The idea that the 21st century would be “the century of Africa” was introduced in early 2000 by Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa at the time. This perception will be perceived more clearly if one looks at the demographic beauties of Africa, its underground treasures, and the potential of the continent. The 21st century began with rapid urbanization, poverty, gender inequality, food crises, regional conflicts, political separation and national issues for Africa. The burden of the past creates a great handicap for the development of Africa. The slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism to which Africa is subjected can still be seen as they cause the suppression of freedoms, the violation of the human rights and dignity of the peoples of the continent. Most of the countries in the continent have disadvantages such as low education level, transportation, economy and lack of modern production techniques.
After nearly 500 years of exploitation by Europe, Africa has finally begun to have a reputation on the international stage. Although Africa entered the 21st century with many problems, these problems gradually tended to improve. We can understand this from the fact that 7 of the 10 countries with the fastest growth rate in the world are in Africa. Moreover, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, between the years of 2000 and 2019, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of Sub-Saharan Africa reached an average of 4.9 percent per year while this rate remained at 2.8 percent for the world.
The first issue that can be addressed in future predictions about Africa is the rapidly increasing population of the continent, especially its youth. According to the estimates of the United Nations (UN), the African population is expected to double by 2050. This demographic change can be the biggest challenge facing Africa, or an incredible opportunity that, when used properly, can lead to enormous economic growth. African leaders can turn this challenge to their advantage by ensuring that young people are educated, employed and prepared for the future.
Where the leaders of countries in Africa are insufficient, the leaders of the great countries in the world can step in and overcome this difficulty that may rise in the future. Africa’s future unemployed large youth population does not only pose a problem for Africa but also for the world. Today, many of the countries develop projects on African countries and carry out them. The reason for this is that Africa represents a big market. However, considering that the great unemployment would cause severe economic problems, the situation may turn into an international issue. For this reason, world leaders need to take responsibility for the education, employment and improvement of African youth and turn this situation into a great opportunity. It is also suggested that the demographic growth in Africa will make a great contribution to both the African economy and the global economy and stability, if the G-20 countries double their investments in education, employment and youth liberation there.
It is estimated that half of the African population will be under 25 by 2050. That is why, it cannot be denied that the continent has an enormous demographic potential. Considering that the economic growth in a country increases when the number of children and elderly people is higher than the number of people of working age, it can be predicted that the economic growth will be at a very high rate when Africa’s population is employed correctly. Furthermore, today Africa has 14 percent of the working age population in the world. According to UN, this rate is expected to increase to 42 percent in 2100. While the working age population in Asia is currently 62 percent, it is estimated that by 2100 this rate will be 42 percent just like Africa. This shows that Africa will be the “shining star” of this century if it uses its population well.
The so-called Sub-Saharan Africa plays an increasingly significant role in the international arena. The fastest growing countries in the world in terms of economic and demographic growth are located in this region. Sub-Saharan Africa, which covers a very large geography in the world with an area of 24 million km², has a population of more than 1 billion. It attracts the attention of the world as the majority of the mineral resources and the African population are placed in this region.
Africa, which has great amounts of precious metals such as diamond, uranium, gold, oil, natural gas, bauxite and platinum, gains significantly from these mines. In almost all African countries, these minerals are extracted and processed by foreign companies. Although it varies by country and mine, companies from countries like China, the United States of America (USA), France, England, Russia and India generally mine and process them. If African countries manage to mine and process their mines themselves, or if they increase the amount of money they receive from foreign companies with agreements, it will be more profitable for the future of these countries. For instance, a country in Africa can increase its GDP considerably if it uses its own companies instead of benefiting from foreign companies in extracting and exporting its own oil. This situation will positively affect the future of African countries. New job areas can be established in order to provide employment for the rapidly increasing young population.
The world can no longer ignore Africa; but Africa will seek to improve its performance in terms of governance and political transparency if it seeks to achieve its true potential. There are still 39 countries in Africa that are not governed democratically. However, it is anticipated that these countries will also take steps for democracy and to fight against corruption. Ending the ongoing conflicts in some parts of the continent is a must for the establishment of regional stability as well.
It is also important to mention the issue of commitment to international aids for regional development. Most of the African countries rely on support from developed states and relief agencies. It is possible to say that the countries in the continent will make moves to reduce their dependence on these aids as well.
After all, it is a fact that Africa still has many problems. However, the continent has a rapidly growing young population, valuable mineral resources and fertile lands to solve these problems. If the continental countries use their potential wisely, they will increase their importance in the international arena.
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