In DepthThe Question


The Question

How do you get a loan if nobody knows your name?

Getting off the ground


South Africa: What is left?

?President Jacob Zuma brings radicals into his big tent



Who's afraid of the rainbow populists?

Among the political careers that have most quickly taken to the skies during Jacob Zuma’s presidency have been two in particular, both equally compelling but in very different ways.?



Pre-emption or hysteria in Nigeria? *Online Exclusive*

The circumstances surrounding the death of Boko Haram sect leader Mohammed Yusuf in Northern Nigeria are highly suspect, says human rights expert Akinola Akintayo    Army crackdown on Boko Haram sect leaders in Northern Nigeria. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP


Is Africa neglecting its farmers?

The Question: Is Africa neglecting ? its ? farmers?



Anansi: Bouteflika, the secrets ?of a long political life


There was never any doubt that Abdelaziz Bouteflika would emerge as the winner of Algeria’s presidential election in April. And it was correctly predicted that few Algerians would bother to vote. The country’s so-called ‘décideurs’ in the intelligence service again showed that they had learnt the lesson of 1991, when elections almost produced a parliament dominated by Islamists. That poll had been stopped in mid-track, plunging the country into a civil war which is now almost, but not quite, over. Since those days, the same group of men have been adept at preparing elections that produce desired results.??


Having changed the constitution to abolish the two-term limit for presidents, Bouteflika looks likely to keep the top job until his death, barring incapacitation or a falling-out with his powerful allies in military intelligence. In similar vein, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Muammar Qadhafi of Libya have managed to avoid removal from office, the almost-inevitable consequences being the alienation of people from politics and the growth of corruption.??


Briefly, in the 1990s, Algeria looked like it might find its way towards representative politics. The murderous confrontation between the military-backed authorities and the Islamists shook the state to its foundations and, ironically, created the space in which political parties could mobilise and promote their visions of what a future political dispensation might look like. But critics say, with some justification, that the parties were short-sighted and often manipulated. Identity issues, big egos and the weakness of the democratic tradition all tended to trip up the movement towards representative politics, which in the event was not even tested. The military opted to put a lid on everything, consigning the parties and political institutions to the margins.


??Many Algerians credit Bouteflika with having restored peace through the amnesties he offered to those Islamic militants who surrendered. But security has never been Algeria’s only problem, being as it is a predominantly youthful country with poor-quality education and a severe shortage of jobs.??


For the young, hope is still in very short supply. The refrain that “Algeria is rich, but Algerians are poor” is repeated time and again. No one expects the leader to wave a magic wand and solve all problems, but some important work has not begun. True, the government is investing in much-needed infrastructure and the country’s hydrocarbons wealth has hugely bolstered state coffers, but this is not enough for a country of 32m people who desperately need a better-functioning economy. The urge to total control exhibited by Bouteflika and his backers leaves little space for independent initiative. The result is a country whose population has abandoned politics and whose the young die in their hundreds trying to reach Europe on rickety boats.

Is Africa's population growing too fast?

Ndirangu, Mwaura, Author of Kenya Today


“Populations are so dispersed that it’s very difficult for innovation to occur”


Most economic development comes from an increase in population. When you study nations like ancient Egypt and you ask yourself, why did these people develop so much while the rest were still living in the Stone Age, the first thing you discover is that the population congestion around places like the River Nile or the Euphrates, or the Indus River in India, forced them to come up with solutions to all the problems they created, because necessity is the mother of invention. It’s the same thing with Africa. In Africa you find the populations are so dispersed over a wide area that it’s very difficult for any kind of innovation to occur. We have a very rigid border system in Africa. My attitude is that people should be able to move from wherever to wherever without any complication, without any trouble, because immigrants help economies grow. 

Chris ?Ogedengbe?, Director of programme support and services, Population Council, Nigeria


“We cannot ?meet the nutritional needs of these people”


The current total fertility rate of Nigeria is 5.7 children per woman. At that rate, the population will double in 15-20 years, from 130m to 260m. In the northern region, girls get married at a tender age; at 15, 70% of them are married, many to older men, and so they become vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. If the population of Nigeria doubles, would it able to provide basic things for the people, especially vulnerable people aged under 15 and over 65? We cannot meet the nutritional needs of these people. Even to get the fertility rate down from 5.7% to 4.7% will take a lot of effort on the part of government, NGOs and international agencies. There will be a population explosion. There is no way we can disassociate politics from our way of life, and population is a factor. The issue is the quality of the population. If the quality is high, definitely we will have a more manageable democracy. 


Jean-Pierre Guengant?, Resident representative, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Burkina Faso  


“Economic development will be very difficult to realise”


The population in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from 100m in 1900 to 770m in 2000 and may reach 2bn by 2050. Such unprecedented growth, driven by high fertility, has been a strong handicap to having the human capital of good quality needed for development. The poorest have on average six children or more. The urban classes, better educated, about three. The problem is that nobody seems ready to say: “Look, having too many children will put all of us back.” At the present pace of very slow fertility decline, it will take 100 years or more to achieve what Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia have achieved over the past 50 years: demographic transition and women’s reproductive rights. Continued high population growth in a global context of recession definitely makes economic development, education and health for all very difficult to realise.

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