The world has made enormous strides in reducing child deaths, cutting the under-five mortality rate by more than 50 per cent between 1990 and 2015.
In Africa, reduction in under-five and infant mortality is due to prevention of deaths due to diarrhoea, pneumonia,measles and other infectious diseases after the first four weeks of life.
According to Unesco, sub-Saharan African countries have recorded large increases in primary school enrolment.
The number of children enrolled in primary schools rose by 75 per cent to 144 million between 1999 and 2012. Primary school completion is on the upswing and enrolment in secondary school is gathering pace.
Africa’s rapid economic growth over the last 16 years generated unprecedented optimism. Buoyed by domestic demand, Africa’s vibrant services, telecommunications and financial sectors have been the fastest growing, creating millions of new businesses and jobs. Overall, GDP growth is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace.
There is work to do and enormous potential to harness to achieve equitable and durable prosperity. I believe Africa is the future. Africa is the future because we have the largest area of potential arable land.
Africa is the future because the continent has 30 per cent of the planet’s remaining mineral resources and holds the most strategic nuclear ore.
But most of all, Africa is the future because we are on the cusp of a demographic dividend. The world’s largest and youngest labour force will be found Africa. According to recent projections one in five of the world’s young people and an estimated workforce of one billion people will live in Africa by 2040.
We have learnt a great deal from the failures of the first installation of Africa Rising. The structural characteristics of Africa Rising were flawed. It delivered significant but woefully unequal expansion in growth and prosperity. It delivered jobless growth because growth in the vital sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing stalled.
Africa still remains food insecure and without the capacity to turn its vast agricultural potential into a veritable driver of new jobs in agroindustry and to stimulate novel multiplier effects in the services and financial sectors.
Moreover, the absence of manufacturing and value addition has anchored Africa in primary commodity exports and stymied regional trade. Her vast geothermal, hydro, wind and solar resources remain untapped. Africa must be in the vanguard of the energy revolution.
While Africa is also the most rapidly urbanising continent, our cities are squalid. It is time to bring jobs, affordable housing, open spaces, water and sanitation to the world’s new urban class. We must respond to Africa’s young and eager learners thronging our schools by providing quality education.
Africa is no longer a scar on the conscience of the world. While the road ahead is tough and untravelled, we must not tarry.
The 21st century is Africa’s century. Africa must rise not through proclamation by The Economist but through the equitable and durable progress, which harnesses the abundance of Africa’s assets: Youth, urbanisation, agriculture and natural resources.
Alex O. Awiti is the director of the East Africa Institute at Aga Khan University