Africa's history of economic development and growth has been characterised by failed experiments, poor planning and impractical orthodoxies. This left the continent at the mercy of states and ruling elites who were unable to meet the challenges of both rising expectations from their
citizens and the imperatives of sound policy design and implementation. Difficult existential conditions, including rising levels of poverty and bad governance, have been compounded by the vagaries of the international environment and Africa's peripheral position in its political economy and
division of labour. Auspicious growth indicators over the last decade, fuelled mainly by global commodity demand and improved macro-economic management, have recently been undermined by the global financial crisis. The crisis has again exposed the continent to the spectre of depressed growth,
with serious implications for state capacity and social welfare. This article examines the main ideological fault-lines, development challenges, and external factors that have characterised Africa's economic development and concludes that the future of the continent will remain one of this
century's great challenges.