For many years, the development challenge has been a rich world of one billion people facing a poor world of five billion people. The real development challenge is that there is a group of countries at the bottom that are falling behind and often falling apart. This has been described by Paul Collier (2007) as The Bottom Billion. Unfortunately, most of the Bottom Billion countries are located in Africa. For example, Nigeria, a country in Africa, has been dubbed the current “world capital of poverty”.
It is important to note that since the end of the Second World War in 1945, when the level of underdevelopment of the Third World countries became apparent, various efforts have been made to, in the words of Bill Clinton, “move to a future of shared benefits and shared responsibilities.” These efforts crystallized into the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, when governments of 189 countries committed themselves at the UN General Assemblies to achieving by 2015. Among these were eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; promoting primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing infant mortality; improving maternal health; eradicating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development (Stiglitz and Charlton. Fair Trade for All, 2007: xxiii).
Nonetheless, there have been pessimism and also optimism regarding the extent to which poor countries, most especially Africa, would achieve these components of the MDGs by 2015. On the side of pessimism, Jeffery Sachs, in his The End of Poverty (2005), notes that more than eight million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive, arguing that our generation can choose to end that extreme poverty not by 2015, but by 2025. Similarly, Paul Collier (2007) has argued that “by 2015 it will be apparent that this way of conceptualizing development has become obsolete.” On the side of optimism, Moises Naim (The End of Power, 2013) glorifies the first decade of the twenty-first century as arguably the humanity’s most successful, adding that all classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history, experienced reductions in poverty. He based this argument on the available statistics on global poverty and GDP. This optimism led to the concept of “Africa Rising” introduced by The Economist (2010), put differently by Kingsley Muoghalu (2013) as “Emerging Africa”.
However, events and situation in Africa have shown that this optimism may not be shared by Africans themselves; and the systems of metrics that use GDP as a measure of economic performance have been variously doubted and criticized by Joseph Stiglizt, Armatya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fittoussi (2010), as Mis-measuring our Lives. They identify the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress, arguing that “there appears to be an increasing gap between the information contained in aggregate GDP data and what counts for common people’s well-being”. Thus, the UN Millennium Declaration of 2000 has reached its terminal date of 2015 without a real impact on the Africa continent, leading to the Sustainable Development Goals of 2015-2030.
At the moment, African countries are still grappling with problems associated with underdevelopment and economic backwardness: poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, high mortality rate, low standard of living, and insecurity. Apart from these, economic and political instability are major features in many African societies at the expiration of the initial date set for the accomplishment of the MDGs. Consequently, the following questions have arisen: To what extent has Africa achieved the MDGs? Why have the various development initiatives failed in Africa? What factors are responsible for Africa’s underdevelopment and backwardness? And how could Africa become relevant in global politics?
Against this backdrop, Chrisland University and CEOAfrica organise a two-day international conference, 24-25 June 2019, to provide an interdisciplinary platform for academics, researchers, policy makers, activists, students and professionals in development studies to attempt at providing answers to the foregoing overarching questions on the growth and development of Africa.