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US intelligence agencies see bleak future for Africa

Saturday November 22 2008

Children attend the burial of cholera victim

Children attend the burial of cholera victim eight-month-old Alexandrine Kabitsebangumi, in Kibati, north of Goma in eastern Congo on November 12. Photo/ FILE 


An assessment of the world’s future by the US National Intelligence Council foresees continuing strife, severe poverty and environmental stress in most of black Africa.

Weak states and poor economic policies “will likely exacerbate ethnic and religious divides as well as crime and corruption in many countries,” the new report says.

“Ruling elites are likely to continue to accrue greater income and wealth, while poverty will persist or worsen in rural areas and sprawling urban centers,” the study finds.

“The divide between elite and non-elite populations is likely to widen, reinforcing conditions that could generate divisive political and religious extremism.”

Living conditions will probably not improve significantly for most Africans “unless there is sustained international engagement and, at times, intervention,” says a section of the report that offers an almost unrelievedly bleak outlook for Africa.

The forward-looking survey is produced every four years partly in order to guide strategic planning by new US administrations. The latest report, reflecting input from all 16 US intelligence agencies, considers what the world may look like in 2025.

Kenya is not mentioned by name in the 99-page report. But “most of East Africa” is said to present “a particularly perilous state profile” due to heavy dependence on imports, low gross domestic product per capita and deep international indebtedness.

While noting progress towards democratic governance in much of black Africa, the study warns that “the most populous states in the region and those with high population growth could backslide.”

Black Africa’s population is expected to exceed 1 billion by 2025 “notwithstanding the effects of HIV/Aids.”

But many young Africans will want to abandon the continent, the report anticipates. They will be seeking “economic opportunity or physical safety via out-migration owing to conflict, climate change, or widespread unemployment.”

By 2025, Africa will experience the earliest global effects of climate change, with water becoming more scarce, the report adds.

In general, “sub-Saharan Africa will remain the most vulnerable region on Earth in terms of economic challenges, population stresses, civil conflict, and political instability,” the American intelligence establishment predicts.

Despite its projected standing at the bottom of the global economic order, black Africa will remain favourably disposed towards the world’s richest country, the report says.

Many African governments may criticise the United States for its policies with regard to the Middle East and world trade, but “publics in sub-Saharan Africa tend to find American lifestyles and standards of living enviable.”

That positive attitude is likely to persist as long as Africom, the new US military command for the continent, “does not present an overly militarised face to citizens in African countries,” the report suggests.

African good will towards the US will also be contingent on continuation of humanitarian and economic development aid, the analysts say. American power is forecast to wane globally over the next two decades.

While the United States will remain the world’s pre-eminent nation, it will be operating within “a multipolar international system” in which China and India play important roles.