Asia gets the attention, but the real economic revolution is the inevitable growth of an overlooked continent.
When Nigeria has a population of over 300 million its fortunes matter on the global scale. That population is not confined to the countryside but is increasingly urbanized. Even at low levels of per capita income and formal education it is to a considerable degree networked and in contact with the wider world. The potential for conflict, but also innovation and growth is enormous.
Cell-phone enabled Somali pirates and payments systems like M-Pesa both demonstrate the ways that Africa might become an innovation hub. In terms of the number of films producer annually, Nigeria’s film industry is exceeded only by the gigantic machinery of Bollywood. More Christians live in Africa than any other continent. By sheer virtue of their size, the way that Egypt and Ethiopia deal with issues of public health and energy development will have global implications.
Hobbled as it is by Eskom, its failing electricity utility, South Africa if it is to thrive, must per force become a pioneer of middle-income decarbonization. The Congo Basin peat bog is amongst the largest carbon sinks in the world. It is also home to one of the poorest and most rapidly growing populations on the planet.
The list of examples could be extended ad infinitum. As Howard W French has remarked: “How Africa’s population evolves, and how the continent’s economies develop, will affect everything people near and far assume about their lives today.”
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