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The future of poverty and development in Africa

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PurposeThis paper aims to examine how the conceptualization of development has evolved and how, given emerging global economic trends, this might affect the development industry in Africa. It explores the interplay of ideas and practice, identifies key global drivers and considers their significance for Africa over the next generation. Design/methodology/approachAdopting a historical approach, the paper chronicles the changes in the epistemological foundations of development thinking over 60 years of development theory and practice. It also explores how concurrent changes in the international context for development have influenced both the thinking on and management of development. The paper undertakes a scenario analysis in search of an African development narrative that is more appropriate to the challenge of African prosperity over the next 20-30 years. FindingsIt is shown that the contemporary view of development represents an epistemological shift from a perspective defined by the actual experiences of successful developers, to one defined through the prism of some assumed universal norms. Focusing on a particular scenario of Africa as the "land of the future", the paper suggests that Africa should reject its portrayal as "victim" in the international community, replace the poverty ideology with one of prosperity, and reject the condescension implicit in regarding Africa as a "special case" that requires continuing intervention. It stresses that the Africa of the future must be globally competitive. Practical implicationsTo address the challenge of African prosperity over the next 20-30 years, an African development narrative generated endogenously and sustained by the energy of the continent's people, is required. Such a narrative requires that African leaders take full responsibility for Africa's destiny and actively develop a uniquely African story and embrace the African development project. Originality/valueThe study provides a historically based alternative perspective to the MDGs as a framework for considering the future of Africa over the next several decades.
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Keywords: Africa; Economic development; Emerging markets; Epistemology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-05-31

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