for women are often ignored even as maternal death rates and domestic violence are on the rise

Gender parity in electoral bodies

Femmes Africa Solidarité applauds recent law in Senegal

Motorcycle ambulances

Rural maternity transport service saves lives in Guinea

Critical Questions

Africa's resources—and resourcefulness—create distinctive opportunities and challenges.
  • How will Africa navigate the complex relationships with its foreign investors as it builds on these important growth resources?

  • How will Africa find equitable solutions to the problems of land tenure and land security essential to fulfilling its agricultural potential?

  • How will African nations move beyond the politics of patronage to become authentic, successful democracies?

  • How will Africa balance potential wealth from extractive resources with indigenous rights to income from forests and river ecologies?

  • How will African youth remake the future of the economy in the face of jobless growth—perhaps through increased access to vocational training and strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises?

  • How will African women reinvent their public identities to match their economic contributions?

  • How will Africa’s growing migrant population shape the continent through mobile technologies, such as mobile banking, mobile health, and mobile education?

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