In 2020, the Leiden Africanists (Leiden African Studies Assembly / LeidenASA) will commemorate the wave of independence that swept through Africa sixty years ago. Compared to that time, the African population is now not only larger, but is also much better educated, has a considerably higher life expectancy, and has a higher level of prosperity. There are many problems though, and they are an increasingly important challenge for good policy that we believe requires sound scientific research. This will have to be done primarily in Africa itself, by African researchers, policy makers, companies, and knowledge institutions. In addition engagement with Africa from the rest of the world will also inevitably increase.
Leiden University (together with its partners in Rotterdam/The Hague, Delft and Edinburgh) has an excellent starting position to contribute to this knowledge development. Together with the library and the staff of the African Studies Centre in Leiden, over a hundred senior scientists and many PhD candidates and students from Leiden University are intensively engaged in Africa. And because of the academic cooperation with Rotterdam / The Hague, Delft and Edinburgh, that number doubles.
In 2020 the LeidenASA wants to showcase Leiden's engagement with Africa by organizing an 'Africa 2020' year and they encourage everyone to think with them about the best ways to make this year an outstanding success.
Looking back & looking forward
In the "Year of Africa" in 1960, when 13 African countries gained independence and the end of colonial rule became inevitable, the African continent had 285 million inhabitants, compared to 658 million in China and 450 million in India.
Nearly sixty years later, on or around 15 November 2018, the 1.3 billionth African was born; for real time estimates based on UN data see Worldometers. China (with 1.4 billion) and India (with 1.36 billion) will still have larger populations, but in 2023 this will no longer be the case. Then Africa, with 1,437,000,000 people, will be the most populous macro-region in the world. After centuries of slavery and colonialism and a demographically stagnant population up to the beginning of the twentieth century, Africa is now rapidly catching up demographically. Most demographers expect that Africa will have 1.7 billion inhabitants by 2030 and 2.5 billion by 2050.