Jacques Attali is, with Bernard Henri-Lévy (BHL) and Régis Debray, Freemasons all though of differing viewpoints, among the last specimens of the 19th-Century French controversial intellectual types, unafraid to tackle phenomena and events of their times. A polymath and futurologist, Attali is a university professor who has authored more than 40 books. An honorary advisor to the French government, he was President François Mitterrand’s special advisor from 1981 to 1991.
An economist, Attali was the founder and first president of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) from 1991 to 1993. He’s currently the president of PlaNet Finance. This year, he presented in English on the French international news and current events channel France24 fifteen Lessons for the Future on the history of capitalism based on his book A Brief History of the Future (available at Barnes and Noble).
Attali blogs on the website of the French newsmagazine L’Express and his blog is called“Conversation with Jacques Attali.” A provocative thinker who crafts scenarios in futurology, his latest blog post (November 24) is entitled "Here comes the time of the Pacific War" ("pacific," in this instance, is a translation of the French adjective "peaceful" as this game is also being played on the Pacific Rim). In that post, Attali claims that the enduring configuration of the post-Cold War world will be in the 21st century the G2 (USA-China, the famous "Chimerica" coined by Niall Ferguson):
"For the time being, the masters of the 'peaceful war' are setting up the conditions of their joint management of the world: a G2, masquerading as G20 made of hugs and low blows, is little by little replacing the American-Soviet duopoly of the 'Cold War.' Naturally, Europe is absent from all this [play]."The following is my translation of part of Attali's post of November 18 (excerpted from an earlier book) entitled “Africa, our future” dealing with a topic that Attali will touch upon in his address to the Masonic assembly.
According to statisticians, Africa has just crossed the threshold of 1 billion inhabitants: it shelters henceforth one human being out of 7, whereas it only had 1 out of 10 in 1950, and will host 1 in 5 in 2050 — that is, 2 billion people. This is only one of the signs that turn Africa, main crucible of misery, into a source of growth and the matrix of our future.
Indeed Africa is foremost the location of all the sufferings in the world: a lifespan of less than fifteen years than the world average, an infant mortality rate 20 times higher than in western Europe, the world’s highest rate of rural flight—with expansion of slums and infrastructure decay. Half of its territory, where half of the population lives, is desert; there, famine is permanent and, just like water scarcity, will exacerbate with climate change that will trigger massive population movements.
Africa is also the ecological lung of the planet: on its forests, which cover about 22% of the continent (and even 45% of Central Africa, in particular with the Congo Basin, the world’s second tropical forest), depend the control of greenhouse gases, the protection of biodiversity, soil stabilization, and freshwater quality and runoff.
Africa is one of the engines of the world’s economic growth, since its growth, for many years, has been greater than the world’s average, and is still greater than 2% in 2009, as against 5% before, which is not enough to prevent millions of Africans to slide into extreme poverty.
Africa is finally the location of all the promises of the world. It’s the richest continent in natural resources (oil, minerals, agricultural products). It’s also the world’s youngest continent: 43% of Sub-Saharan Africans are under the age of 15 and, in Nigeria alone, more babies are born each year than in the entire European Union. Uganda is even the youngest country in the world, with 56% of the population under the age of 15.
There’s an explosion of schooling rate; the birth rate is better and better controlled, especially in Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya; and life expectancy has increased by sixteen years since 1950. Financial markets are opening everywhere, their universities are improving, internet connections have dramatically changed with the implementation of two submarine cables. Finally, mindsets are changing incredibly fast and governance is improving, despite the persistence of nepotism and corruption.
That’s why in Europe, especially in France, we should consider Africa as a formidable potential, very much closer to us than the other giants that fascinate us. If we know how to develop natural resources on the African continent, instead of abandoning them to the Chinese and the Americans, once more against Europeans. If we know how to complement the [monetary] zone franc with other cooperation institutions, thus stabilizing commodity prices and promoting the fabulous creative capacities of the continent. If we thus know how, beyond altruism, from which nothing can be expected, to prepare our future by clinging to this exceptional locomotive.
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