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A report by the World Economic Forum's Global Risk Network on Africa's future cites security, geopolitical instability, economic shocks and climate change as the continent's main challenges.

The prospect of the region sustaining 5% growth is achievable, but a number of risks loom large, threatening future development and security, according to the report. The four key risks facing Africa are listed below.

1. Food and Freshwater Security – How best can Africa cope with increasing food and freshwater insecurity? What are the risks and opportunities for the region?


2. Geopolitical Instability – Can Africa sustain and consolidate progress on transparent and democratically accountable governance? Can it increase its institutional capacity to prevent, manage and resolve both intrastate and interstate conflict?

3. Economic Shocks – Can African resource-rich countries reduce their commodity dependency by diversifying their economies? How can wealth be better distributed? How can African countries increase their trade benefits?

4. Climate Change, the Environment and Challenges to Africa’s Development – How will global warming affect Africa? How best can the region, countries, businesses and communities adapt to mitigate its effects?

“As food is a major proportion of poor people’s consumption basket, higher food prices may threaten political stability in Africa, leading to a regressive economic crisis, and placing Africa’s growth at risk.,” said Irene Casanova, co-author of the report and a member of the Forum's Global Risk Programme.

Likewise, acute water shortages might exacerbate intercommunity and interstate tensions and blight prospects for development,” said Gareth Shepherd, co-author of the report and member of the Forum’s Global Risk Programme.

In preparing this report, more than 20 experts from business, academia, non-governmental organisations and civil society were asked to consider the drivers of the recent period of unprecedented growth in Africa and the opportunities that exist, as well as the threats to Africa’s continuing progress.

As with all global risks, these four threats to Africa’s future are not isolated risks; their drivers, triggers and potential consequences are highly interconnected, the report stresses.

The report concludes that for Africa – a continent characterised by huge opportunities and ever-increasing regional and global interdependence – the imperative is for collective action to mitigate these shared risks.