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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

Rich in resources but with scant titled land, Africa is ripe for abuses by predatory officials and even elected governments quickly become dictatorial. As nomadic traditions and recent mass migrations call citizenship and electoral rights into question, new grassroots structures may advance democracy on the continent in ways that secure these rights for everyone.

"Dialogue with the People" tour

The Gambia's constitution requires a yearly presidential tour

Somaliland's consensus democracy

Recent elections, including women, are "peaceful expression of popular will"

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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