The African continent is undergoing significant change. Indeed, this is the focus of the latest CIGI co-published installment in the Canada Among Nations book series — of which our interviewee is a contributor. To learn more about Africa’s development and current challenges, we speak to CIGI Senior Fellow Robert Rotberg, who, in addition to authoring a chapter in Canada-Africa Relations: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, has also just released a new book entitled Africa Emerges: Consummate Challenges, Abundant Opportunities (Polity, 2013).

CIGI: What would you say are the main dynamics contributing to a “new Africa”?

Robert Rotberg: According to World Bank and Pew Foundation criteria, a third or more of the 900 million people of Africa have “middle-class” incomes and aspirations. This means that they desire good governance, the rule of law, free speech and free elections much more than previous generations. The existence and rise of an active middle class — in one African country after another — is driving the shift from weak governance to better governance, and from corrupt and venal leadership toward responsible and inclusive leadership. A country such as Botswana has been the model, having an early leader who believed in governing on behalf of his people, not on behalf of himself or his family and clan. Now there is a substantial middle class in Botswana that can continue to pressure current leaders to provide good governance. Members of the middle class elsewhere in Africa are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of such good leadership in Botswana and are pressing their own rulers to copy, or at least shift toward, governance patterns similar to those in Botswana. This has happened in Benin, Senegal and Ghana in recent decades and may be beginning to happen elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. In places such as Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the middle class is also attempting to move their nations closer to the Botswanan and Ghanaian model so that they, too, can both prosper and live more secure and more enjoyable lives.

CIGI: In a recent op-ed, you addressed the catastrophic humanitarian situation that continues to unfold in the Central African Republic (CAR). Indeed, on October 10 the United Nations Security Council approved a France-sponsored resolution for the troubled country. What are your thoughts on this resolution and its ability to bring peace and stability to the CAR?

Rotberg: This movement by the UN may provide a first step toward a resolution of the conflict within the CAR that is tearing that impoverished country to pieces, but it does not develop a meaningful path toward outside intervention. France has doubled its troops within the country to 800, but they do not yet have any authority or willingness to intervene. A larger African Union force is being mobilized, but too slowly and likely with a weak mandate. So, the crisis persists, citizens of the CAR are killed and brutalized,  its economy collapses and the world does too little to help.

CIGI: What is the single greatest challenge to an emergent, stable and globally influential Africa — and how can it be overcome?

Rotberg: The greatest coming challenge is demographic; Africa is about to explode. In this century, Nigeria will increase from the seventh-largest global country to the third-largest — from 162 million to 730 million people. Tanzania is set to increase from 45 million to 310 million people to become the fifth-largest global country by 2100. The Democratic Republic of Congo will grow from 66 million to 212 million people and become the eighth-largest world nation. These are astounding numbers, and in addition, Lagos and Kinshasa will soon outgrow Cairo. Looking at these numbers, Africa will necessarily have an unmanageable youth bulge.

Only much better governance and greatly improved leadership can turn the demographical challenge into a dividend instead of a disaster. For that reason and many others, including economic growth prospects, Sub-Saharan Africa desperately needs leadership and governance of the kind that created the Asian tigers and the Botswanan cheetahs.

Only much better governance and greatly improved leadership can turn the demographical challenge into a dividend instead of a disaster.
The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.