Africa – A "Lost" Continent?

Posted in Africa | 07-Jul-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Refugees arrive from Sudan to Chad after they fled the Sudanese Darfur region following violent clashes on the border in Kariari, eastern Chad.

There is no lack of bad news coming from Africa, which leads many observers to call Africa a “lost” or “forgotten” continent.

These days the tragedy in Sudan’s province of Darfur – another „ethnic cleansing“ and another risk of genocide – attracts the world’s public attention. The visits of UN Secretary Kofi Annan and of the US Secretary of State Colin Powell underline the urgency of the situation there. The UN Security Council is preparing a UN resolution in order to start a UN operation.

But Sudan is not the only state in Africa with huge problems.

All factors leading to crises and conflicts are present in Africa: Failed states, ethnic and religious conflicts, social and health problems – especially HIV/Aids, pollution, organized crime, corruption, nepotism etc. Africa is a bitter legacy of the European colonial powers that designed new countries with artificial borders, only to disregard religious and ethnic interrelations and - then – leave these countries in disorder and chaos.

Today, the “arc of instability” from Marrakech to Bangladesh works as a curtain covering the mass of the African continent. Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine absorb the world’s public interest and resources. However, the time will come when Africa's problems will enter the spotlight.


There is a lot of frustration in the developed world because a lot of good will and money have been spent in and for Africa without too many positive results. The effect from outside help was overestimated. African countries and African leaders must take over the program for a better future.

Perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Hope has a name: NEPAD – New Partnership for Africa’s Development. It has five pillars:

  • The Peace, Security; Democracy and Political Governance Initiative
  • The Economic and Corporate Governance Initiative
  • The Capital Flows Initiative
  • The Market Access Initiative
  • The Human Resources initiative

There is another reason for hope: The involvement of the UN in and for Africa.
In this newsletter we present an overview of UN activities. This article was originally published as part of “Strategic Comments” (Vol 10,Issue 5).
We thank the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS, London) for permission to reproduce this thoughtful article. We recommend to our readers that they have a careful look at the various activities and publications of this world renowned institute.

What has to be done in and for Africa? There is no single concept for this complex continent. Risks and chances vary from region to region, from country to country. The outside world can support indigenous efforts. We have to support the development of a new political class and culture as well as a new political elite and leadership. African countries and leaders must take ownership of their own future.

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