The last century has seen tremendous technological advancement globally, which has reduced the world to a global village. Africa, however, appears to have been left behind and remains a largely underdeveloped mass with news of wars, famines, hunger and destitution occurring almost daily.
In countries such as Liberia, Congo and Rwanda, the clock of progress appears to have moved backwards as a result of civil wars. Bad leadership coupled with the legacy of colonialism and recently the cold war has contributed largely to the prevalence of wars in Africa. Military adventurism and coup d''etats coupled with the legacy of the slave trade, colonialism and lately the cold war have conspired to rob Africa of the opportunity to grow at it''s own natural rate of civilisation and development.
Years of adjustment and economic reform have destroyed much of Africa''s social welfare systems and infrastructure. Led by stringent IMF and World Bank conditionalities, leaders have been forced to mortgage the welfare of their people in return for expected economic growth, which like a mirage continues to elude the governments and people of African countries.
At the start of the 21st century, Africa still lacks the basic structures that could lead to accelerated growth and development. Education is in shambles. Most children educated in Africa leave school nearly illiterate. Whilst the gifted ones may leave very well educated, African qualifications have very little regard across the world. For the majority however, especially the girl child, Education remains largely inaccessible. High costs of education are robbing children of the opportunity to get a better future forcing them unto the streets to rather eke out a living. Most child traders in Africa make money to support their families.
Additional to its effect on education in Africa, the health sector has been hard hit. Healthcare is largely unaffordable. Medicines are expensive and unaffordable.
With 10% of the world''s population, Africa produces only 1% of the world''s GDP. Poverty is endemic. A majority of Africans live below the poverty line. Incomes can hardly afford a decent life for some families. Children in Africa go to bed on an empty stomach. Children from poor families do not have access to school and education. Malnutrition in children from poor families affects their physical and mental development.
In a computer age where technology has reduced the world into a global village, a low level of science and technology exacerbates the stunted growth of economies in Africa. Africa has the lowest level of access to computers and the Internet. Where computers are available, they are scanty. Internet access is either unreliable or too expensive and people too poor to afford.
The scourge of AIDS hangs on Africa like a looming time bomb. AIDS threatens a whole generation. In some African countries, one in five have been affected. New drugs are mitigating the effects of AIDS in other regions of the world but in Africa, the situation is getting worse as crucial medicines remain far too expensive for poverty stricken sufferers.
AIDS threatens Africa''s most valuable resource, the youth and its potential - our future. In the words of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, "The impact of AIDS (in Africa) is no less destructive than warfare". According to him, " last year, AIDS killed ten times more people in Africa than armed conflict. This is dangerous. A whole generation is a risk. Our generation is in crisis!
If we will not become forgotten people, if we shall survive the challenges of the 21st century, then we must prepare adequately for the future today. We must train our future leaders and equip them for the 21st century and its challenges. We need to position ourselves strategically for the future. We need action to save Africa.
The time to act is now. Africa, this is our time.