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Why Nigeria may Become a Failed State...How to Salvage the Situation -

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Posted to the Web: Friday, June 03, 2005


This paper summarizes a one-day conference of US experts on Africa convened in January 2005 and sponsored by the National Intelligence Council (of the United States) to discuss likely trends in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 15 years.  Participants were asked to consider the recently-released National Intelligence Council report Mapping the Global Future, although the conference was not designed to be a point-by-point response to the NIC project which projects global trends and possible scenarios out to 2020. As with the 2020 study, our focus was not to describe every trend that will affect Africa but to highlight those issues that will drive important developments and that therefore must be considered by policymakers. 


Perhaps the most important message delivered by the conferees was that even in this age of globalization, local factors will determine Africa’s fate. Geography, decisions by governments past and present, the presence of trained professionals, the strength of civil society groups promoting democracy, and the capabilities of the local police and security forces all have the potential decisively to affect the performance of individual African countries in the next 15 years.


Conference participants agreed that most of Africa will become increasingly marginalized as many states struggle to overcome sub-par economic performance, weak state structures, and poor governance. Globalization will accelerate increasing differentiation among and within African countries. Reform efforts will continue to be complicated by structural obstacles, “neighborhood effects,” such as the cross-border spillover of conflict, and African skepticism about globalization and a fate increasingly tied to international markets. 


· South Africa, Africa’s oil producing states, and a handful of other African countries committed to governance reforms have the best chance of attracting international investment needed to compete and survive.


· Other African countries-including some failed states-plagued by poor leadership, divisive ethnic politics, decayed government institutions, geographic constraints, and a brain drain may be unable to engage the international economy sufficiently to reverse their downward trajectory.


Participants saw the level of violence in Africa as unlikely to change appreciably in the next 15 years. Most conflicts will be internal. Many African security forces will undergo further atrophy due to low economic growth, shrinking foreign military aid, and the impact of AIDS.


Among the other key conference conclusions: 

Africa is unlikely to become a major supplier of international terrorists due to the profound differences between Islam practiced in Africa and in the Middle East.  Foreign terrorists, however, may seek sanctuary in Africa or attempt to hide weapons and assets there.  The overwhelming majority of terrorist activity in Africa will involve or be caused by indigenous groups waging war against local governments and populations. 


·       The group believed that the most important terrorist-related trend in Africa affecting the United States is the further development of pockets of radical Islam that actively provide support and sanctuary to international terrorists.

·         Most African countries will continue to proclaim a public adherence to democracy and no other form of government will significantly challenge the nominal allegiance to regular elections; however, commitment to democracy in Africa will remain a “mile wide and inch thick.”  Even so, relatively few of the old-style authoritarian states will not hold elections at all. 


·       Those countries that are consolidating democracy will make significant gains:  multiparty elections will become institutionalized and the operations of their parliaments, courts, and other institutions will improve.  By 2020, for this set of African countries, any turnback from democracy will be almost inconceivable. 


Regarding AIDS, even with relatively optimistic assumptions about a vaccine and the roll-out of anti-retrovirals (ARVs), it is clear that there will be very large increases in the number of people who will die in the next ten years given weak medical care distribution systems.  At the same time, the experts judged that it is not clear if AIDS can be directly tied to state collapse in the way that was feared and anticipated a few years ago. 


Some traditional foreign powers, including France and the United Kingdom, probably will continue to disengage gradually from Africa while newer actors, especially China, are likely to play larger roles.  China already has a significant impact on Africa-raising some commodity prices-as Beijing searches for secure sources of raw materials.  Tensions may be exacerbated, however, by cheap Chinese goods flooding African markets, with a consequent effect on weak domestic manufacturing bases, and by the presence of larger numbers of Chinese workers in Africa.  Over the next 15 years, there is probably a greater possibility of India developing a distinct foreign policy with political interests toward Africa. 


Included among the possible “upside surprises” the group identified were:  the potential for improvements in hydrocarbon management; scientific advances in agriculture such as those that helped Asia in the 1960s and 70s; technological developments that fight AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases and push upward the political and economic trajectory of some countries; development of regional and internal peacekeeping doctrine and capabilities to allow for more timely interventions and more decisive resolutions to conflicts; and positive developments in the debt management that boosts private and public investment levels. 

Downside scenarios included: Nigeria as a failed state, dragging down a large part of the West African region; some type of ecological downturn; and conflict over water. 


Full report – Download attached PDF

Tags: NIC project ,  US experts,  United States,  National Intelligence Council report,  Global Future,  policymakers, 

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