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Sub-Saharan Africa's Future: A US National Intelligence Council Conference Report

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The US National Intelligence Council's 2020 Report, Mapping the Global Future, was issued in December 2004. It presented an assessment of geopolitical trends and set out some speculative scenarios for global development over the next 15 years. Excerpts were carried in the Documents section of PDR 31, no. 1. A follow-up conference in 2005 brought together a group of US experts on Africa to explore likely trends and drivers of change in sub-Saharan Africa over the same period, partly in the light of the Report's treatment of that region. Part of the NIC's summary of the conference discussions is reproduced below. (Omitted sections discuss globalization, terrorism, democratization, foreign influences, and religion. The full summary is available at http://www.odci.gov/nic/confreports_africa_future.html.)

It is notable that the topic of population, which once would have figured heavily in such prognostications, nowhere appears in the conference deliberations. Yet the region's population growth is still rapid—and is plausibly a major driver of change. In the UN's medium projections, sub-Saharan Africa's population, estimated at 906 million in 2005, will more than double by 2050, its share of world population rising from 12 percent to 19 percent. In the 15-year time frame of the NIC it will likely grow by 200 million. Those numbers are of course tenuous, contingent on the expectations they embody about the timing of the region's transition to low death and birth rates (and specifically in their assessment of the future course of the AIDS epidemic)—which in turn will be influenced by many of the factors that the NIC conferees considered.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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