Mike Kueber's Blog

July 24, 2011

George Friedman on the future of Africa

I recently blogged about The Next Decade, a book by George Friedman that attempts to predict the major geopolitical events of the next ten years.    In the book, Friedman characterized America as an empire and examined trouble-spots that had the potential to affect that empire.  Although Africa is clearly a trouble-spot, Friedman suggested that it had no potential to affect America and therefore should not distract us.  In fact, the Africa chapter was titled, “Africa: A Place to Leave Alone.”

Based on Friedman’s suggestion, my review of The Next Decade did not include a discussion of Africa, but upon further reflection I decided that Friedman made several interesting insights about Africa that I wanted to memorialize in my blog:

  1. A nation is group of people with shared values, identity, and interests; whereas a state is the established government in an area.
  2. Most regions of the world are divided into nation-states.
  3. Occasionally, a nation is governed by multiple states (the Koreas) or a state governs multiple nations (the Soviet Union), but generally the boundaries of the nation and state should coincide.
  4. Outside of Egypt, the nation/state boundaries in Africa do not coincide.  Rather, the states of Africa are a reflection of the administrative boundaries established by the European empires that have now vacated the continent.
  5. Chaos will remain in Africa until power is consolidated in states that govern coherent nations.
  6. There are three possibilities for Africa’s future:
  • Continued global charity, which may ameliorate some local problems, but it “enhances corruption among both recipients and donors…. Truth be known, few donors really believe that the aid they provide solves the problems.”
  • Reappearance of a foreign imperialism that will create some foundation for stable life, but this is not likely.”
  • “Several generations of warfare, out of which will grow a continent where nations are forged into states with legitimacy.  As harsh as this may sound, nations are born in conflict, and it is through the experience of war that people gain a sense of shared fate.”

Friedman provides a dismal prognosis for Africa because the third possibility is the most likely to occur: “Africa’s wars cannot be prevented, and they would have happened even if there had never been foreign imperialism.  Indeed, they were being fought when imperialism interrupted them.  Nation building does not take place at World Bank meetings or during the building of schools by foreign military engineers, because actual nations are built in blood.  The map of Africa must be redrawn, but not by a committee of thoughtful and helpful people sitting in a conference room.  What will happen, in due course, is that Africa will sort itself out into a small number of major powers and a large number of lesser ones.  These will provide the framework for economic development and, over generations, create nations that might become global powers, but not at a pace that affects the next generation.”

Despite this dismal prognosis, Friedman suggests that America should continue sending aid to Africa for the good will that it creates with other countries – “The United States, like all nations, is brutally self-interested.  But there is value in not appearing that was, and some value in being liked and admired, as long as being liked isn’t mistaken for the primary goal….  Again, the aid itself will not solve Africa’s
problems, but it might ameliorate some of them, at least for a time….  But if doing some good merely convinces Europe to send more troops to the next U.S. intervention, it will be a worthwhile investment.”

1 Comment »

  1. […] Invictus raises an interesting aspect of nation-building.  A couple of years ago, I blogged about this subject in connection with a book by George Friedman titled The Next Decade.  In the […]

    Pingback by Saturday Night at the Movies #95 – Hemingway and Gellhorn, Lovelace, and Invictus | Mike Kueber's Blog — December 31, 2013 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

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