Few topics better divide people into two warring camps of optimists and pessimists than the state of Africa’s development. The optimists argue for the “Africa Rising” narrative, citing some well-publicised feat of technological entrepreneurship or some bold new initiative, while the pessimists point to the poverty, rampant corruption and poor infrastructure the continent is so well known for. But beyond the drama of this debate far quieter and more profound forces are at work. Understanding these forces allows us to see the possibilities and the potential outcomes. Hans Rosling, that late great student and illustrator of human progress, described himself as being neither a pessimist or an optimist but a possibilist — someone who stares straight into the facts, tries to block out the noise from the flaws in thinking we all have as people, and allows the data and the possibilities to emerge and enlighten us. Africa’s population is expected to be 2.5-billion by 2050, reaching 4-billion...

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