Prof. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, USIU-Africa Vice Chancellor

As prepared for delivery at the Africa Model United Nations Conference in held at the UN Offices in Nairobi on Monday, March 21, 2016.

Your excellency, the Turkish Ambassador, Ms. Deniz Eke, UN officials, delegates from across the continent, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

I want to begin by thanking and congratulating our students from USIU-AFRICA, including Ms. Afrikana Njuru, AFROMUN Secretary General, for winning the bid to host this year’s Africa Model United Nations (AFROMUN). This speaks to the quality of our students, their energy and entrepreneurial spirit, and our institutional commitment to the values of internationalism and inter-culturalism. At USIU-Africa we are proud of the faculty that we have students from all 47 counties in Kenya and 73 countries from every continent. Many of the students involved in organizing AFROMUN are majoring in International Relations, one of our signature programs.


The theme of this conference speaks to me as an educator and as a scholar. Two years ago I published a book entitled, The Resurgence of Africa: Domestic, Global and Diaspora Transformations. In the book I sought to examine the transformations Africa has been undergoing leading to the notion of a ‘rising Africa/Africa rising.’ I believe the youth are central to the future and sustainability of this narrative.

  1. Narratives of Africa’s resurgence: From Afropessimisim to Afroptimism:
    1. Media The Economist, May 2000 lead story on Africa as “The Hopeless Continent”; December 2011 lead story changed to “Africa Rising”
    2. Consultancy firms, e.g. McKinsey and Company 2010 report, Lions on the move: The progress and potential of African economies
    3. International financial institutions. WB, IMF, AfDB upbeat reports on African growth and prospects.
  2. Manifestations of the Resurgence
    1. Economic growth rates higher than other world regions; some of the world’s fastest growing economies in Africa.
    2. Growth more broad based than before where it was primarily dependent on primary commodities.
    3. Growth of countries classified as middle income—rose from 13 in 2006 to 21 in 2013 and 10 more by 2025 on current trends.
  3. Examining ‘Africa rising’: The continent is undergoing complex and contradictory processes of domestic, global, and diaspora transformations whose trajectory is as multidimensional as it is unpredictable.
    1. Domestic transformations
      1. Expansion of intra-African trade and investment:
        1. Trade grew by 13.5% from 2000-2010
        2. Investments rose from 8% of total FDI in 2007 to 16% in 2009 to 23% in 2013.
      2. Socioeconomic changes
        1. Population growth: 1.1 billion in 2013 (15.5% of world population); projected to grow to 2.4 billion in 2050 (25.1%) and 4 billion by 2100 (40%)—demographic dividend or Malthusian nightmare
        2. Urbanization 3.6% per annum, 40% currently of Africa is urbanized, by 2030 over 50% and Africa will cease to be a rural continent. Whether cities will become engines of growth and development or cesspools of slums and squalor will depend on patterns of economic growth and development.
        3. Growth of African middle classes: African Development Bank report, The Middle of the Pyramid: Dynamics of the Middle Class in Africa, estimated that in 2010 34% of the population was middle class, and projected in another report, Africa in 50 Years’ Time: The Road Towards Inclusive Growth that the middle class will reach 42% or 1.1 billion people in 2050.
      3. Democratization and development of more vocal civil societies and social movements.
      4. Reduction in some of the continent’s most debilitating wars and conflicts; rise of terrorism—Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, offshoots of Al Qaida and ISIS.
    2. Restructuring of Africa’s Global Engagements and shifts in the global economy
      1. The declining dominance of the western economies accelerated by the ‘Great Recession’.
      2. The growing importance of the emerging economies as represented by the rise of the BRICS and MINTs.
    3. Africa’s Relations with its Diasporas
      1.  Rising Recognition of Diaspora in Development Discourse and Policy
        1. International development agencies, governments, etc., e.g. African Union 2004 recognition of diaspora as the continent’s 6th region
        2. Shift in discourse from ‘brain drain’ to ‘brain gain’ to ‘brain circulation’.
      2. Forms of Diaspora Contributions
        1. Economic: The range of economic contributions from the diaspora includes remittances, philanthropy, human capital, and investment. Remittances in 2014 $67 billion, which was more than all Official Development Assistance.
        2. Political: The diaspora can also exert significant political influence, both positive and negative, on both their countries of origin and residence, and international institutions like the UN through protest, public relations campaigns, and diplomatic pressure.
        3. Social and cultural: Diasporas acquire and possess social and cultural capital—attributes and attitudes, skills and sensibilities that can be mobilized for the development of their countries of origin.
  4. Challenges of Africa’s Growth:
    1. Translating economic growth into decent job opportunities; improving service delivery; minimizing income, gender and spatial inequalities.
    2. Mismatch between economic growth and inclusive development:
      1. Inability to unleash the green and blue revolutions of agriculture and fishing
      2. Incapacity to cope effectively with the effects of climate change
      3. underdeveloped domestic financial systems
      4. Low rates of industrialization
      5. Low domestic capacity in terms of skills, productive capacity, poor infrastructure, and business environment.
    3. Centrality of youth in Africa’s future
      1. In many African countries (15 in Sub-Saharan Africa) half the population is under age 18.
      2. If these countries make the right human capital investment, the combined demographic dividends could be, according to some estimates, at least $5000 billion per year for up to 30 years.
        1. This requires heavy investments in quality education—from primary to tertiary level
        2. Promoting gender equality, female empowerment, and reproductive rights
        3. Expanding youth employment and entrepreneurial opportunities
      3. Failure to do this will lead to severe challenges for development, democracy, and security.

It is you, today’s youth, and your offspring, tomorrow’s youth, who will carry forward the historical and humanistic agendas of Pan-Africanism—to create integrated, inclusive, innovative and sustainable democratic developmental states, societies, and economies. 

Thank you!